Pride and Prejudice - Extract 1

This GCSE English Literature quiz is the first of two extract questions for Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. It takes place in Chapter 42, which is towards the end of the novel. The passage represents quite a change from the overall tenor of the text, which has been light, comic and full of sparkling dialogue for its majority. Here Elizabeth confronts the many ways in which her life is unnecessarily tedious and she shows little optimism for the future. Even Mr Bennet, who is always ready to make a joke, takes on a darker hue in this chapter.

How to answer an extract question in an exam:

Read the passage through more than once before beginning to write your answer.

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You will notice different details and aspects of the passage on each reading. Aim in the first reading to gain a general understanding of the extract, paying attention to how it relates to the question you will be answering. On the second reading, you can begin to make detailed notes and annotations, sketching out a rough plan. Once you’ve done this, you will be ready to plan more carefully exactly how you will answer the question.

Remember to ask yourself why the specific passage might have been chosen. In what way does it relate to the rest of the text? Which significant characters and themes appear? Consider what follows later in the text. Can you spot any foreshadowing of later events? Can you specify how the passage follows earlier events? Is a turning point evident? Also consider the extract’s ending: why does the passage end where it does? What significance do you perceive in the final line?

Pay close attention to the actual wording of the question you have chosen to answer. What have you been asked to discuss? Among the many possibilities, the question might concern mood and atmosphere, a particular character or a theme. Perhaps you are expected to give a personal response to the passage or to a character. Dialogue, or the behaviour or feelings of a character, might be the focus. Each of these different types of questions requires a different sort of answer. Begin by explaining the passage’s immediate context: briefly note the events which precede the extract and comment upon their relevance. Remember to refer to the detail of the passage, rather than discussing it more generally, or even vaguely. Analyse and discuss the relationship between the passage and the broad themes of the text. Structure your writing by grouping related ideas together. Be careful to leave enough time to discuss the entire passage in order to avoid having an incomplete answer.

Read the extract below carefully before answering the questions.

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Had Elizabeth’s opinion been all drawn from her own family, she could not have formed a very pleasing picture of conjugal felicity or domestic comfort. Her father captivated by youth and beauty, and that appearance of good humour, which youth and beauty generally give, had married a woman whose weak understanding and illiberal mind, had very early in their marriage put an end to all real affection for her. Respect, esteem, and confidence, had vanished for ever; and all his views of domestic happiness were overthrown. But Mr Bennet was not of a disposition to seek comfort for the disappointment which his own imprudence had brought on, in any of those pleasures which too often console the unfortunate for their folly or their vice. He was fond of the country and of books; and from these tastes had arisen his principal enjoyments. To his wife he was very little otherwise indebted, than as her ignorance and folly had contributed to his amusement. This is not the sort of happiness which a man would in general wish to owe to his wife; but where other powers of entertainment are wanting, the true philosopher will derive benefit from such as are given.

Elizabeth, however, had never been blind to the impropriety of her father’s behaviour as a husband. She had always seen it with pain; but respecting his abilities, and grateful for his affectionate treatment of herself, she endeavoured to forget what she could not overlook, and to banish from her thoughts that continual breach of conjugal obligation and decorum which, in exposing his wife to the contempt of her own children, was so highly reprehensible. But she had never felt so strongly as now, the disadvantages which must attend the children of so unsuitable a marriage, nor ever been so fully aware of the evils arising from so ill-judged a direction of talent; talents which rightly used, might at least have preserved the respectability of his daughters, even if incapable of enlarging the mind of his wife.

When Elizabeth had rejoiced over Wickham’s departure, she found little other cause for satisfaction in the loss of the regiment. Their parties abroad were less varied than before; and at home she had a mother and sister whose constant repinings at the dullness of every thing around them, threw a real gloom over their domestic circle; and though Kitty might in time regain her natural degree of sense, since the disturbers of her brain were removed, her other sister, from whose disposition greater evil might be apprehended, was likely to be hardened in all her folly and assurance, by a situation of such double danger as a watering place and a camp. Upon the whole, therefore, she found, what has been sometimes found before, that an event to which she had looked forward with impatient desire, did not in taking place, bring all the satisfaction she had promised herself. It was consequently necessary to name some other period for the commencement of actual felicity; to have some other point on which her wishes and hopes might be fixed, and by again enjoying the pleasure of anticipation, console herself for the present, and prepare for another disappointment. Her tour to the Lakes was now the object of her happiest thoughts.

Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice (Penguin, 1972)
  1. What is the immediate context for this extract?
    The loss of the regiment leads to a shift in mood for the Bennet family as well as for Meryton
  2. What immediately follows this extract?
    Elizabeth is destined for disappointment and feels anxious at the very mention of Derbyshire, since it reminds her of Mr Darcy
  3. Which of the following is ironic?
    An essential part of the "pleasure of anticipation" is the preparation for being disappointed anew. As suspected, Elizabeth is swiftly disappointed in her hopes
  4. Which of the following is true?
    Elizabeth is grateful for his kindness towards her, which even he sees as favouritism, but this does not blind her to his failures
  5. This passage is narrated from whose point of view?
    Although this passage is in the narrator's voice, it presents Elizabeth's subjective view
  6. How might Elizabeth's mood in this passage best be described?
    The removal of both the unwelcome presence of Wickham and of the regiment does not cheer Elizabeth as expected, leading her instead to one of her lowest points in the novel
  7. Which of the following is NOT correct?
    Elizabeth finds her mother difficult to tolerate at times, but tries to be patient with her. She believes that her father is wrong in "exposing his wife to the contempt of her own children"
  8. "But she had never felt so strongly as now, the disadvantages which must attend the children of so unsuitable a marriage, nor ever been so fully aware of the evils arising from so ill-judged a direction of talent." How does this sentence relate to the theme of family?
    Mr and Mrs Bennet's poor choices affect the next generation
  9. What attracted Mr Bennet to his wife?
    The narrator is scathing. Mr Bennet chose a companion for life on the most superficial of qualities: youth and beauty, both of which are temporary. Even her good humour is misleading, since it is not genuine, but only a mirage created by her youth and beauty
  10. Which of the following reflects on the relationship between the individual and society?
    Kitty is removed from danger because she is no longer under the influence of Lydia and of the regiment. Her "natural degree of sense" cannot on its own protect her from poor societal influences. This idea is reiterated at the end of the novel, when she is improved by spending time in the company of her sisters and away from Longbourn

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