‘With its sparkling wit, clever heroine and moving love story, Pride and Prejudice is an immaculate comedy of manners, and Jane Austen’s most popular novel.’
Jane Austen is one of the greats of English literature. Her novels are widely read and enjoyed and are extremely accessible as classics. Austen’s novels feature a mix of romance and social commentary with Pride and Prejudice being one of the most loved and widely read novels in the English language. Austen’s 6 novels consist of: Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Emma, Northanger Abbey, Mansfield Park and Persuasion.
I am not entirely sure that I need to explain why I read this book. It is a classic and one that I have been meaning to read for a long time. Although a lot of books on your to-read list, even if they are classics, may sit there for years, this is one of those influential books that I was determined to get to. I bought the novel for my 18th birthday along with 9 other classics (including a few by Austen) and it has sat on my shelf for around a year and a half. Finally, I decided to read it, and I am extremely glad that I did.
‘It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.’
I am sure many people have a basic idea of what happens in the novel, as it is a story often referred to, but I do not think that spoils the book at all. The plot focuses around the Bennet family. Mrs Bennet is on a mission to get her daughters married and this really begins when she hears that a man named Mr Bingley is to move to Netherfield Park. Although we really follow all of the Bennet girls and what happens to them, Elizabeth, the second eldest, is the most focused upon. The Bennet girls are all quite different and whilst the younger ones are really exploring society for the first time, the elder girls are who attention is upon to be married. Jane, the eldest, and Elizabeth are very close and they go through a lot together being of age to be out in society.
Austen chooses to narrate the novel in the 3rd person, which actually was not what I expected. Before I started reading, I would have assumed the Lizzy would narrate, but I would have been wrong. Narrating in the 3rd person means that Austen can focus on different characters and can give us as much information as she wants about each person, their thoughts and intentions. However, just because Austen can give us this information, that does not mean that she always does, which makes for a clever narrative.
‘She is a headstrong and foolish girl, and does not know her own interest.’
Well, that is Mrs Bennet’s opinion. Personally, I can say that Elizabeth Bennet has become one of my all-time favourite literary characters and she is a true inspiration. Despite societal convention, she is not eager to marry a man with wealth and good connections, she wants something more and does not follow the belief that she needs a husband to make her complete. Elizabeth is unafraid to be who she is, say what she feels and is not particularly worried about what others my think of her. She refuses to like people simply because of who they are, whilst always remaining sensible and level-headed. Although she can be headstrong and her judgements are not always right, Lizzy learns her lessons and is ready to admit when she has been at fault. With regards to those closest to her, Lizzy cares a lot for her family, especially Jane, and wants what is best for them. I loved the fact that when Jane fell ill and had to stay at Netherfield Park, Elizabeth walked to see her and had no cares about what she looked like by the time she arrived. I think that episode says a lot about Elizabeth and where her priorities lie.
When we talk of Mr Darcy, we think of the ‘perfect’ man. Yet, I did not like him very much to begin with. As is in the title, Mr Darcy is a rather proud man. He is a good friend of Mr Bingley, but seems very different to him when it comes to friendliness and willingness to join dances and entertainment. Whilst Darcy and Elizabeth have some amusing exchanges, I was very much on Lizzy’s side when it came to her judgement of him. However, like Elizabeth, during the novel Mr Darcy does learn and grow as a character.
The Bennet family as a whole is rather amusing because they are all pretty different in character. Jane is the most gentle and sensible, whilst Elizabeth is happy to say what she feels. Mary much prefers to be indoors with a book, and the two youngest girls, Lydia and Kitty, are eager to get out and meet people, especially officers. Mrs Bennet seems to hold interest with whichever daughter is doing best on the marital front and is ready to pay said daughter many compliments to help fix her place in societal opinion. However, Mr Bennet is altogether different to Mrs Bennet. It would seem that Elizabeth is his favourite daughter and he is not so quick to marry her off as is Mrs Bennet. Additionally, I found some of his actions and remarks to be very amusing. When all of these characters are put together there is a very interesting mix.
Although times have changed, and society today is very different to what it was in Austen’s time, Austen manages to transport us back and hook us into what is going on. Suddenly we care about different values and become completely entangled in scandals that might not be so shocking today. This is something that I love when reading a novel by Jane Austen. I love how she has the ability to take us back in time to what feels like a different place. Despite the language seeming more complicated than that which we use today, I find an Austen novel quite easy to follow because you become so hooked in.
When it comes to the end of the novel, there is little place to find fault. Austen uses the final chapter to revisit all of the characters and to tell us what has happened to them which is a great idea. The end is what you would expect from a romance and I have no problems with that. I closed the book with a smile, feeling satisfied that everything had been settled.
Overall, there is a reason that this book is so widely read and adored. When it comes to classic novels, this is one you really should consider as it is filled with great characters that come together in a wholly enjoyable plot to learn lessons and experience romance and society.
‘I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading!’
Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen, first published in 1813, published in Penguin Classics in 1996, this edition first published in the Penguin English Library in 2012, 010, RRP £5.99, ISBN 978-0-141-19907-8