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Home » , » Pride and Prejudice is a Well Constructed Novel
In contrast to the simplicity of her style Jane Austen's plots are unexpectedly complex. She is not content to simply draw two or three characters in isolation. She prefers a family, with their many friends and acquaintances and she tries within her limited range to make things as difficult as possible. There is enough material in any one of her six novels to serve the modern novelist in writing two or three good sized stories: one story, one thread of narrative is not enough for her, and the tangle of human relationships is never too intriguing for her. So, Pride and Prejudice is a well constructed Novel.  

Precision and Simplicity of Plot:

The plot of Pride and Prejudice has precision, simplicity and symmetry. There are no obtrusive characters no digressive episodes and each event, each slight incident, each conversation, each speech is indispensable to the plot. The interdependence of the main plot and the sub-plots is complete and the interplay between characters and events is held in perfect organic unity. Lawrence J. Clipper compares the various movements of the novel to "the movements of dancers in a minuet, which takes part of its beauty from the overall organisation of many dancers".
The Main Plot:

The Elizabeth-Darcy courtship and marriage constitutes the main plot of the novel. Their affair follows a peculiar pattern which Mary Lascelles describes in the following words:  " This pattern is formed by diverging and converging lines, by the movement of two people who are impelled apart until they reach a climax of mutual hostility and thereafter bend their courses towards mutual understanding and amity."

The two are brought together at a village ball. Elizabeth becomes prejudiced against Darcy on account of his haughty behaviour in general and his remark against her in particular that she is not handsome enough to tempt him to dance with her. Jane Austen displays a very great skill in handling events which lead to the deepening of Elizabeth's prejudice and to the awakening of Darcy's love in spite of his pride. Wickham's account of afflictions suffered at Darcy's hand arouses Elizabeth's indignation and she pronounces him abominable. Collins is a despicable fool and he holds Lady Catherine in great adulation. Lady Catherine herself is an insufferable snob and she adores Darcy - all these get associated in her mind and strengthen every ill-impression of hers. The indiscreet half-confidence of Colonel Fitzwilliam puts Darcy's insinuation in the Jane-Bingley affair in the most unfavorable light. When prejudice and proud love have thus reached a degree of intensity, Jane Austen brings Elizabeth and Darcy together at Hunsford parsonage. There is an arrogant and insulting proposal of marriage and an indignant refusal. But the two have already some doubts about their moral stands. At the climax of their mutual exasperation, Darcy is prepared to softer towards the Bennets, having seen the embarrassing display of ill-breeding by Miss Bingley and Lady Catherine and Elizabeth is prepared to concede the validity of Darcy's objections to her vulgar family in regard to the Jane-Bingley alliance. Darcy's letter begins the process of self-awareness  and Pemberley brings them still closer as they meet for the first time in favourable circumstances. Darcy is at his best as a considerate master, a loving brother and a good host, on his own estate and Elizabeth is among the congenial company of the Gardiners. The two come steadily together only to be parted temporarily by Lydia's elopement.

The parting is essential to the story as it reveals how much Elizabeth loves Darcy and how much she cherishes the hopes of marriage with him and it provides Darcy with an opportunity to act heroically and prove his love for Elizabeth. The Darcy-Elizabeth relationship progresses in such a way that their marriage could be the only logical conclusion of their earlier misunderstandings. W. L. Cross says : "The marriage of Elizabeth to Darcy is not merely a possible solution of the plot, it is as inevitable as the conclusion of a properly, constructed syllogism or geometrical demonstration. For a parallel of workmanship of this high order one can only go to Shakespeare, to such a comedy as, Much Ado About Nothing."

