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Pride and Prejudice

Jane Austen

Theme: Pride, Love, and Marriage
Grades: Grades 11-12

Pride and Prejudice, a gentle but witty satire of courtship and marriage, tells the story of Elizabeth Bennet, one of five daughters of a country gentleman and his matchmaking wife. At a ball given by the rich young Mr. Bingley, Elizabeth meets Mr. Darcy. Darcy is rude and arrogant, and he and Elizabeth are immediately at odds with each other. As they are thrown together in social situations, they continue to spar. Darcy, however, begins to fall in love with Elizabeth, despite the fact that he considers her well below his social station—and has even advised Bingley not to marry Elizabeth's sister Jane. Eventually he proposes but with great condescension, and Elizabeth angrily refuses him. Her view of him begins to change, however, when she realizes from a letter he writes to her that she has badly misinterpreted some of his behavior. Her feelings change even more when she discovers he has played a major role in settling the affairs of her runaway sister, Lydia, and helped avert disgrace for her family. When Darcy proposes again, Elizabeth accepts.

  1. Tapping Prior Knowledge: English Society.
    Invite students to work with partners or in small groups to share what they know about English society at the beginning of the 19th century. Ask them to consider topics such as the class system, the position of women, and moral standards. Record their information and impressions on the board for reference as they work through the novel and the accompanying activities.
  1. Linking to Today: Marriage.
    Have students discuss as a class or in small groups their ideas about marriage. What factors do they think help make a good marriage? How important do they feel marriage will be in their lives? What are some social or political issues concerning marriage that have developed in recent years?
  1. Stand and Deliver.
    Mr. Collins often expresses his views about marriage in the novel. Ask students to write and deliver a sermon on marriage, playing the role of Mr. Collins delivering the sermon to his congregation. Have students decide, before writing the sermon, on the context in which the sermon is to be delivered (for example, after his own marriage, during Lydia's disappearance, or around the time of Elizabeth's marriage to Darcy).

  1. Social Satire.
    Students can create cartoons satirizing the fashions, social attitudes, or characters in Pride and Prejudice. Set up a classroom gallery to display the finished cartoons.
  1. My Fair Lady.
    Review Chapter 8 with students, the chapter in which Darcy explains his idea of an "accomplished" woman. Ask students to research the education and responsibilities of women of the gentry during the early 19th century. Have them write a description of the role a woman of that class was expected to fulfill.
  1. What Marriage Entailed.
    Review with students how Mrs. Bennet is baffled and angered by the entailment of her husband's estate. Ask students to research and write a paper explaining the practice of entailing an estate in England—why estates were entailed and what impact entails had on families.