ENGL 8181: Victorian Afterlives
Professor Sigler

 

Reading and Discussion Questions for Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice

As you read Pride and Prejudice, please look for questions, problems and recurring issues in the text. You might begin by considering, and looking for examples of, the following issues:

    1. An earlier version of Pride and Prejudice was entitled First Impressions. What role do first impressions play in the story? In which cases do first impressions turn out to be inaccurate, in which cases correct?
    2. Mr. Bennet's honesty and wry humor make him one of the most appealing characters in the book. Yet, as the story unfolds, it becomes clear that he has failed as a father. In what ways does Mr. Bennet let his children down? How does his action, or inaction, affect the behavior of his daughters? His wife? The course of the story?
    3. Is Mrs. Bennet a better parent? Why or why not? Consider the relationships between Mrs. Bennet and her children, especially Elizabeth and Lydia.
    4. Marriage:The narrator describes marriage as the "business" of Mrs. Bennet's life at the end of chapter one. What effect does the "business" of marriage have on female relationships in Pride and Prejudice?
    5. Pride and Prejudice is a novel about women who feel they have to marry to be happy. Taking Charlotte Lucas as an example, do you think Austen is making a social criticism of her era’s view of marriage?
  1. Compare and contrast the Bingley-Darcy relationship with the Jane-Elizabeth relationship.
  2. For most of the book, pride prevents Darcy from having what he most desires. Why is he so proud? How is his pride displayed? Is Elizabeth proud? Which characters are not proud? Are they better off?
  3. How is craven materialism represented in Pride and Prejudice? Who are the most materialistic characters
  4. Consider the significance of specific houses and characters' relationships to them (Longbourn, Netherfield, Pemberley, Rosings, etc.), as well as the significance of homes and domesticity generally
  5. Class and gender: How (and by whom) is class pride represented in Pride and Prejudice; how (and by whom) is class mobility represented?
    • What is the relationship between money and power.
    • What are some of the ways that being a "gentleman" and a "lady" are defined?
    • What is the importance of social class in the novel, especially as it impacts the relationship between Elizabeth and Darcy.
  6. What is the significance of revising, rethinking, and reviewing one's past? Elizabeth's startling and resonant statement--"Till this moment, I never knew myself" (159)--is only the most dramatic instance of her conscious self-examination, a pattern that deepens from the middle of the book onward. (Darcy and Mr. Bennet also review self-critically the consequences of past behavior.) Both Elizabeth and Darcy undergo transformations over the course of the book. How does each change and how is the transformation brought about? Could Elizabeth's transformation have happened without Darcy's? Or vice versa?
  7. Mrs. Bennet, Mr. Collins, and Lady Catherine de Bourgh are famously comic characters. What makes them so funny? How does Elizabeth's perception of them affect your trust in Elizabeth's views of other people in the book, particularly of Wickham and Darcy? Are there any similarities in the roles of Lady Catherine de Bourgh and Mrs. Bennet.
  8. Track the role of writing--which is Austen's medium, after all. What is the power of the written word--for the writer and for the reader? Letter-writing looms large in the novel; why are the letters (and the process of writing them) important?
  9. Track, and reflect upon, references to the following: power, money (i.e. incomes, fortunes, estates), character, love, passion, marriage, status.

Jane Austen