Pride And Prejudice, by Jane Austen is one of my ALL TIME FAVOURITE classics. It is one that I have read and re-read more times than I can count, it is one of the first classics I was ever bought and read, and it is one that has stayed with me.
This post will contain spoilers!
Why? Well lets break it down.
Firstly. the author is far beyond her time in terms of how some of her characters behave, particularly Elizabeth Bennet. Her attitudes towards love, gender, wealth and relationships lean more towards the modern, including the fact that she does indeed marry because she does not do so for money but instead does so for love. The book itself depicts a wide range of characters at different levels of social conformity, some of which adhere to the societal expectations, others fight them and decide things for themselves. It is particularly interesting when looked at from a Feminist and Marxist perspective as it depicts both independent, strong willed women as well as docile, duty bound ones. Similarly, it depicts prideful men, certain and sure of their position and power, as well as others who are softer, kinder and more easily led. Wealth is status in the story, status is power, and power is pride. But, obtaining or marrying for wealth is depicted in a multitude of ways and some characters grow to realise love is more important than their social status.
Austen’s work is by far impressive, realistic and easy to relate to despite the time period in which it is set. While things have indeed progressed, boundaries and obstacles still exist in relation to one’s sex or economic status, explaining why it is still such an extraordinary read.
However, this is not a Sociological or English essay so I will move on to the contents of the book itself and what I love about it!
Pride and Prejudice, a much better title than First Impressions, is the PERFECT title for such a story. Of course pride and prejudice are two main themes throughout the story and are the cause for much of the dismay that occurs but it goes so much deeper. Mr Darcy is the embodiment of pride, whether understandable or not he undoubtedly has far too much of it. Elizabeth is the embodiment of prejudice, though her observations are usually effective, she is too prejudiced towards certain people. But, despite being embodiments of the titular traits they are also a combination of both, Elizabeth does, at certain points, become prideful herself, and Mr Darcy too suffers from prejudiced preconceptions. The embodiment of, and comination created by, these traits results in wonderfully complex and layered characters, even those not considered main charracters are affected by these traits.
The Story And Characters.
Pride and Prejudice may be the first enemies to lovers romance (despite being a novel of manners) I ever read and it is just magnificent. Not only do I love this trope, this book just does it so perfectly. The story itself has many threads that runs through it, though while reading it doesn’t feel like it. Austen is incredibly talented at tying together events and allowing them to build up to a bigger, more emotionally explosive picture, you just have to look at the first proposal scene (Mr Darcy’s) and you can see the pure genius of the work. Every subtle storyline is intricately weaved into a larger web of actions and consequences that all link together.
I absolutely ADORE the romantic storyline between Mr Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet as it slowly reveals the truth about Mr Darcy’s cold demeanor, why they would actually be a good match, and how they are both wonderful people, despite their flaws.
I also love how the Bennet sisters’s stories all coincide to create very real problems. Each of them, being different ages and of different social standing in the family, have different outlooks on the world, marriage and family.
Personally, I love the family dynamic created here, it is one of the most realistic sibling relationship dynamic I have ever read. The eldest sister, Jane, is very dutiful, soft, kind, helpful, tried not to judge quickly and loves her family dearly. She is, however, very reserved, a sharp contrast to Kitty and Lydia, who are the youngest and by far the most outging and daring. Elizabeth, being the second eldest, is very witty, more judgmental, headstrong, but also quite kind and caring. Finally, Mary the actual middle child is the most overlooked and overcompensates by trying to be very accomplished, but ultimately failing and instead ends up looking rather silly or childish.
This is an incredibly interesting protrayal and relatively accurate for a lot of families who have multiple children, and therefore siblings. It is a strong dynamic that works in multiple ways, and is an amazing portrayal of family.
Mr Darcy, Mr Wickham, Mr Collins, and Mr Bingley all make for interesting characters too, and their own storylines, that coincide with the Bennet sisters’ are just as amusing and interesting. Mr Collins and Mr Wickham are the two that are most unlikable, but for vastly different reasons – I loved this because no two characters were the same, they wre disliked or liked for vastly different reasons.
