“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”
So begins Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen’s witty comedy of manners—one of the most popular novels of all time—that features splendidly civilized sparring between the proud Mr. Darcy and the prejudiced Elizabeth Bennet as they play out their spirited courtship in a series of eighteenth-century drawing-room intrigues.
The “most perfect, the most characteristic, the most eminently quintessential of works,” as “irresistible and as nearly flawless as any fiction could be.”
The greatest love story of all time – I really don’t think that this is a disputable fact.
“I cannot fix on the hour, or the spot, or the look or the words, which laid the foundation. It is too long ago. I was in the middle before I knew that I had begun.”
I have always loved Jane Austen’s stories and I grew up watching Northanger Abbey, Mansfield Park and Emma over special weekends with my mother, sitting in front of the TV with a big bowl of popcorn and a blanket – I didn’t really understand what was happening in the movies but I loved them none the less. When I got a little older, I sat down in front of the 1995 BBC version of Pride and Prejudice (which I would highly recommend by the way) and fell absolutely in love.
Now, having read the novel, I love the mini-series even more – Colin Firth’s portrayal of Mr Darcy is unequalled and I found myself gushing at every moment he started at Elizabeth or smiled in her direction. This is one of the few cases in which the book and its film adaptation actually complement each other, which I loved – though I can’t say as much for the 2005 movie.
Before I head off into another book-to-film screw ups rant (ahem, Percy Jackson), on to the novel itself.
This is a storyline everybody should be familiar with. The wealthy and handsome Mr Bingley rents the manor of Netherfield Park and the nearby village of Longbourn is thrown into disorder, none more so than the residents of the Bennet Household. With five unmarried daughters and no sons, Mr Bennet’s fortune is destined for a distant cousin with the power to throw them all into the street upon Mr Bennet’s death. To secure a fortune for her daughters Mrs Bennet is desperate to see all of them married, hopefully to one with a bit more in his pocket. So when Mr Bingley arrives, accompanied by the prosperous Mr Darcy, Mrs Bennet will do anything to secure a match for her daughters. But Mr Darcy’s apparent ill manners and distaste for the merriments of Meryton quickly generates the repugnance of the people of Longbourn – not excluding Elizabeth, the clever and incisive second daughter of the Bennet family. Thrown together constantly, Mr Darcy grows to admire Lizzy’s brash and frank nature and sees a great beauty in her intelligence and wit. And so begins their story of pride and prejudice.
This book is the perfect read for romance lovers or just about anyone else. Pride and Prejudice is the ultimate love story that most people would find in themselves to enjoy. But it does not only focus on the topic of love. This book also looks at Lizzy’s attempt to step away from the constraints of her position in society and examines the 18th century social class system and family makeup.
“He is a gentleman, and I am a gentleman's daughter. So far we are equal.”
The language, considering it was written in the late 18th century, is a bit difficult to understand if you are unfamiliar with this old style of writing. If you really want to get into Pride and Prejudice with more understanding I would recommend starting with perhaps Sense and Sensibility or even Northanger Abbey; something a little more light-hearted but still entertaining to ease you in. But that really isn’t necessary, if you stick with it you will really get to know the language, it may just take some more time to get into it. Pride and Prejudice was my second Jane Austen book that I finished, I had previously skimmed through Emma and taken very little in not to mention my attempt to read Persuasion – something I would not recommend until you are older and used to the language – which ended after struggling through the first page for a solid 10 minutes. Anyway, when I got to it I absolutely fell in love with this book and it spurred an insatiable desire that could only be eased by more Jane Austen.
Elizabeth Bennet, our intelligent and quick-witted heroine, is one of the most well-known female characters in English Literature. While her sharp tongue and predisposition to make swift judgments are known to lead her astray, Lizzy’s honesty and virtue make her one of the most loved characters of all time. Dealing with a hopeless mother, distant father and two younger sisters with no more brain cells than can be counted on one hand, Lizzy’s strong conviction and perseverance are the keys to her survival in the Bennet family. I think what I loved most about Elizabeth was that, despite the actions of all those around her, she would never accept a life without love, would never marry for position or fortune. In a world where money is all anyone ever cared about, this was an unheard of conviction.
The intelligent, proud and forthright Mr Darcy is, in all honesty, the reason I fell so in love with this novel. Deemed a vain man who believed himself to be far above his company in all aspects, Mr Darcy’s portrayal throughout the book is less than desirable. But when you do learn of his goodness you can’t help but love him and grow to understand the reasons for his actions. Fiercely protective of his loved ones, Darcy is the sweetest of older brothers to his dear sister Georgiana and the best of friends to Mr Bingley who, more often than not, needs to be hit with the hard truth. I feel like Darcy is such a real character who just wants to do what is right for those he cares about.
“In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”
Elizabeth’s beautiful and sensible elder sister Jane and Darcy’s best friend Charles can be described together quite simply considering how alike they are in nature – they truly are perfect for each other. Both possess a sweet, cheerful, eager and kindly nature, lacking the proud and contentious dispositions of Elizabeth and Darcy. They are always ready to see the best of people, going so far at times as to completely disregard the bad in a person – some would call the pair naive. Their love is so pure and strong, free from the prejudices that hindered the relationship between Elizabeth and Darcy.
Pride and Prejudice is the tale of a real love written in a time when love was seldom taken into consideration. This novel will forever be a timeless piece that everyone should read at some point in their lives.
“Had I been in love, I could not have been more wretchedly blind. But vanity, not love, has been my folly.”
I would mainly recommend to older readers so you get the most out of the themes and the language which is a little tricky to understand when you are younger. People reading this in their early teens tend to not like this magnificent book as much as the older reads do.
You can probably grab this book from just about anywhere; your local secondhand bookstore, online at Amazon or Book Depository or I know Dymocks stocks, in store, a gorgeous copy of the novel for all those Australian readers out there.