Pride and prejudice (1813)
Pride and Prejudice, the second novel Jane Austen published, is the best known of all of her novels. It was also her best-selling novel during her lifetime. The novel focuses on the Bennet family, a family of the lower gentry consisting of five daughters and their parents. The Bennets have little in the way of wealth beyond their home and the income which is connected to it, all of which will, when Mr. Bennet dies, be inherited by one of his distant cousins, Mr. Collins. Because of this inheritance, it is imperative that the young women of the household find husbands who can and will provide well for them, since their father is able to do very little to assure their future support and they have no brothers to take them in after their father's death.
Pride and Prejudice began its existence, like Sense and Sensibility, as an epistolary novel (see discussion of this form in Chapter 2) written when Austen was around twenty years of age. First Impressions was its original title. Although Austen thoroughly revised the novel over the next sixteen years or so before finding a publisher for it, the importance of "first impressions" remains strong in the published novel. The first impressions that many of the characters have about one another prove to be quite essential to the development of the plot as well as the development of the characters themselves.
The final version of Pride and Prejudice, published in 1813, was no longer written in epistolary style. Letters remain extremely important within the novel -- especially those exchanged between Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth -- but the narrative proceeds through use of a third-person narrator. Although that