The definition of a classic. Some of you may have been lucky enough to read and study this book at school… I wasn’t. No offense to Lord of the Flies and The Tempest, but I think I was looking for something a little more lighthearted at fifteen. Enjoying Jane Austen’s most popular novel as an adult has definitely been worth the wait. I find myself in a position in life where I can relate to many of Elizabeth’s problems, making it even easier to become her as I read the book. By the end of it, I half expected to meet my very own Mr. Darcy… although, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
I adored this book and here are some of the reasons why.
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”
From the first line in the book, the reader gets the first glimpse into Austen’s wit. “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” This has gone on to become one of the most famous opening lines in literary history. From this single sentence, Austen managed to outline the entire plot of the story. The sentence, whilst saying that rich men are in need of a wife, also hints that women, such as the characters in the novel, require a rich husband. Many people have analysed the meaning behind all of the “money talk” in Pride and Prejudice, trying to figure out whether Austen is telling us that better people have more money, or that is doesn’t matter how much money people have. However, we all have to remember that this novel was published in 1813 England, a time where money and status were of importance and women, having minimal rights were often required to marry rich in order to care for themselves and their families. Austen’s sense of realism comes across in this way and many others throughout the book and it is this sense of realism that can often be misinterpreted. She was a forward thinker and a growing feminist, during a period when women’s voices were first starting to be heard. Jane Austen was witty and her sense of humor and intelligence pours out of the pages in Pride and Prejudice.
Becoming Elizabeth Bennet
Earlier Austen work consisted of plays and novels written in the style of the epistolary novel, which we see glimpses of in Pride and Prejudice. I think it is this style of writing that allows the reader to become so closely connected to Elizabeth Bennet, like I mentioned, I felt like I was her (I wish). Austen doesn’t give the reader much in the way of descriptions, which I thought I would dislike. As a lover of creative writing, I love it when an author uses as many beautiful words as possible to describe one, simple thing. Austen however, does the opposite of this. She tells the vast majority of the story through speech, which I ended up adoring. It allows the reader to paint their own idea of what the characters look like, but also, with her clever and precise use of dialogue, it is easy to conjure an image of what these characters would be and look like in your head. No matter how you imagined Elizabeth to look when you read the book, you cannot deny that you imagined her to be beautiful and infinitely likable. We grow with Elizabeth as we read and each character’s personality translates perfectly into the reader’s imagination. The likeability of Elizabeth, for me, came down to her wit, much like Austen’s own she had an undeniably intelligent sense of humor.
The Lesson amongst the Romance
Often brushed off as simply a romance novel, it is often overlooked that there is a clear message that Austen is getting across to her reader. It is possible that Austen took parts of her own personality and put them into Mr. Darcy and Miss Bennet, such as Mr. Darcy’s initial difficulty in understanding and projecting his feelings and Miss Bennet’s wise wit and love of books and music, hence why the two end up having so much in common. It is therefore not much of a leap to assume that the novel is partly a projection of Austen’s own complexities and want to be understood, the way that Darcy understands Bennet. It could be a way for her to tell people that you need to look beneath the surface of others and that first impressions are not always as they seem. It is a good example of why pride is one of the seven deadly sins.
A Timeless Classic
Austen managed to write a novel that truly stands the test of time. It can be read now almost with as much ease as if it were published in this day and the long list of adaptations prove that the storyline has inspired many. From Bridget Jones’s Diary to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (give me strength), the adaptations have embellished Austen’s creative genius with nonsense, or have brought the masterpiece even more into our generation, but one thing that remains constant is the love story between Mr. Darcy and Miss Bennet.
Pride and Prejudice is the perfect escape for a person intelligent enough to know the beauty of mistakes and real life. It is the chick flick of the 1800s and I believe that it was just as much of an escape for Austen when she wrote it as it is for us today. We get our happy ending with the perfect man, but we also get a little reminder that not everything that we want happens the way that we want it. I am sure that many people would have thought that Elizabeth would have much rather have fallen in love with Mr Darcy at first sight, but any free thinker knows that isn’t real life and that the fire that can come from a rocky beginning can fuel the desire for one another.
Bottom line, read the book. You will be glad you did.