The Sub-plots:

In addition to the main Elizabeth-Darcy plot, the novel has three sub-plots involving Jane and Bingley, Lydia and Wickham and Charlotte and Collins. Each of this is skillfully linked with the main plot and substantially contributes to it. It is to Mr. Bingley that Darcy owes his presence at Netherfield and the growing Jane-Bingley affair brings Elizabeth also there allowing Darcy to fall in love with her and conversely deepening her own prejudice against him. The Jane-Bingley affair provides Darcy an opportunity to see the disadvantages of the Bennet family objectively and it underlies his love for Elizabeth which asserts itself in defiance of all these disadvantages. Darcy's hand in separating Jane and Bingley contributes to Elizabeth's prejudice and is the overwhelming factor for her rejection of his proposal.

The Lydia-Wickham affair is still more relevant. Wickham is, in the early chapters, precisely what Darcy is not ------ pleasant, charming and attentive to her. Wickham contributes in deepening Elizabeth's prejudice against Darcy and later when his duplicity is exposed, she gains a better perspective of Darcy's character. The Lydia-Wickham elopement helps Darcy to act heroically and prove his love for Elizabeth. Thus the Lydia-Wickham sub-plot furthers the main plot of Elizabeth and Darcy.

The Charlotte-Collins plot brings Elizabeth and Darcy together at Rosings  and leads to the climax of the novel. Later Mr. Collin's gossip brings Lady Catherine dewn to Longbourn to persuade Elizabeth to refuse Darcy and her reports of this to Darcy is what ultimately brings Darcy and Elizabeth together. Thuy, no situation or character is irrelevant to plot. Even the places are important. Netherfield plays the role of creating a conflict. Hunsford solves the mental tangle of the heroine and Pemberley reawakens the attitude of the heroine to the true picture of the man whom she has misunderstood on first impressions.
Pride and Prejudice

Thematic Unity of the Plot:

The plot and the sub-plots are also thematically unified. The theme of love and marriage is exemplified through the plot and sub-plots. The Charlotte Lucas-Collins sub-plot exemplifies a marriage based on economics plainly lacking in love and devotion. The Lydia-Wickham marriage like that of the Bennets is based on physical charm and will soon sink into indifference. The Jane-Bingley marriage is based on sincere love but there is a lack of intellectual understanding and maturity. All these serve by contrast to highlight the propriety of Darcy-Elizabeth marriage based on emotional compatibility and intellectual understanding.

Symmetry of the Plot:

The symmetry of the plot is evident in the series of balancing incidents in the novel. The novel is divided into three parts, the first and the last balanced against each other: part I occurs largely at Longbourn and Netherfield Park: part II is at Rosings and part III is at Pemberley, then returns to Longbourn. Numerous balancing events occur at various points in the novel. There are two arrivals of Bingley and Darcy at Netherfield Park, one at the beginning, optimistic but ending in fiasco and the other at the end, gloomy but finally bringing fulfillment. There are two surprise marriages, Charlotte's near the beginning and Lydia's near the end. At Netherfield it is Elizabeth who is embarrassed by the vulgarity of her mother and younger sisters, at Rosings it is Darcy's turn to blush at Lady Catherine's ill-breeding. Near the beginning, Darcy separates Jane and Bingley; near the end he interferes in the Lydia-Wickham affair but brings about their marriages. Thus, by fine precision of balanced events Jane Austen makes her plot symmetrical.

Organic Unity of the Plot:
There is perfect correspondence between characters and actions thus leading to the organic unity of the plot. Except for a few coincidence such as Wickham and Darcy coming to Meryton around the same time. Collins's patroness Lady Catherine being Darcy's aunt and Darcy arriving at Pemberley a day ahead of scheduled, much of the action proceeds mainly from the behaviour of the various characters. Darcy's slight of Elizabeth stems from his pride and his prejudice against the rural gentry. Elizabeth's prejudice stems from her own hurt pride and her confidence in her own perceptions. The Jane-Bingley affair is complicated by Jane's reluctance to display her emotions and Bingley's pliancy and irresolution. Lydia's elopement with Wickham can be traced to her infatuation and flighty behaviour and his sensuality and rakishness. Thus, the actions are all lent a plausibility which make the plot logical and well-knit.

