Summary of P&P and Cast of Characters
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife."
Pride and Prejudice is the story of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet and their five daughters: Jane, Elizabeth, Mary, Kitty and Lydia. Because their estate is entailed away from the female line, it is important that these young ladies make advantageous marriages or they may find themselves homeless when their father dies. Because of their situations, there is a great deal of excitement when it is learned that two gentlemen of fortune have arrived in the village of Meryton: Charles Bingley, an amiable man whose family made their fortune in trade, and Fitzwilliam Darcy, a wealthy man of mercurial temperament and a member of the landed gentry.
Shortly after their arrival, Mr. Bingley, his two sisters, Caroline Bingley and Louisa Hurst, Louisa’s husband, and Mr. Darcy attend a local assembly where Mr. Bingley is immediately smitten by the beautiful Jane Bennet. However, his friend, the dour Mr. Darcy, disapproves of all that he sees, remarking that none of the local beauties are “handsome enough to tempt me,” a remark overheard by Elizabeth Bennet and one which gives great offense. No sooner does Mr. Darcy make this comment then he begins to be drawn in by Elizabeth’s charm and humor.
Mrs. Bennet’s primary role in life is to see her five daughters well married. When she sees Mr. Bingley’s growing interest in Jane, she broadcasts to the neighborhood that a wedding is imminent. This information receives a cold reception from Darcy and Charles’s sisters because Jane lacks the necessary connections to be accepted into high society and is the daughter of a witless mother and a disinterested father and has three silly younger sisters. The Bingley sisters and Darcy set about separating the two.
While Mr. Bingley and Jane are falling in love, Elizabeth and Darcy are, unknowingly, beginning the mating ritual which neither wants nor expects. Elizabeth is prejudiced again Mr. Darcy because of his rude behavior at the assembly while Darcy is determined to resist Elizabeth’s charms for the same reasons that he had interfered in Jane and Bingley’s relationship: low social standing and an unacceptable family.
Two other gentlemen arrive in Meryton who add to the mix. The Rev. Mr. Collins is a cousin of Mr. Bennet, and it is he who will inherit Longbourn when Mr. Bennet dies. If Mr. Collins were to marry one of the Bennet sisters, then the estate would remain in the Bennet family, and the girls would be safe. Unfortunately, Mr. Collins is a complete ass. At first he has designs on Jane, but when convinced by Mrs. Bennet that she will shortly be engaged, he turns his attention to Elizabeth. Lizzy is keenly aware of the precarious situation that the entail has placed on the family. If she and her sisters do not marry well, they may end up as spinsters living on the kindness of their relations. Even so, she cannot bring herself to accept a proposal from a total buffoon. But Collins is a resilient chap, and he sneaks over to the home of Charlotte Lucas, Lizzy’s plain friend, and asks her to marry him. Aware of her limited options, Charlotte, being a practical woman, accepts his proposal to the horror of Lizzy who can hardly believe that anyone, no less Charlotte, would accept one of the stupidest men in England.
The second gentleman is Mr. Wickham, the son of Mr. Darcy’s steward, and a genuine scoundrel, who is a newly minted officer in the local militia. Unfortunately, the only one who knows this is Mr. Darcy, and he chooses not to acquaint the neighborhood with the deficiencies in Wickham’s character. Wickham is romantically drawn to Lizzy, but when a wealthy Miss King arrives in Meryton, he quickly shifts his attention to her. Suspecting that Wickham is after her fortune, relations of Miss King insist that she leave Meryton. But Wickham is not done making mischief.
Meanwhile, things seem to be moving along nicely for Jane and Bingley. Unbeknownst to Elizabeth, Darcy is becoming more and more attracted to her. But because he is from the social elite, he feels it is necessary to resist her charms. When he becomes aware that the entire neighborhood is expecting a marriage between Bingley and Jane Bennet, he convinces his friend to leave Meryton, saying that the depth of Jane’s feelings do not match his own.
When Bingley leaves for London, Jane and Lizzy are sure that he will return and make an offer of marriage. After the Bingley sisters also leave and weeks go by with no contact from Bingley, Jane comes to understand that Mr. Bingley has no intention of returning. Lizzy correctly guesses that his sisters and friend are behind this.
A change of scenery is necessary for the two oldest Bennet sisters. Jane travels to London to visit with her Aunt and Uncle Gardiner while Lizzy visits her newly-married friend, Charlotte Lucas Collins, in Kent. As it so happens, Mr. Collins is minister to Lady Catherine De Bourgh, an autocratic aristocrat, and Darcy’s aunt. While her sisters are away, Lydia, the youngest, most immature, and brassiest of the Bennet sisters, travels to Brighton as a guest of Mrs. Foster, the wife of the colonel of the regiment.
