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Pride and Prejudice Chapter 1

What if you were on a reality dating show, like Love Island, but the other contestants looking for love were your siblings? What if your parents pressured you to be on the show? Jane Austen sets up a similar situation in her novel Pride and Prejudice (1813) in the first 4 chapters. The Bennet sisters meet some eligible bachelors at a formal ball—but not without the oversight of their parents. Thankfully, the omniscient narrator allows us to see all aspects of this situation unfold.

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Pride and Prejudice Chapter 1

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What if you were on a reality dating show, like Love Island, but the other contestants looking for love were your siblings? What if your parents pressured you to be on the show? Jane Austen sets up a similar situation in her novel Pride and Prejudice (1813) in the first 4 chapters. The Bennet sisters meet some eligible bachelors at a formal ball—but not without the oversight of their parents. Thankfully, the omniscient narrator allows us to see all aspects of this situation unfold.

Overview - Chapters 1-4
Brief Summary of Chapters 1-4
  • The Bennet family is immediately introduced and comprises two parents: Mr. and Mrs. Bennet and their five daughters: Jane, Elizabeth, Mary, Catherine (Kitty), and Lydia.
  • Mrs. Bennet announces that a man named Charles Bingley has moved into the neighbourhood. Mrs Bennet hopes Mr. Bingley will be introduced to her daughters at the upcoming ball.
  • Bingley returns from his trip with his two sisters, brother-in-law, one cousin, and a good-looking man named Mr. Darcy.
  • At the ball, Mr. Bingley and his company are the talk of the town. Mr. Bingley presented himself as a pleasant and attractive gentleman, while his friend Mr. Darcy came off as condescending and disagreeable.
  • Mr. Bingley dances with Jane twice at the Ball. The Bennets are happy over this. Bingley tries to get Darcy to dance with Elizabeth and have a good time. However, Darcy rejects that idea by saying she isn't attractive enough. Elizabeth overhears this, and she's displeased.
  • Returning home, Jane and Elizabeth are chatting about how much they like Mr. Bingley. Jane is especially fond of him, as he has many qualities they both want in a man.
  • Mr. Bingley, his sisters, and Darcy are also chatting about the ball elsewhere. Mr. Bingley is cheery about the attendees and considers them lovely and attractive. Darcy is a bit more negative about the ball attendees, considering them unattractive and uninteresting. Fortunately, Mr. Bingley's sisters agree to spend more time with her.
Characters in Chapters 1-4The Bennet Family, Mr. Bingley, Bingley's sisters, Mr. Darcy, Lady Lucas.
Setting in Chapters 1-4The Bennet family home in Longbourn, and Netherfield Park.
Style in Chapter 1-4Omniscient narrator
Literary Devices and Themes in Chapter 1-4Foreshadowing, Dramatic Irony, Satire, Prejudice, Reputation, Class, Family.

Pride and Prejudice Chapter 1 Summary and Analysis

From the novel's start, we can see there must be a wealthy man looking for a wife. Who is this man, and who are the potential wives? Thankfully, in the first chapter, we meet the competitors all at once.

Jane Austen wrote Pride and Prejudice in 1813 while Britain was in the middle of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. The early 19th century was known as the Regency period—officially beginning in 1811—and many people were dealing with financial uncertainty. However, Austen's novel takes place in the countryside, which didn't see as much turmoil. Because of the volatility of property, assets, and money during this time of conflict, these things were highly sought after and protected. The landed gentry, or the social class that owned land, were very influential and enforced strict inheritance laws to keep wealth and property within their families.

Pride and Prejudice Chapters 1-4 Summary, the countryside, StudySmarterFig. 1 - Pride and Prejudice takes place in the countryside.

Chapter 1 Brief Summary

  • The Bennet family is immediately introduced and comprised of two parents: Mr. and Mrs. Bennet and their five daughters: Jane, Elizabeth, Mary, Catherine (Kitty), and Lydia.
  • Mrs. Bennet announces that a man named Charles Bingley has moved into the neighbourhood. He's very wealthy, and he is living in the grand estate of Netherfield Park. Mrs. Bennet asks her husband to bring him to the house so she can introduce her daughters to him, as he's an eligible bachelor.

Chapter 1 Analysis

Dialogue is extremely important throughout Pride and Prejudice, and Chapter 1 is dialogue-heavy. How each character speaks to one another tells of their character and of their relationships with each other. Mrs. Bennet wants her daughters to get married. We can see the importance of her agenda and one-track mind with her first statement in the novel, as she mentions to her husband that Netherland Park has finally become occupied. She then describes the man who has moved in, and she excitedly explains his great wealth to her husband, which is great news for their daughters.

