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Pride and Prejudice Summary

Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice revolves around the lives and loves of the Bennet family. Mr. and Mrs. Bennet and their five daughters are the principle inhabitants of the village of Longbourn. Mr. Bennet is an intelligent but indolent gentleman. His wife is an energetic, silly woman whose main aim in life is to get her daughters married. The arrival of a wealthy bachelor, Bingley, inspires her with the mission of making one of her daughters his wife.

Jane, the beautiful and mild eldest Bennet daughter, attracts Bingley's eye when they are first introduced at a dance. Jane is also charmed by Bingley's pleasant, friendly nature. By contrast, Bingley's even wealthier friend, Darcy, appears pompous and arrogant. When Bingley suggests that Darcy dance with Jane's intelligent and lively sister, Elizabeth, Darcy slights her by replying that she is, 'tolerable, I suppose, but not handsome enough to tempt me.' Lizzie is astonished to hear such censure, but laughs it off with her best friend, Charlotte Lucas.

At subsequent meetings, Darcy observes Elizabeth closely and is captivated by her playful manner, fine eyes and clever wit. When he finally decides to approach her for a dance, she turns him down and refuses to hold him in awe because of his wealth and status, as almost everyone else in Meryton does. Sensing he is dealing with an individual of superior character, his fascination for her grows.

When Jane is invited to Bingley's home, Netherfield, by his sister Caroline, Jane falls ill and is bedridden there for days. Lizzie goes to Netherfield to nurse her sick sister. She finds being in close company with Darcy unpleasant and is convinced that he disapproves of everything she says and does. In reality, his opinion of her is quite the opposite. Meanwhile, Jane and Bingley become more attached to one another with each passing day.

Mr. Bennet's cousin, Mr.Collins, an insensible, foolish young man, who arrives at Longbourn with the intention of marrying one of the Bennet girls. He considers himself an ideal match for any of the girls, since as the only male descendent in the family, he will inherit the entire Bennet estate after Mr. Bennet's demise. Prompted by Mrs. Bennet, Collins selects Elizabeth as the lucky beneficiary of his largesse, though she is far from flattered by this distinction.

Besides, Darcy, there is another contender for Elizabeth's affections. A regiment of militia has just arrived in the nearby town of Meryton, and Elizabeth, her younger sisters Kitty and Lydia, as well as just about every other girl in the neighborhood are powerfully attracted to a handsome and charming scoundrel named Wickham. The son of an estate manager, Wickham spent the early part of his life growing up on Darcy's estate, Pemberley, but his relationship with the Darcy family broke down after he turned wild and took to dissipation. Arriving in Meryton and being introduced to Elizabeth, Wickham began to spread false and scandalous tales about how Darcy has deprived him of his rightful inheritance, which she and the general public of Meryton where quite read to believe. His stories captivated Elizabeth and fueled an intense hatred for Darcy.

When Bingley holds a grand ball at Netherfield, Darcy finally succeeds in getting Elizabeth to dance with him. She takes the occasion to poke fun at Darcy and insinuate that she knows the truth about his unfair treatment of Wickham. Darcy is enraged, but keeps his opinion to himself. The more she prods and offends him, the more strongly he is attracted to her, but his attraction is overshadowed by his revulsion of her mother and younger sisters' vulgar, embarrassing and unmannerly behavior in public. Fearful that he may be unable to resist his rising passion for Elizabeth, Darcy looks to escape from Meryton.

Immediately following the ball, Collins proposes to Elizabeth. She is amused and annoyed by his dogged foolishness. When he refuses to believe she is refusing him, she is forced to turn him down emphatically. Collins is deeply offended by her refusal. Mrs. Bennet is furious and horrified that Elizabeth rejected an opportunity to keep the estate within their family. Collins seeks refuge for his humiliation by accepting a dinner invitation from Charlotte Lucas. The very next day he proposes Charlotte. Mrs. Bennet's sense of disappointment and loss is further aggravated when she learns the next day that Bingley and his party have left abruptly for London.  

Jane is devastated by news of Bingley's unexplained departure, but doesn't reproach or complain to anyone. Her aunt and uncle, the Gardiners, invite her to London for a change of scenery. Elizabeth soon learns that Wickham is engaged to Mary King who has just come into a fortune, but neither is she devastated nor is she disapproving of Wichkam's mercenary attitude.

Three months later, Elizabeth receives an invitation from Charlotte to spend six weeks with her and Collins at Hunsford, where he has been appointed to a lucrative clerical position by Lady Catherine de Bourgh, his overbearing and offensive patroness who happens to be Darcy's aunt. Soon after her arrival at Hunsford, Elizabeth again comes into contact with Darcy when he arrives for his annual visit to his aunt's estate.

