It will come as no surprise that this is the first book to reach three re-reads since I started The Oddness of Moving Things. I read it twice in 2013, January and August, in honor of its 200th publication date.
What WILL come as a surprise is that I was supposed to read this for our final installment of Jane Austen Book Group and I didn’t! Everything was so busy and I somehow got so flustered that I didn’t read it in time. Thankfully, I know the story so well and had read the Marvel Illustrated version earlier this year, I was capable of discussing it without too much effort. I did know that as soon as I finished trudging through The Dante Club I had to get this re-read to feel as if I’d completed our Jane Austen Book Club for the year! And it’s a great refresher before I dive right into Prejudice & Pride a “gender-bendy twist” on the original by Lynn Messina that comes out December 15th.
I didn’t go into this re-read with any expectations or any goals in mind other than to read it quickly as I felt so guilty missing it for book group. We had great discussions about why Austen is considered chick-lit and why so many men completely discount her without having ever read or even attempted to understand her wit. So much of this lands on the genre “domestic fiction,” because you know domestic = home; and home = female domain; and therefore sexism and patriarchy prevails. I mean nothing exciting ever happens in a home or in the female domain am I right? (That’s sarcasm if you don’t get it.)
The other thing that we spent time discussing was the relationships of Austen’s minor characters. I know I’ve written about Mr. and Mrs. Bennet previously, but their characters were reinforced this time for me. I think this stems from our discussions at book group.
I read this in a new light:
“Mr. Bennet was so odd a mixture of quick parts, sarcastic humor, reserve, and caprice, that the experience of three and twenty years had been insufficient to make his wife understand his character. Her mind was less difficult to develop. She was a woman of mean understanding, little information, and uncertain temper. When she was discontented she fancied herself nervous. The business of her life was to get her daughters married; its solace was visiting and news.” (7)
Austen lets us know from the beginning of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet’s irresponsibility and then again reinforces it after everything that happens in the novel. The reader is left wondering if the Bennet’s have learned anything. Mr. Bennet clearly seems to have returned to his ways, at least in this passage,
“He then recollected her embarrassment a few days before on his reading Mr. Collins’s letter; and after laughing at her some time, allowed her at last to go–saying, as she quitted the room, ‘If any young men come for Mary or Kitty, send them in, for I am quite at leisure.'” (315)
His teasing of Elizabeth is both expected and yet odd after everything has happened. I don’t know for some reason this just intrigued me. The story clearly would not have been the same had either of the Bennet’s been more inclined to raise all of their daughters as Jane and Elizabeth appear to have raised themselves, but would it have as much draw? I don’t think so.
Revisiting the book and the Bennet’s again peeked my interest in checking out some of the fan-fiction pieces that are dedicated to the lesser characters including those focusing on Georgiana Darcy and Mary Bennet, I mean to take such a minor character (like Jane Fairfax here, here and here) and make an entire story of them fascinates me.
Recommendation: Read it. Nothing more needs to be said and if it does someone has said it. Or you could read my fan-boy love letter to Austen from January 2013 or my somewhat less fan-boy review from August 2013.
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 to avoid spoilers, highlight to read.)
Additional Quotes from Pride and Prejudice
“She hardly knew how to suppose that she could be an object of admiration in so great a man; and yet that he should look at her because he disliked her was still more strange. She could only imagine however, at last, that she drew his notice because there was a something about her more wrong and reprehensible, according to his ideas of right, than in any other person present. The supposition did not pain her. She liked him too little to care for his approbation.” (45)
“I have made no such pretension. I have faults enough, but they are not, I hope, of understanding. My temper I dare not vouch for. It is, I believe too little yielding—certainly too little for the convenience of the world. I cannot forget the follies and vices of others as soon as I ought, nor their offenses against myself. My feelings are not puffed about with every attempt to move them. My temper would perhaps be called resentful. My good opinion once lost is lost for ever.” (50-51)
“I cannot fix on the hour, or the spot, or the look, or the words, which laid the foundation. It is too long ago. I was in the middle before I knew that I had begun.” (317)