Elizabeth’s father, Mr Bennet, is a bookish man, and somewhat neglectful of his responsibilities. In contrast Elizabeth’s mother, Mrs Bennet, a woman who lacks social graces, is primarily concerned with finding suitable husbands for her five daughters. Jane Bennet, the eldest daughter, is distinguished by her kindness and beauty; Elizabeth Bennet shares her father’s keen wit and occasionally sarcastic outlook; Mary is not pretty, but is studious, devout and musical albeit lacking in taste; Catherine, sometimes called Kitty, the fourth sister, follows where her younger sister leads, while Lydia is flirtatious and lacks maturity.
The narrative opens with news in the Bennet family that Mr Bingley, a wealthy, charismatic and sociable young bachelor, is moving into Netherfield Park in the neighbourhood. Mr Bingley is soon well received, while his friend Mr Darcy makes a less favourable impression by appearing proud and condescending at a ball that they attend (he detests dancing and is not one for light conversation). Mr Bingley singles out Jane for particular attention, and it soon becomes apparent that they have formed an attachment to each other. While Jane does not alter her conduct for him, she confesses her great happiness only to Lizzie. By contrast, Darcy slights Elizabeth, who overhears and jokes about it despite feeling a budding resentment.
On paying a visit to Mr Bingley’s sister, Caroline, Jane is caught in a heavy downpour, catches cold, and is forced to stay at Netherfield for several days. Elizabeth arrives to nurse her sister and is thrown into frequent company with Mr Darcy, who begins to act less coldly towards her.