"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife"
Austen immediately focuses us on the social and moral framework of the novel, she establises the link between wealth and marraige and the wider roles of families within society. Though deeply ironic, Austen appears to be establishing a very critical view of their world.
Do Mr and Mrs Bennet want the same thing? Do they see their daughters in the same way?
"A single man of large fortune; four or five thousand a year. What a fine thing for our girls!"
"You must know that i am thinking of his marrying one of them"
"The business of her life was to get her daughters married"
- All she really cares about is getting her daughters married, she doesn't even know Mr Bingley yet but is already desperate for him to marry one of her daughters.
"Though i must throw in a good word for my little Lizzy"
"They are silly and ignorant like others girls; but Lizzy has something more of a quickness than her sisters"
- He favourites Lizzy as she's different to the others, he doesn't care much about them getting married.
What are our first impressions of the Bennet household?
Mr Bennet hides his visit to Netherfield from his family, some could argue this is to surprise them however it could be seen as Mr Bennet not giving Mrs Bennet the satisfaction of knowing that she's essentially won. His act of comedy and irony could be seen as fun, he often lightheartedly makes fun of Mrs Bennet, which is shown through him telling her that he wasn't going to visit Mr Bingley when really he always intended to. However it could also be seen as cruel, he knows how important marriage is to Mrs Bennet.
Upon hearing the news, Mrs Bennet is in raptures, she prasises her husband and imagines Lydia dancing with Bingley. There's an extreme contrast in the reactions or Mr and Mrs Bennet, and by showing us these reactions Austen is developing and deepening our understanding of their character.
From chapter two we learn that Elizabeth is her fathers favourite, Lydia is "good humoured" and favoured by her mother, and resultantly she is quite confident "though i am the youngest, i'm the tallest". Kitty is immature and scolded by her mother for having "no discretion of in her coughs", Mary is seen to be very serious and resultantly is the target of her father's ironic humour, however she is neither witty nor clever "Mary wished to say something very sensible, but knew not how". There is very little mention of Jane in this chapter.
Except for what we are told by the author at the start and end of the chapter it's mainly written in dialogue, so we base our impressions of the characters on what they say and do rather than what the narrator tells us about them.
Mr Bingley repays Mr Bennet's visit but there isn't the oppurtunity for his daughters to meet him. Austen builds a sense of mystery surrounding him and the only bit of description we get is that he "wore a blue coat and rode a black horse". The daughters spy on him through the window, and this shows the seperation between male and female spheres, the lives of the Bennet sisters must be very boring as they're so excited by his visit.
Initial Character Descriptions
"extremely agreeable", "wonderfully handsome", "gentlemanlike", "easy, unaffected manners", "lively and unreserved", "just what a young man ought to be"
"reserved", "a fine figure of a man", "his manners gave a disgust", "he was the proudest, most disagreeable man in the world", "horrid man", "fancying himself so very great"
"only handsome girl in the room", "the most beautiful creature I ever beheld", "Jane was so admired", "quite beautiful"
"Lizzy is not a bit better than the others", "very pretty... very agreeable", "tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me", a lively, playful disposition"
We learn about William Lucas, whose family visit the Bennets and discuss the ball. Darcy is criticised, and Jane, who sees the good in everyone, tries to moderate the complaints. Mary sermonises in a boring way on the nature of pride and vanity.
Pride is an explicit theme in the novel and is discussed in various ways, Charlotte Lucas excuses Darcy's pride as "one cannot wonder that so very fine a young man, with family, fortune, every thing in his favour, should think highly of himself". Her brother also mentions "if i were as rich as Mr Darcy... I should not care how proud I was".
In chapter 6, the Bennet women visit Netherfield and the Bingley sisters repay the visit. Elizabeth doesn't like them, but they're kind to Jane. Jane is falling in love with Mr Bingley, which is juxtaposed with Darcy being attracted to Elizabeth. This shows the difference in character between the two men.
