I feel like everyone is aware of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, whether they choose to view it as a classic novel or not, I most certainly do. It has universal themes that stand the test of time, so no matter whether you were reading it back when it was published, or 100 years from now, there will always be meaning in it that is relatable, not to mention that the merit of the writing compels readers.
”P&P is the story of a couple who are initially attracted and repelled by each other in equal parts, who fight that attraction but eventually work their way to mutual respect and love. It is also a social comedy and a comedy of manners. The people who surround them are something less than noble, demonstrate a full gamut of human frailty – especially self-deception and hubris – but are all the more entertaining because of that.”
There are thousands upon thousands of reviews on Pride and Prejudice online for anyone to search out if they desire, describing in much greater details what I will likely touch on in my review, but as P&P is a true favourite of mine, I still want to write about it, and say why I personally love the story, characters, and writing.
Before I finally got round to reading P&P a few years ago I only knew the vague basics; that it was a love story, that the main female was from a poorer economic background, whilst Mr Darcy was wealthy and highly respected. I didn’t have any real desire to read the book, despite it being listed among top reads, top fiction, top romance, top books to read before you die etc. It didn’t grab me the way other stories do – in some way I wish I had read it at an earlier age, but then I also feel I was better able to appreciate it in my 20’s.
Whilst it is a classic love story – boy meets girl, hatred/dislike, but with time grows respect and then love – there is no denying that fact, it is also about all relationships, about who we believe others to be, and who we believe ourselves to be. Having views and opinions, and learning that whilst sometimes we are correct, we can also be incorrect, and choosing not to admit that, not to accept that sometimes are opinions need to be amended is a naivety that boxes only yourself in. It is about first impressions and learning to not judge a book only by it’s cover. It is a coming of age story where a stubborn, headstrong, yet good souled, well meaning young woman learns from her mistakes, and in learning the truth about others, learns the most about herself.
I think one of the reasons that P&P works so very well despite having all the traits of any romance novel that has come since, is Elizabeth Bennet herself, she is not a simpering, love-struck fool, who clings to the hope of finding someone to marry, nor is she willing to compromise with her morals, she stands true to what she believes is the right decision even in the face of adversary; whether that comes in the form of her mother pleading and pushing her to marry someone she could never love, to rejecting Mr Darcy’s first marriage proposal because she still believes him to be of poor, malicious character, despite the undeniable truth that her marrying him would be very advantageous. She is vivacious and charming, quick-witted and funny – which I honestly didn’t except from this story. The first time I read it and found myself laughing at the way Jane Austen describes peoples natures or the dialogue she used, I was surprised, I worried I wasn’t understanding it correctly if I was finding it humorous, but it is in fact, a funny, ironic yet tender story.
A couple of suggestion I have before delving into this book is to try and get accustomed with the dialect, as if you are unfamiliar with any dialect but that of nowadays, to begin with you may find it difficult to read with ease, if this is the case, don’t lose heart and give up. Maybe watch the film first, I feel that hearing the language spoken rather than reading it yourself, hearing the pauses and the emotion behind the words, seeing the situations that the conversations happen in in a very unambiguous way, you will be better equipped to tackle the book. And if you are like me you find yourself coming away from every chapter attempting to speak as they do, which doesn’t work very well for me, but I still try – every time – it’s mildly additive. [Side note: I caught an interview on a morning show about people who live their lives as if they are living in Jane Austen’s Regency Era, you can see a clip about it here, and whilst I am not quite that extreme… yet, I’ll definitely be watching the show]. Secondly, maybe keep a screenshot in your phone of all the main characters and their relations, as the first time I read it I kept losing track of who was who. I made this and stuck it in the back of the book for reference, however I’ve read it enough times now that I don’t need it anymore.
My end thought is that it truly is a brilliant book, that everyone should try and read. It shows how human nature stays the same, despite the era, the rules of society, or the dialect spoken, the characters and the emotions remain fresh, recognizable and credible.
I love it so much that I even read it outside of the bath! (Despite owning 134 books – yes I counted, and those are only the ones on my bookcase, never mind what is underneath my bed – I do the majority of my reading only whilst having a bath, so if I choose to read a book instead of mindlessly watching telly, or to end my evening with it instead of scrolling through Pinterest – it’s a good book.)
It was generally evident whenever they met, that he did admire her; and to her it was equally evident that Jane was yielding to the preference which she had begun to entertain for him from the first, and was in a way to be very much in love; but she considered with pleasure that it was not likely to be discovered by the world in general, since Jane united with great strength of feeling a composure of temper and a uniform cheerfulness of manner, which would guard her from the suspicions of the impertinent. She mentioned this to her friend Miss Lucas.
”It may perhaps be pleasant,” replied Charlotte, ”to be able to impose on the public in such a case; but it is sometimes a disadvantage to be so very guarded. If a woman conceals her affection with the same skill from the object of it, she may lose the opportunity of fixing him; and it will then be but poor consolation to believe the world equally in the dark. There is so much of gratitude or vanity in almost every attachment, that it is not safe to leave any to itself. We can all begin freely — a slight preference is natural enough; but there are very few of us who have heart enough to be really in love without encouragement. In nine cases out of ten, a woman had better show more affection than she feels. Bingley likes your sister undoubtedly; but he may never do more than like her, if she does not help him on.”
”But she does help him on, as much as her nature will allow. If I can perceive her regard for him, he must be a simpleton indeed not to discover it too.”
”Remember, Eliza, that he does not know Jane’s disposition as you do.”
”But if a woman is partial to a man, and does not endeavour to conceal it, he must find it out.”
”Perhaps he must, if he sees enough of her. But though Bingley and Jane meet tolerably often, it is never for many hours together; and as they always see each other in large mixed parties, it is impossible that every moment should be employed in conversing together. Jane should therefore make the most of every half hour in which she can command his attention. When she is secure of him, there will be leisure for falling in love as much as she chooses.”
”Your plan is a good one,” replied Elizabeth, ”where nothing is in question but the desire of being well married; and if I were determined to get a rich husband, or any husband, I dare say I should adopt it. But these are not Jane’s feelings; she is not acting by design. As yet, she cannot even be certain of the degree of her own regard, nor of its reasonableness. She has known him only a fortnight. She danced four dances with him at Meryton; she saw him one morning at his own house, and has since dined in company with him four times. This is not quite enough to make her understand his character.”
”Not as you represent it. Had she merely dined with him, she might only have discovered whether he had a good appetite; but you must remember that four evenings have been also spent together — and four evenings may do a great deal.”
”Yes; these four evenings have enabled them to ascertain that they both like Vingt-un better than Commerce; but with respect to any other leading characteristic, I do not imagine that much has been unfolded.”
”Well,” said Charlotte, ”I wish Jane success with all my heart; and if she were married to him to-morrow, I should think she had as good a chance of happiness as if she were to be studying his character for a twelvemonth. Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance. If the dispositions of the parties are ever so well known to each other, or ever so similar before-hand, it does not advance their felicity in the least. They always contrive to grow sufficiently unlike afterwards to have their share of vexation; and it is better to know as little as possible of the defects of the person with whom you are to pass your life.”
”You make me laugh, Charlotte; but it is not sound. You know it is not sound, and that you would never act in this way yourself.”
Have you read Pride and Prejudice? Is it a favourite and why?
If you haven’t read it have I managed to persuade you to give it a go?