It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.
This semester I am taking a course called Literature and Media; in this course, we read books, view their adaptation(s), and discuss. Our first novel was Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Of course, I had extreme prejudice against this novel. I have lived my whole life without reading Jane Austen and was somewhat content with that. However, it’s a classic, and me being me, I was probably going to read it eventually. And now I have! And I was pleasantly surprised. Huzzah.
I’m sure most of you know the premise of the novel because A) it’s a classic and you’ve heard summaries; B) it’s a classic and you’ve read it; or C) you’ve seen an adaptation, whether that be the popular 2005 Hollywood film or the BBC miniseries. For those of you who don’t know anything about the novel, it’s about a family called the Bennet’s. We have (in order of eldest to youngest) Jane, Elizabeth, Mary, Kitty, and Lydia. This novel is set in the early 19th century England, so it’s pretty much centered around social class, money, and marriage. The Bennet’s aren’t the most wealthy family in England and, having no son, will lose the estate once Mr. Bennet dies. Mrs. Bennet’s sole concern in life is to get all five of her daughters married so that they can live a life that’s not in poverty. So basically, the entire novel is spent on the Bennet sisters and their endeavors to get married. Mainly, it focuses on the eldest sisters (Jane and Elizabeth) and the new neighbors in the area (Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy).
I started this novel with full intentions of hating it. By chapter 5, I still hated it. I thought it was a bunch of catty women whose sole purpose was to get married and have babies. The end. That’s it. However, after my first lecture on the first dozen chapters of the novel, I began to change my mind. This professor can literally get me to understand and appreciate anything, even if I don’t necessarily like it. She is wildly intelligent and pretty much my idol. I learned about 19th century England, entailments, social class structures, and the huge importance of being married during this time. I put myself in that time period and began to understand why certain characters acted a specific way and why things happened the way they did. After that, it was much more enjoyable to read.
The language can be a little hard to read at first, but if you keep pushing through it, eventually it will become second nature to you. I thought Austen was a little too wordy…however, she was wordy without over-explaining things. I’m not a fan of extreme detail, so I actually liked that aspect. However, I think Austen used a lot of words to explain some things that could easily be explained quicker. I do, though, understand that this was written in the 19th century and this is how people wrote and spoke.
There are a lot of characters introduced in this novel and it takes a long time to keep track of them all. However, they each have their own unique personalities and are easily distinguished from one another. I loved how different the characters were. I thought Mrs. Bennet was a basketcase most of the time, and her husband was my absolute favorite character; his snarky, sarcastic remarks made me laugh out loud:
“An unhappy alternative is before you, Elizabeth. From this day you must be a stranger to one of your parents. Your mother will never see you again if you do not marry Mr. Collins, and I will never see you again if you do.”
I liked how snarky Elizabeth was as well, and how she was intelligent and spoke her mind. A lot of people in my class hated Darcy, but I adored him. Sure, sometimes he seemed like an incentive jerk, but I like to think of him more as shy yet brutally honest.
The scene in which Elizabeth receives Darcy’s letter is the turning point in this novel. The first half doesn’t see much action or drama, but after the letter, it’s a lot more exciting to read. The rest of the novel goes by quickly and interestingly. If you can make it to the letter, you’re in for a pretty great novel (surprisingly). I think one of the greatest things about being an English major is kind of forcing yourself to read things you wouldn’t normally pick up. And I definitely would not have picked up Pride and Prejudice on my own… If you’re like me in that regard, give it a shot anyway. I’m not really a romance-novel type of girl, but I actually liked this novel, so hey, you might too.
Favorite Quote(s): “A lady’s imagination is very rapid; it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony, in a moment.”
“…angry people are not always wise”
“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.”