[For less fan-boy love and more response check out my August 2013 response here.]
Swoon. That’s my review, that’s it. I have nothing more to say. And that has nothing to do with Mr. Darcy, okay well maybe a little, but not as much as you’d think. And just to provide you with fair warning, this isn’t so much a review or response as it is a fan-boy “I love you Jane Austen” post. So read on if you like, you’ve been warned!
I’m not sure how many times I’ve read Pride and Prejudice, but I definitely feel like I should read it more often! I planned this re-read to coincide with the 200th Anniversary and I’m glad I did because it had been far too long! It also counted as one of my re-reads for The Classics Club. Hopefully the next time I re-read this novel I will be able to write about the characters or the story and have less fan-boy love, but I honestly doubt it, I mean look at all the crazy spinoffs I read even though they can never approach the original!
Honestly, I think it’s very difficult to talk about a book like this. I mean 200 years of intense debate and like/dislike pretty much covers everything you could possibly talk about. I mean you could check out this article (thank you Harvard Book Store) or you could even check out this blog post from Bitch Magazine‘s Adventures in Feministory series which includes the great observation,
“Austen may have a reputation in the popular imagination as the author of proto–chick-lit novels with sentimental love stories, but readers who pay close attention know that there’s quite a bit of realism–and feminism–in her fiction. Elizabeth has backbone. She knows what she’s worth, and she holds out for what Shakespeare would call a ‘marriage of true minds.'”
And ends with an even better line,
“But Pride and Prejudice makes us believe that strong women will be rightly valued–and that equality can be the most romantic trait of all.”
But even with these two articles you have maybe 1/1,000,000 of the ideas that have been expressed about this one novel. (Yes, I am aware both of these two articles are pro-Austen, but would you expect less from me?) For me, Pride and Prejudice isn’t just about the love stories* it really is about the feminism and the amazing insight a young author observed of those around her.
Look at it this way, Austen wrote this novel when she was 21. Now, I’m not sure about the rest of you, but I was a bit of an idiot at 21 (but nowhere near as bad as many I knew). To think that she was able to observe, digest and then (sometimes scathingly) critique the society around her is brilliant. What were you doing at 21? Was it something that will last more than 200 years?
At 21 years of age, Austen was aware enough of the world around her to write about the injustices of male inheritance, about the lack of female education and even about class-issues (even if they are within the same ‘class’); she wrote what many interpret as scathing critiques of an overbearing (necessarily or not is up to you) mother, a negligent (again up to you) father and the pitfalls of duplicity and misdirection. Could she have personally experienced all of this in her short life, yes, did she that we no of, no. So clearly, her ability to create stories out of her observations is undeniable and the fact that they have stood the test of time only goes to further support her genius.
And as a final note just on this version I read, I found a typo and was at a completely loss. On page 279 the following sentence appeared, “She had ventured only one glance at Darby.” Yes, Darby. I thought I’d misread it, but I read the sentence four or five times and flagged it to go back to. Of all the things to misspell or to not catch in this classic it makes me laugh that it was that!
*So it is somewhat about the love stories I mean seriously Darcy and Elizabeth; but even more so, the awkwardness of Jane and Bingley – hello, have you met me? And let’s face it romance isn’t like this anymore and neither are romance novels. Look at the last ‘romance novel’ I read (Dirty Laundry) and how fast everything happened – 3 MONTHS! This book takes place over two years and love slowly develops, and of course there’s lust and it’s even alluded to, but the time and the presence. YES.
Recommendation: READ IT! And it only gets better with re-reads, you notice more, you pick up new ideas. I also think it is (one of) the most approachable of Austen’s novels, the language isn’t as bogged down or archaic as many of the others and the story flows effortlessly.
Opening Line: “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”
Closing Line: “With the Gardiners they were always on the most intimate terms. Darcy, as well as Elizabeth, rally loved them; and they were both ever sensible of the warmest gratitude towards the persons who, by bringing her into Derbyshire, had been the means of uniting them.” (Whited out.)
Additional Quotes from Pride and Prejudice
“Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance. If the dispositions of the parties are ever so well known to each other, or ever so similar beforehand, it does not advance their felicity in the least. They always continue to grow sufficiently unlike afterwards to have their share of vexation, and it is better to know as little as possible of the defects of the person with whom you are to pass your life.” (21)
“‘I certainly have not the talent which some people possess,’ said Darcy, ‘ of conversing easily with those I have never seen before. I cannot catch their tone of conversation, or appear interested in their concerns, as I often see done.'” (149)