Importance of Opening Chapters in Pride and Prejudice

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The opening chapters of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen lay the groundwork and basic understandings for the rest of the novel. They provide crucial information and background on all the characters and their relationships with each other. They also offer an insight into the workings of society at the time and the issues with gender and class that were present. In the 1790s when the novel was first written and in 1811-12 when it was revised, there was great social revolution happening within the class system in England. As the Industrial Revolution set in between 1750 to 1850, many families required a fortune in trade, and rose up into the aristocracy, as shown through the Bingley and the Lucas family in the text. Women were still considered unequal to men, and their only way of gaining a fortune was to marry above their social class. However this way of life for women was changing with the rise of reformists and feminists, such as Wollstonecraft, she believed that women should speak out and think independently of men. By 1793 Britain was again at war with France, and as Napoleon’s fleet waited across the channel, the local militia marched back and forth, camped and danced at balls. The army had grown from thirteen thousand men at the outbreak of war to two hundred thousand in 1807. Pride and Prejudice brings aristocratic corruption and military immorality home to the shires of England in the form of the soldiers who were living in villages all over the country. The opening chapters of the novel provide these important understandings about the world of Pride and Prejudice through the invasive narrator and the use of juxtaposition of the contrasting characters and their morals. The novel was written and during a great social revolution, where trade was bringing new money to the upper class aristocracy. There was still lines of class drawn in society which we can
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