The reader also learns about Mr. Bennet through his sarcastic reply, “How so? how can it affect them?” This sly response shows that Mr. Bennet is more complex and challenging to understand than his wife, as he uses humour to poke fun at her. As for the five daughters, we also learn about them through their parents' dialogue. Elizabeth, or Lizzy, is clearly her father's favourite daughter and is ultimately the heroine of the novel.

Most of this chapter is dialogue-heavy. Look to the dialogue to study the relationships between the characters and how they navigate these interactions differently.

Foreshadowing is evident in this first chapter, as we get clues as to what will happen in the future.

Foreshadowing is a literary device that is used to suggest or indicate future events. These hints of the future create dramatic tension and can be shown in obvious or subtle ways.

This chapter begins with the discussion of an eligible bachelor, and the plot is immediately revealed once Mr. Bennet asks, "Is he married or single?" In addition to foreshadowing, we begin to see various relationships unfold within the Bennet family. Mr. Bennet sarcastically saying he already gives consent to marry off his daughter, especially Elizabeth, shows that he is a bit eccentric and enjoys ridiculing people. We get glimpses of the personalities of each of the five Bennet sisters in Chapter 1, but these are just first impressions.

"First Impressions" was the original title of Pride and Prejudice. Keep this concept of "first impressions" in your mind as you read the first 4 chapters—this is when you will be able to make your own first impressions of the characters.

Chapter 1 Key Quotes

QuoteSpeakerSectionAnalysis
"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife."NarratorBeginningThe first line of Chapter 1 has the narrator making a clear point that is telling of the time period: that marriage is the end game for the wealthy. This first line sets a precedent for the entire novel.
"You mistake me, my dear. I have a high respect for your nerves. They are my old friends. I have heard you mention them with consideration these twenty years at least."Mr. BennetEndMr. Bennet and Mrs. Bennet's relationship is clearly shown through their dialogue. Mrs. Bennet teases her husband for not being more attentive to her feelings, and he rebuttals with a witty response that continues to aggravate his wife.

Pride and Prejudice Chapter 2 Summary and Analysis

The Bennet family dynamic is more fully revealed in Chapter 2, as we'll see each of their feelings about their new neighbour Mr. Bingley moving in.

Chapter 2 Brief Summary

  • It's learned that Mr. Bennet has gone to visit Mr. Bingley without the knowledge of his family. Mr. Bennet pretends to be uninterested in meeting the man and starts a roundabout conversation until he reveals that he's already met Mr. Bingley!
  • The Bennet sisters are astonished, and Mrs. Bennet is excited and proud that her husband played a clever trick on them by hiding this information. Now he will be able to introduce Mr. Bingley to their daughters.
  • Mrs. Bennet discusses the next ball with her daughters and claims that Lydia, the youngest daughter, will dance with Mr. Bingley.

Pride and Prejudice Chapters 1-4 Summary, a black horse, StudySmarterFig 2. - Mr. Bingley arrives at the Bennet household on a black horse.

Chapter 2 Analysis

Mr. Bennet loves to use wit and sarcasm to control the conversation. As the patriarch of the family, he is also in control of arranging the meeting of his daughters' suitors—and ultimately their marriages. Entailment, one of the main motifs in Pride and Prejudice, is the system in place to ensure a family's inheritance stays within the family to a particular heir.

Because a man must be the one to inherit a family's estate, Mrs. Bennet and the daughters will never be able to inherit the family estate themselves. They are under obligation to find a husband, which ultimately gives Mr. Bennet the power to make or break any of his daughters' futures, as he is the one who needs to introduce them to possible suitors. Entailment creates problems for the Bennets, and it changes how the family members act towards each other.

Mrs. Bennet also portrays herself as being emotionally unreliable in Chapter 2. When she was under the impression that Mr. Bennet hadn't met Bingley, she was irritated, short, and began to scold her daughter Kitty for coughing. When she learned of the news that her husband had indeed met Bingley, she became ecstatic and was raptured by her husband's little prank. Though Mrs. Bennet's emotions are a rollercoaster, she is reliable when enforcing formal rules, social etiquette, and traditions.

You can follow the characters' emotions through their dialogue. Austin makes her character's speech very straightforward, which clearly displays their emotions to the reader.

