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Historical Context

Jane Austen completed the original version of Pride and Prejudice in either 1796 or 1797, while the author was still in her early twenties. Publishers rejected the manuscript, and Austen left it alone for several years. From 1809 to 1812 she revised the work, and it was finally published in January 1813.
Austen and her family lived in Steventon, England while she wrote Pride and Prejudice. English society in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries was characterized by sharp stratification. Wealth, family connections, and property ownership divided groups from each other, while royalty and wealthy, titled landowners (often called "landed gentry") comprised the highest ranks of society. Inheritance in most families was bestowed on the eldest son, who generally lived off it. Younger sons and men seeking to build fortunes were able to earn substantial salaries in trade, as do Bingley and Sir William Lucas, law, as does Mr. Philips, the military, as do Colonels Fitzwilliam and Forster, and even the church, as does Mr. Collins. Though men were often able to leap societal boundaries by earning large fortunes, until they purchased a large estate and were able to give up working to pursue lives of leisure, they could not be considered "gentlemen," or men of the highest echelon.
Proper women, meanwhile, could not work for money, and, with the exception of their dowries, their fathers' fortunes were inherited by the eldest son. In families without any sons, such as the Bennets, the estate was often entailed to distant male relatives. For these reasons, marriage became the chief means for women to achieve a place in society. Finding a wealthy husband became of primary importance, which is why the women of Austen's novels are so obsessed with making a good match. In order to attract suitable husbands, women were expected to be "accomplished," which meant holding several of the following talents: being able to sing, play the piano, draw, read, dance, and speak French, among other things. They also had to be well-mannered and pretty, and a large fortune always helped. In fact, many marriages were the direct result of two families' desire to unite fortunes.
The lower ranks hardly appear in Austen's novels, which is a direct reflection of the society. The landed class did not mix with the poor, with the exception of the maids who served them and the occasional charity work. Mostly, the people of this time period socialized in very small circles, concerned only with people of their own rank, while always trying to improve their status and leapfrog to another level of society.

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Historical Context
Main Characters
Points to Ponder
Did You Know
Plot Summary
Chapters 1, 2, and 3
Chapters 4, 5, and 6
Chapters 7 and 8
Chapters 9 ,10, and 11
Chapters 12, 13, and 14
Chapters 15 and 16
Chapters 17, 18, and 19
Chapters 20, 21, and 22
Chapters 23, 24, and 25
Chapters 26, 27, and 28
Chapters 29, 30, and 31
Chapters 32, 33, and 34
Chapter 35
Chapters 36, 37, and 38
Chapters 39 and 40
Chapters 41 and 42
Chapters 43 and 44
Chapters 45 and 46
Chapters 47 and 48
Chapters 49 and 50
Chapters 51 and 52
Chapters 53, 54, and 55
Chapters 56 and 57
Chapters 58 and 59
Chapters 60 and 61


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