PRIDE AND PREJUDICE
by Jane Austen
“I have not the pleasure of understanding you.”
Genre: Novel of manners
This week I’d like to talk about one of my favourite novels ever.
The few words I am writing to review won’t be enough to describe the marvellous world of Jane Austen’s works.
Jane Austen was born in Hampshire in southern England, and there she spent most of her life.
She started writing when she was almost twelve, only for her family’s amusement, and in 1797 she started sending her works to publishers in London.
She turned down a proposal of marriage in 1802.
In 1803 she tried to publish Northanger Abbey, but because of certain circumstances the novel did not get into publication, not till 1818 in a revised version after her death.
In 1811 she published Sense and Sensibility, in 1813 Pride and Prejudice, and in 1815 Mansfield Park.
In 1816 she published Emma, while Persuasion – and as I said the revised version of Northanger Abbey – were published posthumously in 1818.
“A lady” was the name that identified the author of these novels, and her real name was not associated to these works.
When Austen died she was forty – one, and she never got married.
Mr and Mrs Bennet live with their five daughters at Longbourn estate, in Hertfordshire.
According to the society of their time, these five girls must get married at once.
The arrival of a single, rich man called Mr Darcy is seen by Mrs Bennet as an opportunity to make him a future husband for one of her daughters.
But why is Pride and Prejudice one of the most famous novels ever written?
Probably because while reading it, we feel as if we are living each narrated event beside the characters of the story.
Maybe because the story is so close to our reality, there is nothing impossible to understand.
There are real feelings and realistic characters with their own attitudes and ideas towards life, and we – as readers – have the chance to decide who is acting or behaving in a good or bad way according to our way of thinking.
And till the end of the story we cannot stop crossing our fingers in favour of the easily predictable happy ending.
A great relevant feature – I could say the main one! – of this novel is the very opening of it.
In just a few lines Jane Austen makes a brief but clear description of the ruling theme across the whole story: the role (or the importance as you prefer) of marriage in the English society of her time.
These few lines are the “instructions for use” on how to read it.
And immediately below these first lines, the author introduces us to characters who are not the protagonists of the story (Mr and Mrs Bennet) but who, despite their margin role, make us clear what the story will talk about.
As if the opening lines were an introduction to a general subject, and the two characters mentioned show to us the precise and unique aspect of that vast subject, acting like a magnifying glass.
I like to think that the first dialogue, between Mr and Mrs Bennet, is a well done summary of the entire plot.
Love & Money must be considered as bounded themes throughout the novel, as the opening of it declares.
Don’t forget that a good marriage was the only financial security for a girl of that era.
It is hard to keep your pride when you are poor, like Elizabeth, and you perfectly know that for your own sake – and for your family’s one – you must get married.
According to the author’s point of view, if you are to be rewarded with a good marriage, it doesn’t matter if you are not good looking, if you don’t have a fortune, you must be sensitive, intelligent and have an open mind.
It happened to me to hear that the love story between Elizabeth and Darcy is nonsense and boring.
Of course they couldn’t fall in love since the very first time they met.
There would be no story, no reason why going on writing about them.
A happy ending story could be considered as boring o as something un-new.
Yes, I do agree.
I can’t stand to much tenderness or love, but in this case, Jane Austen was absolutely able to hide a love story behind the intricate plot made up with different events till its very ending.
And remember that it is not all about the couple Darcy – Elizabeth.
The reader has the chance to choose the character/s s/he prefers the most.
So, you could be more interested, for example, in knowing what will happen to Mr Bingley instead of all the other male characters.
And the fact that the Bennets have only daughters, no son, is another opportunity to recognize ourselves (women) in one of them.
There’s no the tyranny of one main character.
It is interesting how Pride and Prejudice was quickly translated.
In January 1813 the novel was published, and by July of the same year a French translation came out on a Swiss journal which was called Bibliotèque Britannique.
But Jane Austen had no idea about it, she wasn’t paid any copyright, and she was not told that her book had been translated.
If you have never read it, go immediately to the closest bookshop and buy this novel and read it.
And as I’ve already said in one of my reviews, don’t procrastinate your reading!