The Plot as a Five-Act Drama:

All of Jane Austen's plots are structurally so dramatic that it can be stated with considerable confidence that she would have been a highly successful dramatist. Cross compares the workmanship of Pride and Prejudice to that of Shakespeare's 'Much Ado About Nothing' and A. C. Bradley the great critic of drama think that 'the entanglement of errors, misunderstandings cross purposes and view - point of comedy all seem to point a good deal to the influence of drama; Baker points out that she has greater affinities with dramatists like Congreve and Moliere than with other novelists. He has rightly pointed out that Pride and Prejudice has a "dramatic subject treated dramatically". The plot can be divided into five acts and has all the elements of a drama;


The Exposition or Introduction. It extends approximately over the first eighteen chapters and establishes all the major characters and the the meeting of Jane and Bingley, Elizabeth's prejudice against Darcy and Bingley's departure to London.


Brings in the complication. It unfolds the arrival of Mr. Collins, his proposal to Elizabeth and her rejection of it, his marriage with Charlotte Lucas and Elizabeth's growing intimacy with Wickham. 


Presents the climax in Elizabeth's rejection of Darcy's offer of marriage and later on the realisation of her mistake in understanding Darcy and Wickham.


Presents the denouement or the resolution of the conflict. In this act there is the sudden meeting of Elizabeth with Darcy in the congenial environment at Pemberley. It marks the movement of Elizabeth and Darcy towards each other. However, just when events seem to be moving towards a happy union of the two there is the unexpected complication of Lydia's elopement with Wickham which casts doubts on the Bennet family's suitability with regard to Elizabeth-Darcy marriage.


It is the final stage where all events move to a resolution. Darcy proves his nobility, gallantry, and love for Elizabeth by doing everything in his power to bring about the Lydia-Wickham marriage. Lady Catherine's visit to Elizabeth to warn her against marrying Darcy, Elizabeth's refusal to abide by her wishes and Lady Catherine's subsequent report of this to Darcy all expedite Darcy's proposal and his marriage to Elizabeth. Bingley and Jane are also engaged. Thus, all conflicts are resolved.

Dramatic Irony:

We therefore, see that the plot of Pride and Prejudice is dramatic, coherent and well integrated. Dramatic Irony is one of the prominent features of Pride and Prejudice and the difference between appearance and reality is emphasised at every stage. Wickham is apparently refined and well-mannered but turns out to be an unprincipled rake, Darcy is seemingly ill-mannered, but is really a fine gentleman; Elizabeth is proud of her perceptions but fails to judge the intricate characters correctly; Lydia's elopement with Wickham is supposed to jeopardise Elizabeth's marriage with Darcy; it brings it about; Lady Catherine wants to prevent the marriage, she simply facilitates it. Darcy checks Bingley from marrying a Bennet girl but ends up marrying one himself. And many such instances abound in the novel making it closer to a drama.

The narrative mode is also dramatic with action and character being developed through dialogues effectively. Some of the scenes have great dramatic vividness and intensity ----- Darcy-Elizabeth repartees at Netherfield, the two proposal scenes, the clash between Lady Catherine and Elizabeth. In such scenes Jane Austen reveals herself as a "master dramatist------with a perfect ear, a perfect sense of timing, a shrewd instinct for climax and anti-climax."
Jane Austen's incidents are natural, her characters have an independent reality and yet they all fall into a neat logical scheme------ a well knit integrated coherent plot ------ where no incident or character is out of place. In spite of such a calculated composition the characters of Pride and Prejudice and indeed of her other novels give us a "sense of spontaneous life we get from a play of Chekov. The precision, simplicity and symmetry of Pride and Prejudice evoke instinctive appreciation. So well is it constructed that the plot has the symmetry and structure of a drama with the action proceeding logically from exposition, complication and climax to the denouement and finally the resolution. Jane Austen uses the dramatic narrative mode and irony so effectively to build her complex plot that it would not be amiss to say that she " is the most perfect dramatist who never wrote a play "


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