Author : Jane Austen
Publisher: Thomas Egerton
Date of Publication: 1813
No. of Pages:478
My Rating: 5 out of 5
Ever since I read this book many years ago, I was captivated by the story of Elizabeth and Darcy and promptly fell in love with the couple. For that reason, I picked Pride and Prejudice as my first read for the Classic Club’s 50 Classics in 5 Years challenge.
Elizabeth is the second eldest daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet, who reside at Longbourn and have five daughters. Unfortunately, their estate is entailed to the male line. As they have no sons, it will go to Mr. Bennet’s nephew, Mr. Collins upon Mr. Bennet’s demise.
Since Mr. and Mrs. Bennet have not been careful in their spending, they don’t have enough money to leave to their five daughters, whose only hope for a comfortable life is to make good matches when they marry.
The story begins with this eye catching opener;- “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife”.
It’s therefore easy to understand why there is considerable excitement among the locals when Mr. Bingley, a ‘single man of large fortune’ moves into the neighborhood. Mrs. Bennet perceives it as a excellent chance to get one of her dear daughters an appropriate match. Charles Bingley turns out to be good looking, pleasant and easy going. In welcome addition, he takes a keen interest in the eldest daughter, Jane, much to Mrs. Bennet’s exuberant delight.
Charles Bingley also arrives with a close friend, Mr. Darcy, who is even wealthier than him. Unfortunately, his manners are not as endearing as those of his friend. The whole neighborhood soon decides he is proud and disagreeable. He inevitably invites Elizabeth’s fierce wrath when he blatantly refuses to dance with her after being called on to do so by his friend.
Elizabeth “Lizzy” overhears his refusal and his assertion that ;- “She is tolerable, but not handsome enough to temp ME; I am in no humour at present to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men”. Though she reacts in her usual playful manner, Elizabeth’s pride is deeply hurt by this assertion.
In spite of this beginning, Lizzy and Darcy are invariably drawn to one another. Lizzy cannot help but intellectually challenge him at every turn and the two exchange witty banter. Soon Darcy undoubtedly finds himself attracted to her.
He tells his friend’s sister ;- “I have been meditating on the very great pleasure which a pair of fine eyes in the face of a pretty woman can bestow”.
Even as his feelings change, he realizes that she is a completely unsuitable match for him. To say the least, her immediate family’s behavior is appalling. Although her father is a gentleman, her mother’s family connections are considered unsuitable, as they are not of the same class as he.
Meanwhile, Lizzy thinks Darcy is full of self-importance and pride. Can they overcome their pride and prejudices and get a happily ever after? Luckily for them, they get opportunities to know each other better and re-evaluate their initial assumptions.
I find this book engaging and enjoy Jane Austen’s writing style. She drew me into the story and kept me reading till the end. The language is beautiful, though some of it is very different from how we speak today.
Women are not described as ‘handsome.’ We do not state our age as ‘eight and twenty’ (though I think I might start doing this, it seems fun!). They maintain a very formal way of talking and addressing each other.
It saddens me that most women at the time had no way of supporting themselves, making them so dependent. Because of this, the primary criteria in choosing a spouse was social class and economic security.
This is clearly illustrated by Lizzy’s friend, Charlotte who marries to get a home and stability and not because of love. Lizzy goes against the grain when she refuses to marry a man she neither loves nor respects, simply to get a comfortable life.
I also found it quite disconcerting how society was obsessed with class and connection, with Mrs. Bennet’s relations being referred to as unsuitable because they were working class. Moreover, the foolish actions of one daughter could ruin the reputation of the whole family and consequently the marriage prospects of her sisters.
I love the diverse characters and how they are portrayed. The Bennet family is not portrayed in the best of light, with the exception of Jane and Lizzy. Mrs. Bennet is hysterical and takes to her bed when overcome by her ‘nerves’. Mr. Bennet is often sarcastic and rude to his wife and describes his younger daughters as ‘silly’.
Lydia is reckless and selfish, and Kitty is similar, being easily swayed by her sister. Mary is described as having airs and being vain. In addition, we have the charming Mr. Wickham who manages to deceive everyone about his character ; the pompous Mr. Collins ; the nasty and jealous Caroline Bennet, and the haughty Lady Catherine de Bourgh.
I read somewhere that Jane Austen has inspired a lot of contemporary romance, and it is easy to see why. This story has all the characteristics that I recognize in many romance stories. From the wealthy, tall and handsome hero to the beautiful and witty heroine (who start off despising each other), to the jealous ‘other woman’ who is out to sabotage the relationship. Well, I for one don’t mind the familiar story-line so long as true love triumphs in the end.
What I like about this book is that it not just a simple romance, it is in fact a commentary on the social dynamics of the time. Jane Austen is an acclaimed author and rightfully so.
Film Adaptations – There have been many film adaptations beginning with the 1938 movie to the 2016 movie titled Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. I’m yet to see this last one as I am not really into zombies, but I may just check it out.
My favorite adaptation of the book has got to be the 1995 BBC miniseries starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle. I loved the chemistry between these two. They pulled off their characters beautifully and were supported by a very believable cast. Not to forget the famous dip-in-the-lake scene.
This 2005 movie version starring Keira Nightley and Matthew Macfadyen also warmed my heart.
Needless to say, I love this story and will probably re-read it again and again! I rate it 5 out of 5 and recommend it to all lovers of classics and romance.
Do you like Pride and Prejudice? Which film adaptation do you prefer? Let me know!