Khidki (Window)

–Read India Initiative—

This is only an attempt to create interest in reading. We may not get the time to read all the books in our lifetime. But such reviews, talk and synopsis will at least convey what the book is all about.

    The novel revolves around the Bennet family. It has more than ten characters. The five marriageable daughters and mother will be without a home and income once Mr. Bennet dies: The terms on which Mr. Bennet inherited Longbourn estate (It was called “fee tail male” now abolished by a law in England). The estate passes on to the nearest male relative, which makes it impossible for the women to inherit the property. So, if Mr Bennet dies the estate will pass on to his male relative.

    The mother Mrs Bennet worries about this predicament, and wishes to find husbands for her daughters quickly. The father doesn’t seem to be worried at all. Elizabeth, the heroine of the novel, has decided to marry only if she falls in love, and she has no real vision about how she will survive financially. On the contrary, she is of the opinion that her sister Jane, who is very kind and beautiful, will find a wealthy husband, and that she would then live with her.

    As the novel opens, Mr Bingley, a wealthy young gentleman, rents a country estate near Bennets called Netherfield. He arrives in town accompanied by his fashionable sisters and his good friend, Mr Darcy. While Bingley is well-received in the community, Darcy begins his acquaintance with smug condescension and shrewd disdain for all the ‘country’ people. Bingley and Elizabeth Bennet’s older sister Jane begin to grow close. Elizabeth’s best friend Charlotte advises, that Jane should be more bold and affectionate with Bingley, as they are both shy, and he may not know that she indeed is interested in him. Elizabeth disregards her friend’s opinion, saying that Jane is shy and modest, and that if Bingley can’t see how she feels, he is a fool. Elizabeth therefore, doesn’t tell Jane about Charlotte’s advice. Meanwhile, Elizabeth is stung by Darcy’s haughty rejection of her at a local dance and decides to match his coldness with her own wit.

    At the same time Elizabeth begins a friendship with one Mr Wickham, a militia officer who relates a prior acquaintance with Darcy. Wickham tells her that he has been seriously mistreated by Darcy. Elizabeth immediately seizes upon this information as another reason to hate Darcy. But ironically, and even unbeknownst to Elizabeth, Darcy finds himself gradually drawn to her.

    Just as Bingley appears to be on the point of proposing marriage to Jane Bennet, he for some reason quits Netherfield, leaving Jane confused and upset. Elizabeth is convinced that Bingley’s sister has conspired with Darcy to separate Jane and Bingley.

    Before Bingley leaves, Mr Collins, the male relative who is to inherit Longbourn, makes a sudden appearance and stays with the Bennets. He is a recently ordained clergyman employed by a wealthy and patronising Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Though he is requested to visit by his patroness, Collins has another reason for visiting: he wishes to find a wife out of the Bennet sisters. Mr Bennet and Elizabeth are amused by his self-important and pedantic behaviour. He immediately takes a liking for Jane. But when, Mrs Bennet mentions about Jane’s liking for Mr Bingley, he swiftly turns to Elizabeth. He soon proposes to Elizabeth, who refuses, much to her mother’s distress. Collins quickly recovers and then proposes to Elizabeth’s close friend, Charlotte Lucas, who immediately accepts him. Once the marriage is arranged, Charlotte asks Elizabeth to come for an extended visit.

    In the spring, Elizabeth joins Charlotte and her cousin at his parish in Kent. The parish is adjacent to Rosings Park, the grand manor or grand senior of Mr Darcy’s aunt, Lady Catherine De Bourgh, where Elizabeth is frequently invited. While calling on Lady Catherine, Mr Darcy encounters Elizabeth. Elizabeth discovers from a cousin of Darcy that it was Darcy who separated Bingley and Jane. Soon after, Darcy admits his love for Elizabeth and proposes to her. Insulted by his high-handed and insulting manner off proposing, Elizabeth refuses him. When he asks, as to why, she should refuse him, she confronts him with his sabotage of Bingley’s relationship with Jane, and Wickham’s account of their dealings.