Chapter 2 Key Quotes

QuoteSpeakerSectionAnalysis
"'But you forget, mamma,' said Elizabeth, 'that we shall meet him at the assemblies, and that Mrs. Long has promised to introduce him.' 'I do not believe Mrs. Long will do any such thing. She has two nieces of her own. She is a selfish, hypocritical woman, and I have no opinion of her.'"Elizabeth and Mrs. BennetBeginningElizabeth suggests the neighbour, Mrs. Long, will introduce them all to Mr. Bingley. However, Mrs. Bennet is not convinced that this is the case, as she has a family of her own she must be pushing to get married. This conversation shows Elizabeth's naivety to social etiquette and Mrs. Bennet's understanding of how competitive the marriage market is. Women have become pitted against each other and are fighting over one man.
"'What say you, Mary? for you are a young lady of deep reflection, I know, and read great books and make extracts.' Mary wished to say something very sensible, but knew not how. 'While Mary is adjusting her ideas,' he continued, 'let us return to Mr. Bingley.'Mr. BennetMiddleMr. Bennet says this to his daughter Mary after discussing the formal meeting rules between men and women. He intentionally calls her bluff and knows that she won't be able to develop a proper argument for or against the formalities. Thus, he maintains control of the conversation—just like he controls his daughters' abilities to meet possible suitors.

Pride and Prejudice Chapter 3 Summary and Analysis

After all the commotion about Mr. Bingley, the Bennet family finally gets to meet him! The most exciting chapter yet, Chapter 3 introduces several new characters and starts the romance we've all been waiting for.

Chapter 3 Brief Summary

  • Mr. Bingley meets Mr. Bennet with the sisters watching from a nearby window. The two men discuss possible dinner plans. However, Bingley responds with a note that he cannot attend as he has an obligation out of town. Mrs. Bennet learns from the neighbour, Lady Lucas, that he has gone to London to bring people back for the ball.
  • Bingley returns from his trip with his two sisters, brother-in-law, one cousin, and a good-looking man named Mr. Darcy.
  • At the ball, Mr. Bingley and his company are the talk of the town. Mr. Bingley presented himself as a pleasant and attractive gentleman, while his friend Mr. Darcy came off as condescending and disagreeable.
  • Mr. Bingley is social and dances with many people—and twice the Bennet's daughter Jane. The Bennets are happy over this. Bingley says that Jane is the most beautiful woman he's ever seen, and then tries to get Darcy to dance with someone and have a good time. Bingley offers the Bennet daughter Elizabeth, but Darcy rejects that idea by saying she isn't attractive enough. Elizabeth overhears this, and she's displeased.
  • The Bennets go home, and Mrs. Bennet fills her husband in on the details. She's so excited about Jane and Bingley dancing. She's also upset with Darcy for being unfriendly and saying that Elizabeth isn't attractive enough for him.

Chapter 3 Analysis

Class is a very important aspect of life during the Regency period. While Bingley was open to dancing with the Bennet daughters who are less wealthy than him, Darcy was standoffish and rejected Elizabeth for a petty reason. It's clear that Darcy feels superior to the rest of the ball attendees and places himself higher on the social hierarchy—so much so that he did not think anyone at the ball was worth talking to other than his own party. Both Bingley and Darcy—two wealthy men—have plenty of options for women because of their social class. However, the Bennet family, who isn't quite as rich, is limited in their options, and the five daughters are at the whim of a wealthy man who courts them.

Who in this chapter is prideful, and who is prejudiced? These two adjectives describe many characters throughout the novel, but it is in this chapter that we can start to see the true colours of many of the main characters.

There are many social conventions at play in this chapter, as a ball was one of the few places men and women were allowed to mingle. During this time period, formal meetings between men and women had to be orchestrated by either the woman's father or brother. Fortunately, this ball allowed the Bennet women to have some independence and meet men without the direct supervision of their father. This was ultimately a successful meeting, as Jane danced with Mr. Bingley twice.

Pride and Prejudices Chapter 1-4 Summary, The ball in Netherfield, StudySmarterFig. 3 - The romance truly begins in Chapter 3 at the ball.

Chapter 3 Key Quotes

QuoteSpeakerSectionAnalysis
"To be fond of dancing was a certain step towards falling in love."NarratorBeginningThe narrator makes it clear in the introduction of Chapter 3 that the ball was an important part of the rest of the Bennet's lives. The weight of this ball was heavy on the sisters' shoulders, as it could change the trajectory of their futures.
"'If I can but see one of my daughters happily settled at Netherfield,” said Mrs. Bennet to her husband, “and all the others equally well married, I shall have nothing to wish for.'"Mrs. BennetBeginningAs drilled into us in previous chapters, marriage was crucial for women during the Regency period to solidify a bright destiny. Mrs. Bennet dreams of her daughters' marriages as if they're her life's work, which puts enormous pressure on her husband and daughters to make this dream come true.
"She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me; and I am in no humour at present to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men."Mr. DarcyMiddleMr. Darcy was very honest with his impressions of Elizabeth and the other women at the ball—all of whom were below his standard. In addition to his feelings of superiority, he knew there would be no negative consequences to dismissing the women, as his life would continue comfortably as is.

