Sunday, 16 May 2010

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

GENRE: classical novel

In Georgian England, Mrs. Bennet raises her five daughters Jane, Elizabeth, Mary, Kitty and Lydia with the purpose of getting them married to a rich husband that can support the family. They are not from the upper class, and their house in Hertfordshire will be inherited by a distant cousin, Mr Collins, if Mr. Bennet dies. When the wealthy bachelor Mr. Bingley and his best friend Mr. Darcy arrive in town to spend the summer in a mansion nearby their property, the shy and beautiful Jane falls in love for Mr. Bingley, while Lizzie finds Mr. Darcy a snobbish and proud man, and she swears to loathe him forever. This is the beginning of their wonderful love story.

I love to review classical novels. This time, my target is the famous and well-loved novel Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. I first read the novel when I was 15, and I’d heard of Jane Austen, but I’d never read an Austen book before, and I had no idea there was a BBC series starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle, so I had no expectations about the novel, or any prior opinions. This was a pure reading experience for me.

I love this time period. Regency England is exactly my cup of tea, from the historical point of view, as well as from the perspective of manners and culture that existed in England during that time. People were classy and knew their manners. Gentlemen would stand up when a woman stood up. They loved to dance. The courting procedure was really polite, and since couples had to be chaperoned until the wedding day, I can only imagine the powerful feelings of expectations going through their veins. Nowadays, everything’s served to us on silver platters, it seems. Back then, people appreciated things with stronger feelings. So yes, I guess what I’m trying to say is that one reason I love this novel is the presentation of the time period. In this respect, the novel really offers perfect escapism.

The characters and the humour are truly enjoyable. I really love Elizabeth. She is a woman of her time, but she’s not a goody-goody. Elizabeth is outspoken, intelligent, witty and confident. She loves her family and is devoted to her true friends. Her greatest flaw is prejudice. She’s perhaps a bit too confident, and that’s good, because I don’t like perfect characters, and Elizabeth is definitely not perfect. Elizabeth’s family is very colourful and they are fun to read about. Mr Bennet is a bit aloof and basically only respects Elizabeth and Jane, I think, although he has five children. Mrs Bennet is obsessed with marrying her daughters and with her epic poor nerves. Lydia is insipid and frivolous, and Kitty is always by her side, influenced in her silly behaviour by her sister Lydia. Mary is a pious, peculiar little thing. Jane is gentle, kind and always sees well in everyone, which almost costs her her happiness. I’ve already explained about Elizabeth. Indeed, the Bennet family is great to read about.

As for Mr Darcy, he is pretty epic, I think. He’s not my type, but he is a great man and a great character. At first, he’s very unpleasant and proud. His pride stems from his privileged position in society. He’s been pampered all his life. But at the same time, it is also a camouflage for his lack of social skills. He’s a silent, solitary man who doesn’t really do well in large crowds, for example a ball. He tries to hide that and ends up looking stiff and arrogant. He is also intelligent and he only speaks when he has something significant to say. He is also loyal and a good friend to Charles Bingley, Jane Bennet’s love. The things he does for his friend are not always admirable, but Darcy believes he does them in the name of friendship. Darcy really is a loyal companion.

Mr Collins, it seems, is from another planet. He’s really horrible, but great at the same time. You can’t help but laugh at him, he is so silly. He is so proud and happy that he is in Lady Catherine’s graces that it’s all he can think about. He’s really funny. Surprisingly enough, he is the first character that gets married. The novel also features a rogue, in the form of Mr Wickham, who causes a few problems because of his lies with which he seeks pity from others.

Elizabeth and Darcy’s love is epic, I have to say. Theirs is probably the first story in literature where a couple didn’t like each other at first. Their initial acquaintance is a clash between Darcy’s pride and Elizabeth’s prejudiced opinion about him. It is great to read, however, how she starts to see him in a different light – as he really is – and how he becomes more relaxed and friendly. They change each other for the better and really complement each other. They are not a forced couple; they really belong together naturally. They are perfectly compatible. It is evident in the end that Darcy’s and Elizabeth’s love for each other is genuine.

Apart from a wonderful story, this novel also offers a great insight into the society of that time. I have been reading about this period a lot for academic purposes, and this novel is really great to analyse as well. It’s a delightful read, and it’s very easy to fall in love with the story and Jane Austen’s beautiful period lingo.



Milka said...

Great review! And great blog! :)
Pride and Prejudice is my favorite book ever, and I believe it is going to remain as one for my whole life.
I think I have read it 6 times already this year! :D It is just one of those books I always go back to, there is always something new I find from it. I've got a great excuse to read P&P many times this year since I am doing extensive research essay about something related to P&P and Emma. :)

Good luck with your blog! :)

Laura @ A Jane of All Reads said...

This is one of my favorite books. It's a think of it and sigh book.


I love that you love it.

Emma said...

I just finished this great timing in your post! I did attempt to read it a few years ago, and never got past the first few pages. I'm so glad I picked it up again! Many of my classmates struggle with reading when the writing style is so different than that of today. I, on the otherhand, sort of enjoy the change of pace. It's a beautiful story! I adore that time peroid too, both for the fashion and manners that everyone exhibited.