What is context?
Putting the novel into context helps us to understand the themes or ideas, because we may think and behave differently from the characters in the story.
There are different types of context. Because this novel was written over two hundred years ago, it is helpful for us to know something of the historical context.
Have you wondered why there are so many soldiers in their little town? We'll look into that!
Connected to this, it is helpful to know a little about the author - did the events of her life affect what she wrote about? Did where she lived affect the setting? Did the people she mixed with influence the kind of characters she wrote about?
The answer to these questions is mostly 'yes'. Jane Austen was a woman of her time. She faced the same issues of marriage as the young women of her novels. What makes her different is that her novels sold well and gave her some money of her own.
As we get reading, it is important to look at the context within the story. For example - when Lydia elopes with Wickham, we may understand that she will get a bad name for herself.
The important context here is that she will give her family a bad name, and that will make it harder for the other girls to marry decent men. Elizabeth is afraid that Darcy will feel he cannot be with her, and indeed, Darcy quietly arranges Lydia's marriage so that there is no scandal. In this way, the context affects the plot and 'what happens next.'
Let's look at some of the key events of the times along with the way people lived and behaved.
You should always refer to your own copy of the book when working through the activities. The quotations are for reference only.