Darcy is torn between a growing love for Elizabeth and his repulsion of her family and social connections. His passion proves stronger than his reservations.

When Elizabeth learns from Darcy's cousin that Darcy was instrumental in separating Bingley and Jane, her dislike for Darcy becomes more intense. Unsuspecting her real feelings about him, Darcy  proposes to her in an insulting and boorish manner, taking for granted that she would readily accept him. His proposal comes at a time when she is filled with anger and pain. She rejects him rudely. She accuses him of heartlessly separating Jane and Bingley and of cruelly depriving Wickham of a lucrative position. Darcy is shocked to find his character and integrity questions and to hear himself called ungentlemanly. She tells him in no uncertain words that he is the last man she would ever marry. His intended proposal ends in a violent quarrel between them.

Wishing to clear his name, the following morning Darcy writes to Elizabeth explaining in detail the truth about Wickham's character, the reasons for his very poor opinion of her family and his justification for  trying to save Bingley from an unfortunate marriage to Jane. Pondering Darcy's words, Elizabeth realizes the truth in his position and the contribution of her own family for Bingley's departure. She now sees Wickham for the scoundrel he is, and feels ashamed of her own foolish behavior. Darcy for his part, recognizes for the first time that he has been acting arrogantly and selfishly. They both depart from Hunsford certain that there is little chance they will ever meet again.

Back home at Meryton, Jane and Elizabeth are disillusioned, Mrs.Bennet is depressed, but the youngest sister, Lydia, is filled with excitement by the prospect of going to Brighton to spend time with friend and in the company of the handsome militia officers who have been transferred to a new location. Elizabeth objects to Lydia's going, but her father disregards her warnings and allows Lydia to go.

During the summer, Elizabeth is invited by the Gardiners to accompany them on a vacation in Derbyshire, the county where Darcy lives at Pemberly. Hearing Darcy is away in London, Elizabeth and the Gardiners visit Pemberley and are astounded by the magnificence of the estate. the beauty of the place combined with the housekeeper's praise of Darcy stir softer feelings in Elizabeth for Darcy. Just then he arrives unexpectedly. His courteous behavior takes her by surprise. The following days they constantly frequently and she feels much more cordial feelings for him than she has ever felt in the past.

Just at the moment when Darcy begins to feel there is hope of renewing his proposal to her, Elizabeth is suddenly taken away by distressing news from home. Lydia has eloped with Wickham, who had promised to marry her. But Elizabeth is sure that Wickham has no such intention, since Wickham needs to marry a girl with wealth to pay off his considerable debts and Lydia has no money to offer. In a moment of utter distress, Elizabeth confesses the dreadful news to Darcy, then rushes back to Longbourn sure that this disgraceful act of Lydia will forever prevent Darcy from renewing his proposal to her.

There she finds the who family depressed and anxious for news about Lydia. After a month, they are surprised to receive a letter from Mr. Gardiner informing them that he has negotiated arrangements for Wickham and Lydia to marry and agreed to bear the expense of paying Wickham's debts. When the shameless Lydia returns to Longbourn as Mrs. Wickham along with her husband, she accidently discloses that Darcy was present at her wedding. Unable to imagine how or why Darcy would involve himself with Wickham, she writes to her aunt Mrs. Gardiner for an explanation. Elizabeth is left speechless by Mrs. Gardiner's reply. She has been under the impression that Darcy would find her family disreputable and consequently avoid her. But on the contrary, after her departure from Pemberley, Darcy sought out Wickham in London, convinced him to marry Lydia, agreed to pay all his debts, get him a post in the army, and bear all the marriage expenses. He also insisted on keeping his role a secret, forcing Mr. Gardiner to take the credit. To Mrs. Gardiner it is evident that did it all out of love for Elizabeth.

Before long, Bingley and Darcy return to Netherfield back. Bingley is still very much in love with Jane. Now with his friend's approval, he proposes to Jane and she accepts most happily. On hearing a rumor that Darcy is engaged to Elizabeth, Lady Catherine de Bourgh suddenly arrives at Longbourn and attempts to intimidate Elizabeth into renouncing any possible relationship with Darcy. Lizzie is perplexed by the rumor, but resolutely refuses to bow to the lady's unreasonable demands. When news of Elizabeth's refusal reaches Darcy, his hopes of marrying her revive, and he renews his proposal. Elizabeth who has now been waiting eagerly for this, accepts him willingly. Elizabeth's announcement is initially shocking to most, but soon the entire family rejoices with the wedding of two sisters.

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