The provincial Bennet family, home to five unmarried daughters, is turned upside down when a wealthy bachelor takes up a house nearby. Mr. Bingley enhances his instant popularity by hosting a ball and taking an interest in the eldest Bennet daughter, Jane. Meanwhile, Mr. Darcy, Bingley’s even wealthier friend, makes himself equally unpopular by his aloof disdain of country manners. Yet he is drawn in spite of himself to the spirited and intelligent Elizabeth Bennet, who proves to be his match in both wit and pride. Their sparkling repartee is a splendid performance of civilized sparring infused with unacknowledged romantic tension.
Pride and Prejudice delightfully captures the affectations and rivalries of class-conscious English families in an age when status and security for women hung entirely on matrimonial ambitions. Austen’s characters dance a delicate quadrille of flirtation and intrigue, making this book the most superb comedy of manners of Regency England. It is also the source of some of the most memorable characters ever written, from the fatuous Mr. Collins, whose proposal to Elizabeth is one of the finest comic passages in English literature, to the beloved heroine Elizabeth, whom the author herself deemed “as delightful a creature as ever appeared in print.”