While Jane pines away in London hoping to run into Mr. Bingley, Darcy deliberately runs into Lizzy at Hunsford Lodge. Lady Catherine invites Lizzy and the Collinses to dine at RosingsPark, and it is there that Darcy’s resolve to fight off Lizzy’s charms fails him, and a softer, but no less proud, Mr. Darcy emerges. Lizzy notices the changes but has no idea that he has fallen in love with her. Finally, unable to resist her charms, Darcy asks for her hand in marriage, but not before informing Elizabeth that such an attachment is against his better judgment because of her inferior position in society, but one he is unable to resist.
Unsurprisingly, our heroine refuses Mr. Darcy for three reasons: he wishes that he had not fallen in love with her; she has learned of his role in separating Charles Bingley from his sister; and she believes that he has injured Mr. Wickham by denying him a living. She is unaware that Darcy did honor his commitments and that George Wickham is a debaucher and gambler.
Elizabeth thinks that she has seen the last of Mr. Darcy, but on a holiday to Derbyshire with the Gardiners, the threesome tour Pemberley, the Darcy ancestral manor house, after they have been assured that Mr. Darcy is not at home. It is just at this time that Mr. Darcy returns to Pemberley and meets Lizzy in the garden. When he sees Lizzy, Darcy is reminded how much he loves her, and upon touring his great estate, Lizzy’s attitude toward Mr. Darcy softens, especially when she notices marked improvements in his behavior. It appears that the two may forgive and forget and end up together, but it is at that point that Wickham once again rears his ugly head.
Wickham, who has the morals of a feral dog, convinces Lydia to “elope” with him. Believing that he is in love with her, Lydia agrees and travels to London with him. The family is thrown into a panic. Not only will Lydia’s escapades ruin her reputation, but it will damage the prospects of her four sisters.
When Lizzy receives a letter from Jane informing her of the situation with Lydia, Lizzy was to have dined with Mr. Darcy and his sister, but because of Lydia, she tells Darcy that she must immediately return to Hertfordshire and her family. Lizzy can only believe that Darcy will have nothing to do with her because of Lydia’s disgrace, and when she leaves Derbyshire, she is convinced that she will never see him again. However, as soon as Lizzy leaves, Darcy immediately sets out for London, locates Lydia, buys off Wickham, and saves the day.
Although Lydia’s situation has ended as well as it possibly could have, Lizzy believes that any chance of another offer of marriage from Darcy is now impossible. However, when Lady Catherine De Bourgh arrives at Longbourn in all of her pomp, she confronts Lizzy with the information that she has learned that she is shortly to become engaged to her nephew and wants the report refuted. Lady Catherine, who is used to prevailing in all things, is told off by Lizzy and leaves Longbourn with steam coming out of her ears.
When Darcy learns from his aunt of Lizzy’s refusal to be dictated to, he realizes that he may still win Lizzy’s heart because he is a changed man. Shortly thereafter, a humbler man asks Elizabeth to marry him. When Lizzy tells her father that she is to marry Mr. Darcy, it is a jaw-dropping moment for the family. Everyone remembers his behavior at the assembly. Her father believes that Lizzy is only marrying him for his position and money. After reassuring her father that she truly loves the gentleman and that he is the “best of men,” Mr. Bennet approves the union, and they ride off into the sunset to Pemberley.
"Happy for all her maternal feelings was the day on which Mrs. Bennet got rid of her two most deserving daughters. With what delighted pride she afterwards visited Mrs. Bingley, and talked of Mrs. Darcy, may be guessed.”
Brief Summary of the Characters in Pride & Prejudice
Mr. Bennet (Mr. Garrison) – An educated gentleman farmer and the father of five daughters. Because of an entail placed on the estate, the farm will be inherited by his closest male relative, the Rev. William Collins. Elizabeth, his second oldest daughter, is his favorite.
Mrs. Bennet (Mrs. Garrison) – Acutely aware that her husband’s death will mean that the family will have to vacate Longbourn, Mrs. Bennet becomes obsessed with marrying her daughters off to the first eligible bachelor. A silly woman, her interference proves embarrassing at best, and in the case of her daughter, Jane, and the eligible and wealthy Mr. Bingley, nearly fatal.
Jane Bennet (Jane Garrison Bingham) -- The eldest Bennet daughter and the prettiest. A kind sweet creature, she is agreeable in every situation and sees good in everyone. This results in her misjudging Charles Bingley’s sisters who are determined to keep her away from their brother, Charles. She is viewed as the one who will save the family from the entail because she is the one most likely to make an advantageous marriage.
Elizabeth Bennet (Elizabeth Garrison Lacey) – An attractive, intelligent, witty young woman. Despite her precarious situation because of the entail, “Lizzy” is determined not to marry unless she falls in love. Offended by Mr. Darcy’s rude behavior when he first comes to Meryton, she refuses his offer of marriage in which he tells her that he has had to overcome his own objections to marrying her because of her inferior position in society. However, when she later meets Darcy at Pemberley, his estate in Derbyshire, she recognizes that he has changed and is now a man worthy of her love.
