Happy Christmas season, my friends! We are so excited for the holidays this year!
Today I am excited to share some thoughts on a favorite classic of mine, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. This is a classic classic—the pinnacle of the time and the author. It is so well known and so beloved. And for so many worthwhile reasons!
First published in 1813, Pride and Prejudice has been in print ever since, selling millions of copies world wide. It is also one of the most adapted novels of all time. There are so many adaptations worth talking about that I may need to write an adaptations post to do them all justice. I think what makes Pride and Prejudice so popular is the timeless nature of the themes and characters. Austen brilliantly illustrates family drama, relationships between people of different social classes, love stories, the danger of holding to first impressions, and the power of redemption.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen is the story of a family of five sisters who laugh, make mistakes, take care of each other, and fall in love. Goodreads summarizes, “One of the most beloved books of all time, Pride and Prejudice-Jane Austen’s most popular book- has been resonating with readers since it was first published in 1813 and has been adapated many times for television, movies, and books. When headstrong and independent Elizabeth Bennet, one of five sisters, is required to find a wealthy husband, her encounter with the arrogant Mr. Darcy leads to one of the most entertaining and satisfying courtships ever imagined. Beyond the romance, Pride and Prejudice is a book full of humor and wit that is also a commentary on upper-class social manners at the turn of the nineteenth century.”
My first experience with this story was watching the 6 hour BBC adaptation with Colin Firth with my grandma; and that movie continues to be special to me. I love that movie! I remember when we got it for Christmas one year and stayed up super late Christmas night to finish it. I also watched it with my mom when I was recovering from the birth of my first child. I love the beautiful acting and how true to the novel they made this adaptation–so much of the dialogue is straight from the novel. This continues to be a favorite of mine. However, I didn’t first read the novel until my senior year of high school when it was assigned summer reading for my AP Literature course. I remember loving it.
Why do I love this novel? There are so many reasons.
First, the beautiful language feeds my soul. There is just something about the way Austen writes that captivates me. Like Kathleen Kelly, “I get lost in the language.” I love the way that a glance or a single word can change an evening or a relationship like when Darcy and Elizabeth share a look over the piano at Pemberley. Austen takes a relatively small group of people and gives us the details of their rather normal lives. But because of her beautiful language, the story is engaging and charming.
Second, I love the differing flat and complex characters. Like many girls, I idolized (still do really) Elizabeth Bennett. I like to think I am like her in some ways. I love that she is a strong, independent woman who is loyal and loving. But perhaps even more so, I love that she misjudges Darcy and rebuilds their relationship. I love the way Darcy fights against and then fights for Elizabeth. I also love Elizabeth’s Aunt and Uncle Gardner. Their experiences at Pemberley are a favorite sequence of mine. I love contrast between Elizabeth’s parents–the ridiculous way Mrs. Bennett’s nerves overcome her and the ironic, bookish way her father interacts with his family. I laugh at Jane’s determination to think the best of everyone and at the ridiculous nature of Mr Collins proposal to Lizzie. I roll my eyes at Lydia’s naive and love sick ways and cringe as we learn more about Mr Wickham’s true character. All of these characters are memorable, but they are also so different. We know people just like them; people who are proud, brownnosers, kind people, silly people, wise and foolish. It is these relatable characters that make Austen’s story so easy to connect with.
And of course, I adore the beautiful love stories in this novel (and enjoy the stark contrasts in marriages). Darcy and Elizabeth are two of the most classic lovers in all of literature. I love their journey to love. They both make mistakes and they both learn to see each other for their true selves. I appreciate the simple, intense love shared between Bingley and Jane, two people who have no equals for kindness and generosity in this novel or elsewhere. I think the proposals in this novel are great fun ranging from the ridiculous to the arrogant to the sincere. Additionally, I appreciate the contrasts between marriages in this novel. We have Darcy and Elizabeth & Bingley and Jane who are perfectly suited for each other and happy. Then we have Charlotte Lucas (who wants only her own home rather than love in marraige) and Mr Collins. And, of course, Wickham and Lydia who are ill fit for each other and for marriage in general. Austen once again gives us compelling and wise commentary on the importance of choosing our best match.
On this reread, I was struck by the compelling themes in this novel. This is a love story. But it is also a story of agency, redemption, forgiveness, and family. Nearly every character in this novel changes from the start to the end of the novel. Yes, Mrs Bennett may always be rather ridiculous and I don’t think Lydia is really that different. But most others are. Some are obvious, like Elizabeth and Darcy. But others are more subtle like Mr Bennett who comes to understand his role as a father a little better or Kitty who is able to find a better path than Lydia. Or even Lady Catherine de Bourgh who must come to terms with the fact that she cannot force the choices of everyone she knows. If I was going to write a graduate thesis or a term paper on Pride and Prejudice, I think I would focus on the ways some of the minor characters (Kitty, Mr Bennett, Mrs Gardner, etc) seek forgiveness and how that forgiveness builds their character.
Why should you read this novel?
If for some reason, you haven’t already read this novel, I highly recommend it! Here are a few reasons why I hope you’ll consider it:
- You probably know or at least have been exposed to the story so it is easy to follow.
- I think it’s the most accessible of Austen’s novels. The plot is fairly fast paced and the language is easy to understand.
- It’s a beautiful love story
Why do you love Pride and Prejudice?
What is your favorite Austen novel?