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Pride and Prejudice

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I have chosen to talk about the opening extract of the novel ‘Pride and Prejudice’ and more specifically the first sentence which reads- ‘It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.’ This quote stands as one of the most famous first lines in literature and is certainly one of the most significant quotes from the novel’s entirety. Not only does it rapidly introduce the arrival of Mr Bingley at Netherfield- the event that sets the novel in motion- the sentence also offers a sketch of the entire plot which concerns itself with the pursuit of ‘single men in possession of a good fortune’ by various female characters. Within it Austen reveals two of the novel’s primary themes: marriage and class and this such indicates that in this time period individuals were defined by their marital opportunities and financial holdings.

Social expectations are similarly highlighted as a key theme through the opening line. Such a line puts forward the idea that a single man was supposed to marry, and that there was a social assumption placed on women in that they were supposed to compete for such a man’s attention. Austen uses the words ‘truth’ and ‘universally’ to demonstrate this concept that social conventions were something that were meant to be upheld under all circumstances and that they were beliefs held by everyone. This extract is used to open the novel to question those socially dictated notions held by the society and to introduce the almost modern ideals that are held by some of the characters in the novel- in particularly, Elizabeth Bennet.

When looking at the characters the quotation can take on an entirely different meaning- especially when narrowing in on Mrs Bennet. Mrs Bennet’s main focus is to marry off her five daughters. She’s desperate to find them acceptable husbands which completely contradicts the idea of men searching for wives- which is what the quotation is suggesting. Her character is the first one to be introduced and in the opening extract she is talking with excitement about marrying one of her daughters off to the ‘man of large fortune’ who has just moved to the area. Throughout the novel Mrs Bennet continuously attempts to gain the men’s attention for her daughters through embarrassing and inconsiderate attempts which ironically end up putting the men off. However, in contrast to her seemingly foolish personality, Mrs Bennet does have a purpose to the plot as she continuously highlights the necessity



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