Mary Bennet (Mary Garrison)– The middle daughter, a sanctimonious scold, who thinks she is morally superior to everyone around her.
Kitty Bennet (Celia Stanton Garrison) – An empty-headed girl of 17 who follows her younger sister, Lydia, in her pursuit of a good time which includes flirting with the officers quartered near Meryton.
Lydia Bennet (Lucy Garrison Waggoner Edwards) – The black sheep of the family. This 15-year old flirt runs away with the cad, Mr. Wickham. This action has the potential to harm the marriage prospects of her four sisters because no respectable man will want to have anything to do with such a family. Lydia is rescued by Mr. Darcy who arranges for her marriage and purchases an army commission for Wickham.
Caroline Bingley and Louisa Hurst (Caroline Bingham Upton and Louisa Bingham Ashurst) – Charles’s conniving sisters who attempt to sabotage Jane and Charles’s romance. Caroline wants to get her brother back to London as quickly as possible because she has noticed that his friend, Mr. Darcy, is attracted to Elizabeth Bennet, and she wants Darcy for herself.
Charles Bingley (Charles Bingham)– Mr. Darcy’s friend whose family made their fortune in trade. Although he holds an inferior position in society to Darcy, his amiability wins him many friends and the love of Jane Bennet. Outmaneuvered by his sisters and Darcy, he is convinced that Jane is not in love with him, and if she were, her lack of connections and fortune makes her a poor choice for a wife. But a reformed Darcy encourages his friend to renew his attentions to Miss Bennet.
George Bingley* (George Bingham) -- Charles’s eldest brother and the head of the large Bingley family. His success in business is the source of the family’s wealth. As a result, he exerts a strong influence on all of his siblings. Richard and James Bingley are also Charles’s older brothers.
Mr. William Collins (William Chatterton) – Described as one of literature’s greatest bores, he is to inherit the Bennet estate upon Mr. Bennet’s death. Obnoxious to the point of revolting, he goes to Longbourn with the intention of marrying one of the Bennet daughters. After he is told that Jane will shortly be engaged, he turns his attention to Lizzy who finds him to be ridiculous and refuses his offer over the objections of her hysterical mother. He quickly recovers and proposes to Lizzy’s closest friend, Charlotte Lucas.
Fitzwilliam Darcy (William Lacey) – Born to privilege and status, this wealthy son of the landed gentry offends Elizabeth when they first meet at an assembly in Meryton. He believes himself to be superior to everyone at the dance and is rightly judged by Lizzy to be a conceited, unpleasant man. It is only when Lizzy rejects his offer of marriage that he takes a long hard look at his actions and realizes that he did not behave like a gentleman. A chastened Darcy renews his attentions to Lizzy, resolves Lydia and Wickham’s problem, and informs his friend, Charles Bingley, that he was wrong about Jane Bennet and that they should marry. Lizzy recognizes the changes in Mr. Darcy and accepts his second proposal.
Georgiana Darcy (Georgiana Lacey) – The much younger sister of Mr. Darcy who becomes the target of George Wickham in his effort to secure her fortune. Darcy learns of his plans to marry his sister and is able to prevent an elopement.
Anne DeBourgh (Anne Desmet) – The sickly daughter of Lady Catherine who is supposed to marry Mr. Darcy because it was the wish of both their mothers.
Lady Catherine DeBourgh (Lady Sylvia Desmet) – Mr. Darcy’s overbearing aristocratic aunt who interferes in everyone’s affairs. When she learns that her nephew is possibly engaged to Elizabeth Bennet, she hops in her carriage with the intention of preventing such an ill-advised proposal, especially since she has decided that her daughter, Anne, will marry Darcy.
Col. Fitzwilliam (Col. Alexander Dumont) – Mr. Darcy’s cousin and the younger son of an earl. Elizabeth is mildly attracted to him, but because he must marry a woman of fortune, nothing can come of it.
Charlotte Lucas (Charlotte Ledger) – Lizzy’s best friend and a sensible, plain-looking girl who knows that she must marry or become a burden to her family. When Lizzy rejects Mr. Collins, he proposes to Charlotte, who recognizes that he is not the most intelligent man in England but one who will be able to provide her with a good home.
George Wickham (George Waggoner) – The son of Old Mr. Darcy’s steward, he takes advantage of the old man’s affections to secure enough money to purchase a living in the military, the church, or the law and immediately squanders it. He attempts to elope with Georgiana Darcy, Mr. Darcy’s much younger sister, because of her fortune. Darcy thought that he was rid of Wickham after he had paid him off, but he shows up in Meryton and has a flirtation with Lizzy. When the militia removes to Brighton, he seduces Lydia Bennet who is visiting with his colonel’s wife.
*These characters do not appear in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.