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Pride and Prejudice | Chapter 1 (Volume 1, Chapter 1) | Summary

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Any edition of Pride and Prejudice follows one of two systems for numbering chapters. Some number the chapters continuously from 1 through 60; others divide the book into three parts, beginning each part at Chapter 1.

Summary

The novel opens with one of the most-quoted lines in English literature: "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife." The chapter then introduces the reader to the Bennet family of Longbourn, which includes Mr. and Mrs. Bennet and their five daughters, Jane, Elizabeth, Mary, Catherine (Kitty), and Lydia. Mrs. Bennet announces the news that a wealthy gentleman named Charles Bingley has moved into the neighborhood, to the grand estate of Netherfield Park. Mr. Bingley is unmarried; Mrs. Bennet asks her husband to call on Mr. Bingley so that his daughters can be properly introduced to the eligible bachelor.

Analysis

With her opening line, Austen identifies the impetus for many of the events to come. Through the dialogue that follows, readers come to know Mr. and Mrs. Bennet. They learn Mrs. Bennet is singularly driven to get her daughters married, while Mr. Bennet is a more nuanced character. His "humor, reserve, and caprice" have undoubtedly served him well in dealing with his less intelligent wife. Even after 23 years of marriage, Mrs. Bennet seems oblivious to her spouse's sarcasm.

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