Unconditional Recommendation: Despite differing social classes, misunderstandings, ridiculous family members, prejudice and pride, Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy fall in love.
Genre: Romance, Classic
I was intimidated by this book for the longest time and instead of reading it I contented myself with watching the movie adaptations. It turns out that watching all those adaptations did a good job of familiarizing me with the culture! Once you get comfortable with Jane Austen’s language, Pride and Prejudice is an absolute delight to read. It’s intelligent, romantic, hilarious, and chock full of fascinating characters. The novel is complex with many things working together in just the right way that I know I won’t do it justice with this review. You’ll just have to read it for yourself!
Pride and Prejudice is the classic tale of the irrepressible Elizabeth Bennet—Jane Austen’s most fully realized heroine and a character not unlike her creator in that she possesses a dry wit, enjoys spotting a fool, and refuses to be taken lightly. The story begins as the people of rural Meryton scurry to marry their daughters off to Charles Bingley, a dashing and eligible bachelor who has taken an estate near the Bennets. At the village’s welcoming ball, Elizabeth meets up with a formidable adversary: Bingley’s closest friend, the cold, prideful, extremely wealthy Mr. Darcy, who piques her to new heights of antagonism. When Darcy arrogantly urges Bingley to give up his burgeoning courtship of Elizabeth’s sister, misunderstanding threatens to bury all he loves in turmoil and regret. A cautionary tale about the evils of hasty judgment, Pride and Prejudice is arguably one of the most satisfying love stories ever written.
The themes are in the title: pride and prejudice—Mr. Darcy’s behavior reflects the pride of the high social standing he was raised in and Elizabeth is prejudiced to think ill of him because of his wealth and social status. To these I would also add that Jane Austen provides insightful commentary about the culture of her time.
Once you get the hang of it, the language is delicious and expertly done. The phrasing and the dialogue are intelligent and full of insight. The pace is slow and I found it soothing.
Jane Austen has long been praised for her distinct characters and their development. I think to really enjoy this book, you have to learn how to see each character so you know whether to take them seriously or laugh at them—otherwise, the story could be confusing! Laugh or shake your head at the ridiculousness of Mrs. Bennet and her youngest daughter, Lydia; laugh at Mr. Bennet and his jokes at his family’s expense and Mr. Collin’s overwhelming social ineptitude; take Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy seriously and appreciate their misunderstandings and subsequent character growth. The characters are the story and Jane Austen gives you quite the array of personalities to enjoy!
Though Pride and Prejudice is often discussed for its portrayal of the time period, the book is a love story and one of the most beautiful I have read. The story is not plot-driven but character-driven. You will appreciate the romance of this book more if you understand the how the culture placed value on social class, standing, and income much more than it did on love or even compatibility. It was about what the person brought to the table than it was ever about that person’s character. Case and point: When Mrs. Bennet learns that Elizabeth is engaged to marry Mr. Darcy, she instantly throws out her ill feelings about him in favor of the wealth and good standing he’d bring to their family, while Mr. Bennet accepts the arrangement because of Mr. Darcy’s standing, he doesn’t give his full approval until Elizabeth convinces him of her love of Mr. Darcy. Against the backdrop of burdensome social expectations and the necessity of women to marry for their livelihood plays the story of misjudgments and misunderstandings transforming into a deep love—a love based on knowledge of the other person’s true character.
If you get into the book, the characters will stick with you and come up in conversation as if they are real people. You can further cement the experience by enjoying the many movie adaptations that each provide a different color to the story.
The ending matches Jane Austen’s style of storytelling perfectly: satisfying and serious, yet hilarious.