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Pride and Prejudice | Study Guide

Jane Austen

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Chapter 4

Professor Bradley Greenburg of Northeastern Illinois University provides in-depth summary and analysis of Chapter 4 of Jane Austen's novel Pride and Prejudice.

Pride and Prejudice | Chapter 4 (Volume 1, Chapter 4) | Summary



Jane and Elizabeth discuss the ball, especially Mr. Bingley's attention to Jane. Elizabeth points out how she and her sister are different in temperament. Jane is much more accepting and open to other people, perhaps blinding her to their faults. Elizabeth tends to be less open-minded and accepting of others, and she does not hesitate to express her opinions.

Simultaneously, Mr. Bingley, his sisters, and Mr. Darcy discuss the ball. Mr. Bingley found the women who attended to be lovely and charming, especially Jane Bennet. Mr. Darcy is far less complimentary, finding little beauty or fashion among the attendees. All of them, including Mr. Bingley's sisters, consider Jane to be very pretty and perhaps worth knowing.


The aftermath of the Meryton ball provides more character insights. Elizabeth considers herself less kind and generous than her sister. She teasingly accuses Jane of being oblivious to the flaws and attitudes of others. Ironically, the criticism of obliviousness will later apply to Elizabeth as her initial impressions of Mr. Darcy and other characters evolve.

Elizabeth's reflection on the Bingley sisters illustrates attitudes about class and social mobility at the time. The narrator points out that the sisters "had a fortune of twenty thousand pounds; were in the habit of ... associating with people of rank; and were therefore in every respect entitled to think well of themselves, and meanly of others." The Bingleys inherited their considerable wealth from their father, who earned it through "trade," or business. As members of the newly rich, they are less respected by the traditional landed gentry. This fact makes their snobbery more pronounced and, as Austen emphasizes, more irritating.

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