Title: Pride and Prejudice
Author: Jane Austen
Originally published in 1813
Oh what a read! It took me a moment to grasp the lingo and use of overly elongated and complex English sentences, but seriously – Wow. I gobbled up this book in two days.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen is clearly worthy of its popularity through the ages. I am actually glad I read it now, so that I can indulge myself in watching the movie version which features Keira Knightley, straight after finishing the book.
Now, when this entire saga began with the infamous line:
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”
– I was forced to think of how removed this is from our present time. Women can freeze their eggs, men can want men and freedom at every level is the agenda. Equality too of course!
But keeping in mind that this novel was written in the early 1800’s I found it progressive yet, in many ways. Our leading lady, Elizabeth Bennet (affectionately, Lizzy) is a force of pure brains and good nature. She is more progressive for her time and I think if Austen were alive today she would be so pleased to see the strength women display without having to bend their backs over in false politeness.
Next, we have the “salty” Mr. Darcy. An unlikely protagonist in the beginning, but his evolution through this entire novel is amazing to watch. Someone you initially loathe, like Elizabeth, turns out to be as good hearted a fellow as any.
Essentially the story revolves around the Bennet family and their five daughters. Elizabeth is second to Jane, who is the most beautiful and genuinely nice human out there. Third in line is Mary who preaches morality over the slightest of situations. Fourth is silly little Kitty and fifth, notoriously wild and worldly Lydia. Unfortunately, owing to an entail, the family heritance will go to the next male heir – Their ridiculous cousin, clergyman Mr.Collins. He initially tries to marry Elizabeth so some of the fortune can remain in the family but she flat out refuses. He turns to her best friend instead who settles in life for a most unsatisfactory partner, but a physically comfortable existence. Mrs. Bennet is a fretful, crude woman whose mission is to get her daughters married to the richest men she can find.
Many a sub-plot plays out in the novel, always keeping the pace going. Mr. Darcy is haughty, “proud and prejudiced” until his love for Elizabeth leads him to change his ways. He opens up to her liKe nobody else, in the most tender way.
What struck me powerfully was the fact that the author was trying to reinforce the fact that you do not need to marry for money, but for love. This is embodied by Elizabeth and Jane. The consequences of not keeping a close check on immorality as it leads to disaster, is displayed by Lydia. Lydia runs away with a bad-reputed Mr. Wikham who is indebted to several people and shares a bitter history with Mr. Darcy. The latter comes to the rescue to save the Bennet’s without ever wanting the credit.
There is also brutal honesty and mischievousness in the entire book. Elizabeth eventually acknowledges that her family dynamic is dysfunctional, her sisters need better guidance, her father is absent and her mother is a most deplorable woman. Yet she rises above her surroundings and does not dwell on it.
The upper classes and their high mannerisms are made fun off, mostly at the expense of one Lady Catherine – Mr. Darcy’s aunt.
Since Elizabeth ends up marrying Mr. Darcy and is the mistress of a gorgeous and large estate, the phrase “happy ending” is apt. Her mother is obviously overjoyed about the fact that Mr. Darcy is “uber-rich”.
We have come so far from the time when money was inherited, estates exchanged hands and the only way a woman could be comfortable is by marrying into this. Today, you make your own fortune, women are obviously entitled to earning as much as men (although that is still an on going battle) and the idea of only engaging in certain society depending on your stature is much receded.
In the age of BDSM heroes like Christian Grey, who is forgiven his kink due to childhood trauma and the fattest of bank accounts, Mr Darcy is a nice relief.
If you are into the classics then you must have read this. If you are wanting to get on the band wagon, there is no better introduction then “Pride and Prejudice”.