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Exploring the first chapter of the novel

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Introduction

Pride and Prejudice In this essay I will be exploring the first chapter of the novel "Pride and Prejudice" in terms of how successful it is as an opening chapter and what it tells us about the rest of the story. One of the most famous first lines in literature is the opening to the book: "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a large fortune must be in want of a wife." In this sentence, Austen immediately accomplishes two things: she informs the reader of the central theme of the book, and establishes a humorous, ironic tone. Much of the story is based around the idea that everyone must be married, and to someone as wealthy as possible. Mrs. Bennet, who features prominently in the first chapter, personifies this idea, as she spends most of her time trying to set her daughters up with one or other of the male characters in the story. The sentence is ironic because Austen, although making this statement, does not really agree with the unofficial law that it contains. This is emphasised in the second sentence in which Austen states that whenever a man enters a neighbourhood, he is "considered the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters." ...read more.

Middle

This is the first kind of marriage that we are introduced to, and the reader knows that there are more to come, as we already know that it is the central theme of the story. From the almost cruel way that Austen displays Mrs. Bennet, we are shown that she does not believe that marrying for money was the correct thing to do. The character of Mrs. Bennet being so silly is, in effect, a portrayal of how Austen viewed marriages of convenience. Mrs. Bennet is a funny character, and this is how Austen wished the readers to see the idea of marrying without love: as a silly thing to do. In the first chapter we find out very little about the Bennet girls. Only three are mentioned: Lizzy, Jane and Lydia. Mr. Bennet shows obvious favouritism towards Lizzy when he comments that "Lizzy has something more of quickness than her sisters." Mrs. Bennet protests, saying that "she is not half so handsome as Jane, nor half so good-humoured as Lydia." Once again she is showing her shallowness in thinking only about the attributes which will make them easier to get married off. The other character that is mentioned in this chapter is Mr. Bingley. We are told that he is "a single man of large fortune; four or five thousand a year" and that he has just moved into the neighbourhood. ...read more.

Conclusion

It is doubtful whether or not Austen considered how formal to make their conversation, as it is unlikely that she would have known much different. The first chapter is very comical in several ways. Firstly, Austen has made Mr. Bennet very sarcastic, and the ways in which he taunts his wife are quite funny. For example, the line "You mistake me, my dear. I have a high respect for your nerves. They are my old friends" has a hint of sarcasm and is very patronising towards his wife. This will amuse the reader, and makes them warm to Mr. Bennet. Mrs. Bennet is funny because she is so dramatic and silly. Her shallowness is also a source of amusement. Although we may not like her, the way she behaves and talks is so ridiculous that we cannot help but find her funny. The use of humour makes the reader want to read on, as it increases enjoyment of the book. The opening chapter of "Pride and Prejudice" gives the reader an idea of the main themes that are covered in the book, as well as introducing some of the main characters. The mention of Mr. Bingley and of Mrs. Bennet's plan to wed him to one of her daughters provides sufficient intrigue to make the reader want to continue with the story. I therefore think that the first chapter is extremely successful as an opening to the novel. Bethany Ahluwalia 10B ...read more.

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