Chapters 1 and 2 – Rumor and Gossip
Rumors abound in Hertfordshire County that a Mr.
Bingley, a wealthy young bachelor, has rented Netherfield Park, a large estate, and is in need of a wife.
There is particular excitement in the Bennett household in Longbourn, where
there are five eligible daughters, and Mrs. Bennett’s prime occupation is to see her daughter’s suitably matched.
Mr. Bennett is not as enthusiastic about his wife’s matchmaking, and he
seems impervious to her pleas for him to call on Mr. Bingley in order that their daughters can be introduced. The daughters are eldest Jane, Elizabeth (Lizzie), Mary, Catherine (Kitty), and youngest Lydia.
Mr. Bennett has every intention of visiting Bingley, but he delights in
annoying his wife.
I have quoted the first line of Chapter 1 in the
Context previously, which gives the reader the main theme of the novel.
Mrs. Bennett is preoccupied with the arrangement of suitable marriages for
There is much irony in this novel, and the first sentence shows this.
It should not be read literally, as what Austen means to say is that everybody knows that women who want to be his wife will pursue a rich bachelor. Austen views the situations and characters with a humorous
eye and will place the characters in certain situations, which seem to signify one thing, but actually relate to something else as the plot develops.
Austen also wishes the reader to interpret the characters in the book in the way that she sees them, and
at the end of Chapter 1, she provides character analysis for Mr. and Mrs. Bennett.
She portrays Mr. Bennett as being easy-going, reserved, and full of sarcastic humor, in contrast to Mrs. Bennett, who is a woman of temperamental nature, one who listens to gossip and spreads it, a woman of limited understanding. This is illustrated thus, Mrs. Bennett: “Mr. Bennett, you take delight in vexing me. You have no compassion on my poor nerves.” He replies, “You mistake me, my dear, I have a high respect for your nerves. They are my old friends. I have heard you mention them with consideration these twenty years at least.”