    Deeply shaken by Elizabeth’s accusations, Darcy writes her a letter justifying his actions while explaining that George Wickham, the son of his late father’s steward, had refused the living his father had arranged for him, and was instead given money for it. But George Wickham quickly squandered all the money and when impoverished, asked for a living again. After being refused, he tried to elope with Darcy’s 15-year-old sister, Georgiana, for her considerable dowry but was stopped and that is why he is against him. Mr Darcy also writes that he separated Jane and Bingley because Jane had no reciprocal feelings for Bingley.

        Darcy admits he was concerned about the disadvantageous connection with Elizabeth’s family, especially her embarrassing mother and wild younger sisters. After reading the letter, Elizabeth begins to question both her family’s behaviour and Wickham’s credibility. She concludes that Wickham is not as trustworthy as his manners would indicate, and that he had lied to her previously, and that her early impressions of Darcy might have been inaccurate. Soon after receiving the letter, Elizabeth returns home.

    Some months later, during a tour of Derbyshire with her aunt and uncle, Elizabeth visits Pemberley, Darcy’s estate. Darcy’s housekeeper, an older woman who has known Darcy since childhood, presents Elizabeth and her relatives with a flattering and benevolent impression of his character. Unexpectedly, Darcy arrives at Pemberley as they tour its grounds. He makes an effort to be gracious and welcoming to them, thus strengthening Elizabeth’s newly favourable impression of him. Darcy then introduces Elizabeth to his sister Georgiana. He treats her uncle and aunt very well, and finds them of a more sound character than other relatives, whom he had previously dismissed as socially inferior.

    Elizabeth and Darcy’s renewed acquaintance is cut short when news arrives that Elizabeth’s younger sister Lydia has run away with Wickham. Initially, the Bennets believe that Wickham and Lydia have eloped, but soon it is surmised that Wickham has no plans to marry Lydia. Lydia’s antics threaten the family’s reputation and the Bennet sisters with social ruin. Elizabeth and her aunt and uncle hurriedly leave Derbyshire, and Elizabeth is convinced that Darcy will avoid her from now on.

    Soon, thanks to the intervention of Elizabeth’s uncle, Lydia and Wickham are found and married. After the marriage, Wickham and Lydia pay a visit to Longbourn. While bragging to Elizabeth, Lydia comments that Darcy was present at the wedding. Surprised, Elizabeth sends an enquiry to her aunt, from whom she discovers that Darcy was responsible for both, finding the couple and arranging their marriage at great expense to himself.

    Soon after, Bingley and Darcy return to the area. Bingley proposes marriage to Jane, and this news starts rumours that Darcy will now propose to Elizabeth. Lady Catherine travels to Longbourn with the sole aim of confronting Elizabeth and demanding that she never accept such a proposal. Elizabeth refuses to bow to Lady Catherine’s demands. When news of this obstinacy reaches Darcy, it convinces him that Elizabeth’s opinion about him has now changed. When he visits, he once again proposes marriage. Elizabeth this time accepts, and the two get engaged.

    The final chapters of the book establish the future of the characters. Elizabeth and Darcy settle at Pemberley where Mr Bennet visits often. Mrs Bennet remains frivolous and silly; she often visits the new Mrs Bingley and talks of the new Mrs Darcy. Later, Jane and Bingley move from Netherfield to avoid Jane’s mother and the Meryton relations (Meryton is an imaginary town in the book) and to locate near the Darcy’s in Derbyshire. Elizabeth and Jane manage to teach Kitty greater social grace, and Mary learns to accept the difference between herself and her sisters’ beauty and mixes more with the outside world. Lydia and Wikham continue to move often, leaving their debts for Jane and Elizabeth to pay off. At Pemberley, Elizabeth and Georgiana grow close, though Georgiana is surprised by Elizabeth’s playful treatment of Darcy. Lady Catherine stays very angry with her nephew’s marriage but over time the relationship between the two is repaired and she eventually decides to visit them. Elizabeth and Darcy also remain close with her uncle and aunt.

    The novel was originally titled ‘First Impression’ by Jayne Austen, and was written between October 1796 and August 1797.

It’s a masterpiece.

By Kamlesh Tripathi



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