The novel centres on Elizabeth Bennet, the second of the five daughters of a landed country gentleman. Elizabeth's father, Mr. Bennet, is a bookish man and somewhat neglectful of his responsibilities. In contrast Elizabeth's mother, Mrs. Bennet, a woman who lacks social graces, is primarily concerned with finding suitable husbands for her five daughters, who will inherit little or nothing from their father. Jane Bennet, the eldest daughter, is distinguished by her kindness and beauty; Elizabeth Bennet shares her father's keen wit and occasionally sarcastic outlook; Mary is not pretty but is studious, devout and musical albeit lacking in taste; Catherine, sometimes called Kitty, the fourth sister, follows where her younger sister leads while Lydia is flirtatious and lacks maturity. The narrative opens with news in the Bennet family that Mr. Bingley, a wealthy, charismatic and sociable young bachelor, is moving into Netherfield Park in the neighbourhood. Mr. Bingley is soon well received while his friend Mr. Darcy makes a less favourable impression by appearing proud and condescending at a ball that they attend (he detests dancing and is not one for light conversation). Mr. Bingley singles out Jane for particular attention, and it soon becomes apparent that they have formed an attachment to each other. While Jane does not alter her conduct for him, she confesses her great happiness only to Lizzie. By contrast, Darcy slights Elizabeth, who overhears and jokes about it despite feeling a budding resentment. On paying a visit to Mr. Bingley's sister, Caroline, Jane is caught in a heavy downpour, catching cold, and is forced to stay at Netherfield for several days. Elizabeth arrives to nurse her sister and is thrown into frequent company with Mr. Darcy, who begins to act less coldly towards her.
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Elizabeth Bennet is the perfect Austen heroine: intelligent, generous, sensible, incapable of jealousy or any other major sin. That makes her sound like an insufferable goody-goody, but the truth is she's a completely hip character, who if provoked is not above skewering her antagonist with a piece of her exceptionally sharp -- but always polite -- 18th century wit. The point is, you spend the whole book absolutely fixated on the critical question: will Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy hook up?Book Description:
Cambridge Literature is a series of literary texts edited for study by students aged 14-18 in English-speaking classrooms. It will include novels, poetry, short stories, essays, travel-writing and other non-fiction. The series will be extensive and open-ended, and will provide school students with a range of edited texts taken from a wide geographical spread. It will include writing in English from various genres and differing times. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen is edited by Richard Bain, Vice Principal, Norham Community Technology College, North Shields.
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