"Though he had detected with a critical eye more than one failure of perfect symmetry in her form, he was forced to acknowledge her figure to be light and pleasing; and in spite of his asserting that her manners were not those of the fashionable world, he was caught by their easy playfulness"
-In spite of all his adverse judgements about her beauty and personality, Darcy is drawn to admire Elizabeth, his feeling have got the better of him.
What makes Darcy proud?
Riches, education, social status, materialism, and the fact that he's admired.
The Bennet Estate - currently the Bennet's income is about £2,000 a year. On his death, Mr Bennet's wealth will be passed to a male relative.
Jane falls ill and as Mrs Bennet prioritises marriage over her daughters health she resultantly stays with the Bingley's. If Jane were to marry Mr Bingley it would secure their financial future. Elizabeth goes to see her and stays with the Bingley's for a while.
Miss Bingley undermines Lizzy and mocks her behaviour at every oppurtunity she can, for example when Lizzy goes on a walk Miss Bingley criticises her appearence and describes her as looking "wild" whilst mocking her dirty petticoat. Mr Bingley and Mr Darcy never agree with her.
Reading as a motif - several of the characters read in the novel or make references to reading. The more a woman reads the more intellectual conversations they can have with the opposite sex.
Kitty and Lydia often walk to Meryton to see their aunt and to find out more about the militia regiment that has recently moved into the neighbourhood. They're very excited by this, and are almost obsessed as "they could talk of nothing but officers". Mrs Bennet encourages them to go and meet the soldiers to secure their future wealth.
Elizabeth notices that Darcy is continually observing her and commits the "danger of paying Elizabeth too much attention" and she wonders what she is doing wrong to attract his notice, she does not imagine that he could be admiring her. His interest in her increases, and increases Miss Bingley's jealousy.
Mr Darcy is very reserved, some notable things about his reactions are;
First encounter - he ignored her, he wouldn't dance with her, he said she wasn't handsome enough for him and had nothing nice to say about her yet was intently staring at her.
Later meetings - Darcy seems to start the conversations, he tries to see her a lot, for example on the walk, and he defends her.
Encounters with other women - with Caroline Bingley he is almost forced to talk to her, however he does try to ignore other women, and he often goes out of his way to insult Caroline.
Austen changes her style for this section, rather than allowing her characters to speak she uses a much clearer 3rd person omniscient narrator. This could be because;
-To show Darcy's strange reaction
-To emphasise Jane and Elizabeth's return to Meryton
-To add to Catherine and Lydia's tale
He's described as "punctual", "formal" and "self important", he is the man who will inherit the Bennet fortune, as their home is tied up in an unbreakable legal arrangement where it can only be left to male heirs, and resultantly in the event of his death his daughters and wife will have nowhere to live. Mr Collins is first introduced through the form of a letter. Darcy previously says that long letters are often boastful and go on, which Mr Collins does. He is trying to make himself look better than he really is. it's all about appearances.
The chapter is structured in such a way as to manoeuvre the reader into a clear understanding of what kind of a person Mr Collins is. His letter reveals an astonishing pomposity, and his sentences are leaden and use too many clauses. Later in the chapter, Collins arrives and compliments Mrs Bennet on the beauty of her daughters in dry and conventional terms. He is all admiration for Longbourn and its contents, though Austen reminds us that everything he sees is "his future property".
Mr Wickham is invited to dinner, he's an officer and there are a number of positive first impressions made by him.
Wickham is described as;
"of most gentlemanlike appearance"
"all were struck by the strangers air"
- the narrator is showing how agreeable he is by description
Darcy's respone to Wickham is quite unusual, he "changed colour" and "one looked white, the other red" and Wickham gave him a "salutation Mr Darcy just deigned to return". We are confused by this, and even Elizabeth asks what does this mean. We are as clueless as the characters. There's an element of forshadowing as there seems that there's something not quite right about Wickham.
Elizabeth immediately blames Darcy, but is this meant to be a criticism of her? She does this because she is prejudiced against im and Austen is being realistic as it would have seemed right to blame Darcy at the time.