Pride and Prejudice - Understanding the Text

This GCSE English Literature quiz sees how good you are at understanding the text in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. Before you begin to analyse and to write about a text, you need to be sure you understand it as well as possible. It sounds a simple idea, but understanding a text is more difficult than it would seem. After all, if authors had a simple message to convey, would they need hundreds of pages and thousands of words to get that message across? Reading a text written long ago, or in another country, or perhaps with characters who speak in a strong dialect, takes more effort. Pride and Prejudice is written in a style and with a vocabulary quite unlike modern English, thus requiring modern readers to expend more effort on comprehension.

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Authors have a variety of methods through which they are able to convey meaning. Usually they do not state what they mean directly, or simply, but instead communicate with their readers through the various aspects of fiction with which you are already familiar: including character, setting, plot, theme and dialogue. As you work on understanding the text you are reading, consider each of these elements separately. It is never a bad idea to re-read a text; this will help you understand more than you might if you only read a book once. If you find it necessary to read a text again, don’t worry! Most readers have this experience. And if you have to work a bit harder to understand a section or chapter which you find tricky, it only proves that you are paying close attention to the intricacies of the text!

How are the context, setting and events of the text related? Making a timeline of events can be useful and will certainly help develop your understanding of the text. Events in a novel are not always related chronologically, so your timeline will need to account for flashbacks or for earlier events which are discovered in later chapters. In Pride and Prejudice, characters often discover the truth about past events through letters, or have a chance to compare different versions of the same events which have been conveyed both through dialogue and through letters.

How do the actions of characters reveal their motivations? Examine the text for clues to explain the interactions of different characters. Can words be taken at face value, or should you examine the subtext of those words more closely? What is the role of the narrator? Think about your reasoning as you begin to answer these questions, asking yourself how you might justify your views by referring in detail to the text.

Beginnings and endings are important points in the text and provide material for analysis. Why might the text begin as it does? What do you learn at the very beginning of the novel about the setting and the characters? Are future events foreshadowed? Remember to consider the beginnings and the ends of significant chapters, too. By undertaking careful and detailed analysis of this sort, you will be able to dramatically improve your knowledge and understanding of the text.

Read the questions below on Pride and Prejudice and test your knowledge and understanding of the text.

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  1. What does Mrs Bennet hope will occur when she sends Jane on horseback to Netherfield Park?
    Mrs Bennet wishes Jane to be able to stay the night at Netherfield Park, giving her greater opportunity to spend time with Mr Bingley. She is shamelessly transparent in her scheming
  2. What is Mr Darcy's objection to Elizabeth?
    Mr Darcy tells Elizabeth that he loves her despite his disgust at the thought of being allied to her family
  3. Many episodes in the novel are related by letter. Which of the following is NOT conveyed by letter?
    During Lydia's time in London, the family wait desperately for letters to bring them news
  4. Why does Mr Collins visit Longbourn?
    Mr Collins plans to compensate for the unfairness of the entail by marrying one of his cousins. He originally chooses Jane, but swiftly moves on to Elizabeth after hearing Mrs Bennet's plans for Jane
  5. How is Elizabeth's marriage a support for her family?
    Kitty is able to escape the influence of her mother and of Lydia during her regular extended visits to the homes of Jane and Elizabeth
  6. What do Mr Gardiner and Mr Bennet hope to achieve by going to London?
    Mrs Bennet expects her husband to fight Mr Wickham in order to make him marry Lydia
  7. Why is Mrs Bennet excited to hear that someone is renting Netherfield Park?
    The narrator tells us that "the business of her life was to get her daughters married". Mr Bingley is wealthy and single. His arrival in the neighbourhood is an exciting event for Mrs Bennet
  8. What are Wickham's accusations against Mr Darcy?
    Mr Wickham enlists Elizabeth's sympathy, telling her that he should have become a clergyman and that he had been cheated by Mr Darcy of the church he had been promised
  9. Who or what comes between Mr Bingley and Jane Bennet?
    Mr Darcy tells Elizabeth that he did everything possible to separate the pair
  10. For what reason is the future of the Bennet sisters insecure?
    Their father's estate is "entailed", meaning that it must pass to the nearest male relative after his death. This leaves the five sisters and their mother in danger of homelessness if he were to die

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