Mr Collins, of course, is unliked because the man is, to put it crudely, downright annoying, irritating and overall a mess. Mr Wickham is disliked because he is selfish, hunts for wealth and bad mouths a man who DID NOTHING TO HIM. Mr Wickham has many distasteful traits including his hunting for young girls to wed and obtain their fortunes *shiver*. But, Mr Wickham is intially portrayed as a noble, kind man making his betrayal all the more devestating, and to be honest it works wonders for the story.
Mr Bingley and Mr Darcy are the complete opposites to the other two men. Mr Bingley is a sharp contrast to Mr Collins as he is naturally kind, gracious, sweet and respectful. He is also somewhat mirrored in Mr Wickham who feigns noble traits and eventually ends up quite the villain, because Mr Bingley IS noble and is pure right to the heart. Mr Darcy is a direct parallel to Mr Wickham as he is initally seen as cruel and cold but ends up being kind, gracious and sweet, the opposite route occurs with Mr Wickham. These parallels have wonderous effects on the story and creates a depth to it that is just magnificent.
I need to bring particular attention to the character of Mr Darcy, he and Elizabeth are a large part of why I love this book. Mr Darcy is a flawed character, yes, he is prideful and painfully aware of his social position but he is a good man. Yes he makes misjudgements and says insulting things about the Bennet family. Yes he proposes to a woman with absolutely no expectation she will deny him, nor does he realise his actions may pain her. BUT! He is a good man and his reaction to the truth about the negative consequences of his actions are what makes me love him.
Firstly, when denied he accepts it (*coughcoughUnlikeMrCollinscoughcough*). HE promises to leave her be. Then HE MAKES HIMSELF BETTER. He works on his pride, albeit painfully, and makes an effort to be nice to people even though it is difficult for him. Not only that but he then ANONYMOUSLY AND NOT AS A WAY TO MANIPULATE ELIZABETH helps out her dramatic troublemaker of a sister who runs off with Mr Wickham and pays for it. Then he fixes the mistakes he made concerning Jane, he helps Mr Bingley and Jane get back together once he realises he truly did make a mistake in breaking them apart. ONLY THEN after knowing Elizabeth no longer abhors him (via his inconsiderate and meddling Aunt) and after Elizabeth brings up the topic of all that he has done, does he admit he still loves her and his feelings are the same as when he proposed before.
People who think Mr Darcy is an actual jerk and not a sweetheart who wins the girl over without working on his negative traits —- No. The trope used is not bad guy/jerk gets the girl at all.
Elizabeth Bennet is an amazing character who is also flawed, realistically so. She is, of course, too prejudice. Yes, Mr Darcy did come across badly at the ball, but she bases her entire opinion of him on that and local gossip. Yes, his pride is a problem, but she fails to gain knowledge from good resources and is quick to trust Wckham because he seems nice. But, despite her poor judgement she is a brilliant female lead. Her strong traits make her a wonderful heroine. Her wit, sarcasm and blatant disregard at the notion of marrying for wealth not love makes her inherently admirable.
Elizabeth is devoted to her famly, and her sisters, particularly Jane, and will happily do her best to support them. But, she will not conform to societal expectations to please her mother of others at the expense of her own life and happiness. Her rejection of Mr Collins is amusing and definiely makes you want to root for her. Her rejection of Mr Darcy is more complex and yet her pure desire to be happy and to protect her sister means this is understandable and admirable. She is not afraid to call Mr Darcy out, and when she realises the truth she is horrified and admits this to him by then end. She admits her faults, faces down his aunt, and marry’s for love. All of this makes her a strong character that is easy to connect with and admire. Her pure wit and general personality is constantly shown through the story and makes for a fantastic read.
Pride and Prejudice may not be for everyone but I absolutely adore it. I have found that a lot of classic female authors tend to have written novels that go on to be some of my favourites such as, Mary Shelley and The Brontes’. I do love a classic read but this is one of my all time favourites. The themes, characters, relationships and overall construction is just perfect!!
This was a long post so I thought I would cut it here, sorry!! But I did warn you that a gushing post was coming!