GCSE English Revision Tips | Set Texts | Pride and Prejudice

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Pride And Prejudice Plot Summary


Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is an extremely popular set text for the English Literature GCSE. Telling the story of the five Bennett sisters and their various suitors, it focuses on the intelligent, witty, and strong-willed Lizzy. When wealthy Mr Bingley, his even wealthier friend Mr Darcy, and the dashing soldier Mr Wickham, all move into the neighbourhood, the overbearing and irritating Mrs Bennet is delighted at the prospects for her daughters, despite the remonstrances of her kind-hearted but ineffectual husband. There are hot tempers, sharp tongues, and haughty demeanours aplenty, as well as broken hearts, scandalous rumours, multiple proposals, and some spectacularly impassioned speeches. However, whilst it sounds like a straightforward rom-com, Austen’s eagle-eyed observations, great sense of humour, and determination for women to decide their own fate makes it a dazzlingly-written, entertaining, proto-feminist novel.

The Literary Context of Pride And Prejudice


Austen wrote P&P between 1796 and 1797, but it wasn’t published until 1813, meaning it sits as part of the ‘Nineteenth Century Novel’ category in several exam boards. Its style as a comedy of manners, and its use of free indirect discourse (where the voice of the character and narrator are mingled), means it thoroughly belongs in the Regency period. Austen’s novels sit teetering in between the gothic melodramas that dominated the eighteenth century, and the works of Charlotte Bronte, George Eliot, and Charles Dickens that saw the rise of the novel as a serious piece of literature later in the nineteenth century. It was largely reviewed favourably at the time, though Austen herself thought it was ‘rather too light, and bright, and sparkling; it wants shade’. It has only become more popular and beloved since, repeatedly coming at the top of ‘favourite book’ polls.


Pride And Prejudice Sample Essay Questions


If we look at some sample essay questions (these are questions from AQA GCSE English Literature papers/revision), we’ll quickly notice a pattern: ‘Starting with the extract, write about how Austen presents Elizabeth’s feelings towards Darcy’; ‘‘Starting with the extract, write about how Austen presents Elizabeth as a strong-willed female character’; ‘‘Starting with the extract, write about how Austen presents attitudes towards men’. The vital thing to notice is the phrase ‘how Austen presents’. Austen creates such vivid characters that it can be so easy to just write about them as real people. But to get the highest marks, we need to resist that temptation, and write about all the literary techniques Austen uses to present such memorable characters.


Understanding and Analysing Pride And Prejudice


It’s also wise to do some work to understand the context Austen was writing in. When I was a teenager, I was frustrated by Austen being hailed as a proto-feminist icon, because all her characters were still trying to get married rather than get jobs. It was only when I understood the context of the novels that I realised, compared to women’s lives and other novels of the time, how fantastically subversive, advanced, and defiant Austen’s writing is.


My other big tip would be to appreciate that it’s a comedy. You’re meant to hate the awful characters – she’s made them vastly irritating on purpose! The humour is in the detail, in the wry asides and the catty descriptions. It can feel deeply dull and serious, going over it again and again in class to prepare for an exam, but if you can step back and enjoy the ridiculous caricatures of Lady Catherine and Mr Collins, the book will really come alive.


Fun Ways to Enjoy Pride And Prejudice Revision


If you want to do some revision off the page, there have been some brilliant adaptations of Pride and Prejudice, as well as some that are not so brilliant. Joe Wright, the director of the 2005 film adaptation starring Keira Knightley, proudly boasted that he’d never read the book when he directed the film, so that might not be the best place to start, especially as nobody involved in that film seemed to realise either that Lizzy is clever, or that the book is funny. But the 1995 TV adaptation is exceptionally good and remains faithful to the book (and has the infamous Colin Firth in a wet shirt scene…). Also, if it’s ever touring near you, Illyria’s theatre production of P&P is fast-paced and hilarious, presenting almost every single character with just five actors, and doing an amazing job of conveying both the comedy and the pathos.


Blog Post Crafted by Rebecca


Subjects Taught: English, Maths, 7+, 11+


Background: Rebecca is one of our most popular tutors, with a degree in English from the University of Cambridge and hundreds of hours of private tuition experience in 7+, 11+, English and Maths. She is also an assessor for Titanium Tutors, observing the mock lessons taught by potential tutors and deciding whether or not they meet the high standards of the agency.

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