The location is Hertfordshire portrayed as a rural and conservative world where the stories of the Bennet sisters – Elisabeth, Jane, Lydia, Kitty and Mary – and their suitors – firstly Mr. Darcy e Mr. Bingley to Elisabeth and Jane – develop among balls, afternoon tea, flirtation and polite society’s rituals, that are presented in the characters’ mind as abrupt occasions for them to improve their individual existence.
The time is late Eighteen Century, period of huge economical, cultural, and social changes and Napoleonic wars that remain in background as the novel focuses on characters’ inner conflict and emotional developments: Elisabeth and Darcy in particular along with the others, who get to compose a charming mosaic of personalities dancing on a light and delicate tune that unexpectedly brings out overwhelming rhythms.
A few great writers of her time or close to her time, such as D. H. Lawrence, H.G. Wells, Mark Twain and Conrad, whose creative genius come from the creative effort of building narrative universe around interpretations, did not understand Jane completely. Actually, at a first look her stories do not include any explicit critical thinking about her world, which is based on strict social conventions favouring the logic of appearance to the detriment of the essence of things and entailing limiting rules especially for women.
On the contrary, other contemporary authors find in Jane a greater narrative depth. Samuel Becket for instance, and Virginia Woolf who, though pointing out her passivity in accepting women rules of conduct, describes her as “the most perfect artist among women”.
The reason why contemporary writers get Jane more the modern ones is related to the fact that her writing is not disconnected from reality as one may think. She succeeds in spreading her vision of it in the story so that it may thrive and be surpassed in a natural and elegant fashion within the intimacy of her characters. Elisabeth and her conflicting relationship with Mr. Darcy, more then other factors, expresses this diegetic revolution that reaches the reader in a fascinating and harmonic way.
“From the very beginning— from the first moment, I may almost say— of my acquaintance with you, your manners, impressing me with the fullest belief of your arrogance, your conceit, and your selfish disdain of the feelings of others, were such as to form the groundwork of disapprobation on which succeeding events have built so immovable a dislike; and I had not known you a month before I felt that you were the last man in the world whom I could ever be prevailed on to marry.”
The prejudice and pride that at different stages of the story characterise Elisabeth and Darcy relationship, are crystallised in a web made of their world’s internal dynamics: snobbery as result of strict social conventions makes Darcy intolerable to Elisabeth and triviality as result of the logic of appearance makes Elisabeth’s family embarrassing and her just tolerable to Mr. Darcy.
Following this reading their final union represents hardly just the happy ending of beautifully portrayed romantic story and the fulfillment of marriage dream, rather it outlines the arrival point of an profound processing made by the main characters, and by the reader through them, of some dysfunctional aspects of the world where they live: a intimate uprising that, though safeguarding its value system and social conventions, succeeds in going beyond its constraints.