Setting

Time setting

The novel Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen is set in Regency England, and the plot develops over the course of almost two years. The Regency Era is generally considered to refer to the period 1811-1820.

The time setting is approximately contemporary with the time of publication, as the novel was published in 1813.

Physical setting

Jane Austen does not devote many descriptions to the physical setting. Although the events happen in a variety of places, these places are rarely described, the main exception being Mr Darcy’s estate, Pemberley, where the physical setting takes on a particular significance. Austen even makes a direct note on her choice, emphasising the significance of one of the few places she does describe:

It is not the object of this work to give a description of Derbyshire, nor of any of the remarkable places through which their route thither lay; Oxford, Blenheim, Warwick, Kenilworth, Birmingham, etc. are sufficiently known. A small part of Derbyshire is all the present concern. (p. 167)

Through this observation, the author suggests that, from Elizabeth's trip, only Pemberley is important because of what it reveals about the male protagonist, Mr Darcy.

The physical setting includes references to both real places in England and imaginary ones. London, Hertfordshire, Brighton, and Derbyshire are real places in the UK. However, the estates and other towns mentioned are fictional: Longbourn, Netherfield, Meryton, Pemberley, Rosings, and Hunsford.

The novel opens in Longbourn, which is the estate of the Bennets, located somewhere in Hertfordshire, near the town of Meryton. None of these places is described in detail in the novel. 

We only know that Lady Catherine thinks the estate has a “small park” (p. 246), as a way to say that the Bennets are socially inferior to her. She also continues to say that “this must be a most inconvenient sitting room for the evening, in summer; the windows are full west” (p. 246) and remark that “there seemed to be a prettyish kind of a little wilderness on one side of your lawn” (p. 246). This suggests that the Bennets have modest living conditions compared to higher status people like Lady Catherine.

Part of the action takes place in Netherfield, a larger estate in Hertfordshire, rented by the wealthy Mr Bingley. This estate is not described in detail, but it is symbolic of class and superior status since only a very wealthy person would be able to rent it. However, note that the fact that Mr Bingley rents rather than owns Netherfield is symbolic of the fact that, while wealthy, he has not inherited an estate like true aristocracy:

They were of a respectable family in the north of England; a circumstance more deeply impressed on their memories than that their brother’s fortune and their own had been acquired by trade.

Mr. Bingley inherited property to the amount of nearly a hundred thousand pounds from his father, who had intended to purchase an estate, but did not live to do it. Mr. Bingley intended it likewise, and sometimes made choice of his county; but as he was now provided with a good house and the liberty of a manor, it was doubtful to many of those who best knew the easiness of his temper, whether he might not spend the remainder of his days at Netherfield, and leave the next generation to purchase. (p. 10)

Some of the action of the novel also takes place...

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