Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Pride and Prejudice

Title: Pride and Prejudice
Author: Jane Austen
Publisher: Barnes & Noble Classics
Publish date: 2003
ISBN: 1593082010

“How despicably have I acted!” she cried. “I who have prided myself on my discernment! I, who have valued myself on my abilities! who have often disdained the generous candour of my sister, and gratified my vanity in useless or blameable distrust. How humiliating is this discovery! Yet, how just a humiliation! Had I been in love, I could not have been more wretchedly blind. But vanity, not love, has been my folly. Pleased with the preference of one, and offended by the neglect of the other, on the very beginning of our acquaintance, I have courted prepossession and ignorance, and driven reason away where either were concerned. Till this moment, I never knew myself.”

Pride and Prejudice, or First Impressions, was first published in 1813 simply “by a lady”.  It is the story of two sisters, the one prefers to view the world through optimism, while the second with sarcasm and pleasure with her own wit and views.  While the first sister, Jane, learns by the end of the book that evil can and does exist in people, and that people can be vicious and cruel all the while wearing a pleasant face and friendly voice.  The second sister, Elizabeth, learns that all is not as it seems on the first impressions, and judgement should be reserved until more facts have come to light.

In Pride and Prejudicewe see Mr. and Mrs. Bennet’s family of five girls and no sons,  whose estate must fall to a male heir,  deal with concerns for their future.  Mr. Bennet prefers retreat to his study and occasionally regret not having saved for his family’s future after his death.  He is permissive of his youngest daughters’ wild and flirtatious behaviour chasing after soldiers.  He continually berates his younger three daughters in deference to the older two “sensible” daughters.  Mrs. Bennet chooses to contrive opportunities for her daughters to be alone with a potential suitor, such as sending her daughter out in the rain so she can catch a cold and be forced to stay at the suitor’s home.  She shows wanton favoritism of her silly, ill-behaved youngest daughters, making a fateful choice to send her to Brighton where the daughter makes a socially reprehensible choice that threatens to ruin the family all together.

The lesson learned in Pride and Prejudice is that appearances are not often what they seem.  Mr. Bingley’s sisters seem friendly and doting to Jane, but it is all an act, as their true feelings are that of superiority and disdain.  Mr. Wickham is attractive, affable, and pleasant, but in truth is a wicked womanizer who runs out on his debts and responsibilities.  Mr. Darcy seems cold, snobbish, proud and ill-mannered, but this is really how his shyness and fear of meeting new people, as well as his choice not to reveal the truth of his past with Wickham in order to defend Wickham’s maligning him.

I have read Pride and Prejudice before, and rereading it reminded me how much fun and funny it was.  Many of the tete a tetes between different characters are delightful: Mr. and Mrs. Bennet’s interactions, Elizabeth and Darcy’s verbal volleys, and best of all, Lady Catherine’s demand the Elizabeth NOT to accept a proposal from Darcy is met with the latter’s socially inexcusable refusal which leaves the Lady sputtering and hissing disdain for the entire Bennet family.

I have found that the first time I read this book, I was definately Elizabeth.  Now, about 15 years later, I am still Elizabeth Bennet.  I tend to jump to judgements, though not as quickly as before.  I am a fierce defender of my family, more now than before.  I have a sarcastic wit that I enjoy in myself, which is richer with the experiences of life and a better understanding of people.  I love and respect those who champion integrity and help the loved ones of the one one loves.  I am, however tempered with a little Jane: I do choose to believe people good until they prove themselves otherwise.

Like Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice could be modernized and be just as true and socially relative as in 1813.  Parents still desire for their grown children to be successful and  happily married to a good person.  Children still die of embarrassment when out in public with their parents.  And the fiercest enemies of happiness is our own friends and family. 

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7 Responses

  1. I’ve been thinking of re-reading Austen’s books as comfort reading. Reading your review first of Sense and Sensibility and then Pride and Prejudice is definitely encouraging me to do it. It’s always nice to go back and remind myself exactly why I love these books.

  2. I love this book! And I love several of the movie versions of this one including Bride and Prejudice.

  3. Sigh. This is my favorite book of all time, and I have a hard time imagining a book that could dethrone it. Elizabeth is also my favorite heroine of all time (with Anne Shirley coming in at a really close second). Thanks for blogging!

  4. This happens to be one of my favorite books. I did my senior thesis on Jane Austen and her books. I think P&P stands far above the others with S&S and Emma close behind. I to enjoyed all the verbal by play and the glimpses under the “veneerd” of gentelism that flowed through the book. I think that one of the reasons I was so drawn to Lizzy is because she seemed so very real – even Jane is a touch perfect for me. Lizzy has foibles but also a great heart. That comes through like a shining light and I truly enjoyed that aspect of the book.

    However, the thing that I find fascinating through out all of the books is the look into the parlours of that day. The mores of the society are clearly deliniated although some are being bent if not down right broken. It is like taking a step back in time – like visiting Williamsburg or Plymoth here in the States.

    I do value the psychological bits of the stories – but the pictures that it draws of that descrete period of English history is a wonder to behold.

  5. The first time I read this I hated it, but the second time through I entirely fell in love with Pride & Prejudice and it’s difficult not to. (What was wrong with me!?) It’s such a fun and easy read, and enticing enough I wrote a paper on it about female stock characters from the period.

  6. This book is one of my favourites ever!

  7. I love Jane Austen and everything she writes, though Pride and Prejudice was an enjoyable read for me, I think Mansfield Park is the best of Austen’s work. That being said, like you I do see similarities between myself and Elizabeth Bennet, we both can be pretty witty.

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