Plot: “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. Renowned literary critic and historian George Saintsbury in 1894 declared it the “most perfect, the most characteristic, the most eminently quintessential of its author’s works,” and Eudora Welty in the twentieth century described it as “irresistible and as nearly flawless as any fiction could be.”
I started to write this already at the halfway mark of the book, so as to not forget any of my thoughts. I can tell you that I am going to pretend I am British for another week now (the same inevitably happens when I watch Downton Abbey). I had the best time working through Pride and Prejudice and can really not think of a time this year when I felt so content reading any book.
This is finally a successful attempt at reading Pride and Prejudice – the first time I picked it up I only managed to get through half of the book. I have no idea why, perhaps I just wasn’t as inclined as I was this time around. I watched Pride and Prejudice and Zombies AGAIN the other day, and I love the 2005 adaption of this novel with Keira Knightley and Matthew MacFayden. The plot speaks to me on many levels – the unerring feminism of Elizabeth Bennet, the courage of Jane Austen to write about Elizabeth Bennet, the love story between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy. I can tell you now that I find difficult people so much more appealing than the Mr. Bingleys of the world. Their loyalty is ultimately more rewarding and unyielding. Pride can be attractive in any person. Mr. Darcy is a difficult man, but truly appealing. It is fun to find a character that isn’t written in the typical hero fashion – he’s so ornery and stubborn and proud.
The differences between the movies and the original work are perhaps not significant but the book is naturally more illustrative to the characters. Mr. Wickham is even slimier than his onscreen presence shows, Mr. Collins is a phenomenal, pompous and amazingly irritating pain in the ass. Mrs. Bennet is truly an embarrassment to her offspring. Her antics are mortifying and she has a cold disregard to Elizabeth that is not shown often in a film adaption. She never ceased her ambition to have her daughters favorably married. Whatever true care she felt for each of them was very much overshadowed by her need to see her daughters settled with men of high fortunes. It was embarrassing.
There is only one section that felt tiresome eventually. The section where Lydia runs of with Wickham is pivotal in the romance of Elizabeth and Darcy, but it really took an extraordinary amount of pages to get through. The conclusion of Pride and Prejudice is the most delightful British ending you can hope for. Feelings are expressed in the utmost British way – please tell me they are still like this! – and the overpowering sweetness of Darcy’s happiness when Elizabeth expresses her love and admiration is lovely. I really did enjoy how sweet he became eventually when he was around her, and that the strength of his feelings could make him do such introspection and radical personal change.
The theme of the book is clear the very descriptive title, but there are also themes of family, learning to look deeper into a person and not expressing yourself in anger – Elizabeth’s family had quite the shock when she professed to love the man she had been so against the majority of the time she’d known him.
Pride and Prejudice really isn’t a quick and easy read, and it takes time to get yourself acquainted with the author’s writing. It is high English, and it was a good exercise for me as a predominantly Afrikaans speaking person to read through it. You also really need to be in the mood to read this book, it isn’t going to be pleasing or successful if you want a fast read.
I am giving this a 9.5/10. It is a very high rating, yes, but I found it very deserving of the classic cult status and many adaptions it has gone through. I really enjoyed it so much! One of my favorite books this year!