A novel by Jane Austen first written from 1796 to 1797 and initially called "First Impressions," but not published until 1813, it details the exploits of the Bennet family and their search for suitable husbands for the five Bennet girls: Jane, Elizabeth, Mary, Kitty (Catherine) and Lydia.
One of Austen's most famous novels and sometimes called one of the first Romantic Comedies (outside of Shakespeare's plays), it details the sexual and marriage politics of the Georgian period, more specifically, the Regency Era. Since the Bennet estate, Longbourn, is entailed away to the closest male relative on Mr. Bennet's side (the rather vile Mr. Collins), the Bennet girls will have to secure rich husbands. Otherwise, their father's death will essentially leave them relatively penniless and less of a marriage prospect. As a result, the eldest two girls, the beautiful and kind Jane, and the witty and winsome Elizabeth, find themselves involved with the complications of courtship. Through various situations of trial and error, mix-ups, miscommunications, balls, letters, trips to Town (London) and the Lake District, a painful proposal, a scandalous elopement and most importantly, preconceived notions based on wounded pride and prejudiced ideas, the girls eventually secure the affections of the kindly, good-natured Mr. Bingley ("5,000 a year!") and the proud, strikingly handsome but shy and rather intimidating Mr. Darcy (oh my, 10,000 a year!).
Overall, the novel emphasizes the importance of family, duty, not giving in to preconceived notions or judging someone based on rumor and conjecture, as well as the radical idea (for the time) that money does not necessarily make the gentleman. Additionally, it upholds the concept that marriage should not only be based on class and social situation, but also mutual respect, wisdom and wit.
Admittedly a hard novel to get through on account of the somewhat archaic language, there have been numerous movie and television adaptations. These range from the 1940 Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier version, to the 1995 BBC miniseries starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth (arguably the most famous and truest to the book), to the most recent 2005 Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen rendition. There is also the Bridget Jones series of books and movies, a loose adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. In this series, Bridget's love interest Mark Darcy is based off of actor Colin Firth's interpretation of Mr. Darcy in the 1995 BBC miniseries. As an inside joke, the Bridget Jones movies feature Colin Firth playing the role of Mark Darcy, as is alluded to in the novels.
The famous first line of Pride and Prejudice: "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife."
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