Pride and Prejudice Chapter 4 Summary and Analysis

After the ball, we get an inside peek into many attendees' minds.

Chapter 4 Brief Summary

  • Jane and Elizabeth are chatting about how much they like Mr. Bingley. Jane is especially fond of him, as he has many qualities they both want in a man. Jane doesn't want to say anything negative about Bingley's sisters, but Elizabeth is a bit more unfiltered. Elizabeth thinks they are prim and educated, but she also thinks they're a bit conceited.
  • Mr. Bingley, his sisters, and Darcy are also chatting about the ball elsewhere. Mr. Bingley is cheery about the attendees and considers them lovely and attractive. He acknowledges his interest in Jane. Darcy is a bit more negative about the ball attendees, considering them unattractive and uninteresting. Darcy even thought that Jane smiled too much. Fortunately, Mr. Bingley's sister and Caroline think her smiles are fine and agree to spend more time with her.

Chapter 4 Analysis

In Chapter 4, the reader is given insight into two close relationships back to back, first between Jane and Elizabeth, and second between Bingley and Darcy. The sisters' honest conversation about who they enjoyed at the ball shows Jane and Elizabeth's close bond and sisterhood. Elizabeth even points out that the two sisters have different temperaments, displaying that they know each other very well and have a constantly growing relationship where they can share insights into each other's demeanor. Jane is a bit more agreeable and accepting of people, which makes her a bit ignorant of others' faults—hence her apprehension to discuss Bingley's sisters negatively.

Mr. Bingley and Darcy's relationship is close, but not quite as close as Jane and Elizabeth's. Their relationships are mirrored by the narrator explaining the two men's conversation from a distance rather than the reader experiencing the two women's intimate dialogue. However, the omniscient narrator shows us how prejudiced Darcy can be throughout the conversation with his friend, which is the opposite of Mr. Bingley's character.

Darcy is quite narrow-minded about the townspeople, and the two friend's personalities are sharply contrasted in this chapter. Even Mr. Bingley's sisters don't judge the townsfolk as Darcy does, and they agree with their brother that it may be nice to continue socializing with Jane.

Chapter 4 Key Quotes

QuoteSpeakerSectionAnalysis
"But that is one great difference between us. Compliments always take you by surprise, and me never."ElizabethBeginningElizabeth says this to Jane as they discuss how Mr. Bingley asked Jane to dance a second time. Jane sees herself as inferior to men and is surprised to receive a compliment, while Elizabeth views herself as an equal. Her self-worth makes it so she is not shocked to receive praise, as she already knows her value.
"Bingley was sure of being liked wherever he appeared, but Darcy was continually giving offence."NarratorEndBingley is the anthesis of Darcy, and the narrator explains this. Bingley is quite positive, and Darcy is negative.

Pride and Prejudice Chapter 1-4 Summary and Analysis - Key takeaways

  • The first four chapters of Pride and Prejudice introduce the Bennet family, the Bingley family, Mr. Darcy. Upcoming romances are foreshadowed.
  • In Chapter 1, the Bennet family (comprised of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet and their five daughters: Jane, Elizabeth, Mary, Catherine (Kitty), and Lydia) learns that Mr. Bingley, the new wealthy neighbor has moved in and is single.
  • In Chapter 2, Mr. Bennet meets Mr. Bingley. His family is excited for the upcoming ball.
  • In Chapter 3, the Bennet family, the Bingley family, and Mr. Darcy attend the ball. Mr. Bingley begins to fancy Jane.
  • In Chapter 4, Jane and Elizabeth discuss their interest in Mr. Bingley. Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy discuss Jane.

Frequently Asked Questions about Pride and Prejudice Chapter 1

Chapter 1 in Pride and Prejudice introduces the Bennet family, and we begin to see the parents’ desires for their daughters to get married to the new neighbor Mr. Bingley.

In the beginning of Pride and Prejudice, the Bennet sisters meet Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy at the ball. Mr. Bingley dances with Jane twice. Mr. Darcy comes off as rude, and he won’t dance with Elizabeth because she is not attractive enough.

Pride and Prejudice has 61 chapters.

In Chapter 1, Mr. Bennet playfully teases his wife about her excitement over the new neighbor. They have been married for at least twenty years and seem to know each other quite well.

Pride and Prejudice is 61 chapters long, though the page number varies depending on the edition.

Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

Who is introduced in the first chapter?

How does Mr. Bennet respond to his wife in the first chapter?

How does entailment influence how the Bennet family acts?

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