Title: Pride and Prejudice
Author: Jane Austen
Genre: Literary Fiction / Classic
Published Date: 1813
Overview (Barnes & Noble):
“Pride and Prejudice—Austen’s own ‘darling child’—tells the story of fiercely independent Elizabeth Bennet, one of five sisters who must marry rich, as she confounds the arrogant, wealthy Mr. Darcy. What ensues is one of the most delightful and engrossingly readable courtships known to literature, written by a precocious Austen when she was just twenty-one years old. Humorous and profound, and filled with highly entertaining dialogue, this witty comedy of manners dips and turns through drawing-rooms and plots to reach an immensely satisfying finale. In the words of Eudora Welty, Pride and Prejudice is as ‘irresistible and as nearly flawless as any fiction could be.'”
As the summary above states, Austen wrote Pride and Prejudice when she was just twenty-one years old, which I consider an impressive accomplishment considering the role of women in the early 19th century as well as Austen being of the middle class. While she published anonymously in her lifetime, Austen still made sure people knew her novels were published “By a Lady.” Either way, Pride and Prejudice seems to be the most read Austen novel with the largest fan base.
This is my second reading of Pride and Prejudice. It was the first Austen work I read, and for the longest time it was my favorite classic. I have since knocked it down a few pegs as my classics reading list has grown, and I now consider it a tie with Persuasion for favorite Austen novel. That being said, I adore it for its spirited characters, witty execution, and brilliant prose.
Pride and Prejudice is packed with memorable characters and adventure. Some people think of Austen as the typical love story writer with characters needing to get married and travel from dull location to dull location (I’ve heard this many times from Austen haters). While many characters do fret over marriage and some get married throughout the novel, that was part of life in Austen’s time as well as today. And who said the locations are dull? Have you never sat back to imagine Pemberley or Netherfield Park? I could rant about this all day, but perhaps that’s better left to another post.
Austen’s characterization of the five Bennet sisters is nothing short of realistic in regard to family dynamic. Between them and the parents, everyone is present. You have the modest and timid sister who believes in the good of everyone (Jane). You have the strong, heroine-type who has no shame in speaking her mind (Elizabeth). You have the middle sister who wants to be noticed for her accomplishments but is oftentimes forgotten about (Mary). You have the sister who has no strong qualities of her own and follows others in order to gain recognition (Catherine/Kitty). You have the youngest daughter who is the most absurd and flies all over the place without concern over the repercussions of her actions (Lydia). You have the oppositional forces with a doting and fretful mother and a sarcastic and disconnected father. While they have no damaging faults as a whole, the Bennet family is one of the biggest hot messes in literature.
Austen always had an eye for ridiculous characters, and Lydia isn’t the only one to make an appearance in the novel. Wickham, Mr. Collins, and Caroline Bingley add to the collection of absurd gems in the Austen canon. Wickham is out for all he can get, Collins refuses to believe that some people strive for more than what is expected of them, and Caroline plots to keep her brother from Jane because of her being of a lower class than them. These are all typical characteristics of an Austen novel, and even at twenty-one she knows enough of the world to properly depict characters from all paths of life.
I know the relationships of Elizabeth/Darcy and Jane/Bingley are important, but I don’t have much to say about them. The dynamics between the pairs are well-constructed and believable, and they all deserve each other and live happily ever after as can be expected. I imagine them all getting together on a regular basis for parties and tea, and Lydia was never invited…because she sucks.
I have to give praise to Mr. Bennet for favorite character. While I love Elizabeth and Darcy for many reasons, this gentleman stands out to me during both readings. Mr. Bennet is favored due to his sarcastic and witty demeanor. He also finds the entire marriage debacle to be silly and ignores it as much as possible instead of fueling the drama. While some may consider him dispassionate toward his wife and daughters, I respect him for his behavior. I’d rather have a father appear less emotional while allowing me to do my thing than a father who tries to marry me off to the best man he can find. He’s simply hilarious, and I have a soft spot for Donald Sutherland’s portrayal in the 2005 film adaptation.
Nothing is more deceitful than the appearance of humility. It is often only carelessness of opinion, and sometimes an indirect boast.
Yes, vanity is a weakness indeed. But pride—where there is a real superiority of mind—pride will be always under good regulation.
There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises with every attempt to intimidate me.
I often think that there is nothing so bad as parting with one’s friends. One seems to forlorn without them.
1. What is it about Pride and Prejudice that makes it the most read and favorite of Austen’s novels?
2. Is this your favorite Austen novel? Why or why not?
3. What is your favorite film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice?
4. Team Darcy of Team Bingley?