Classic Review: Pride and Prejudice

1 March 2016

By Lauren E. White

Jane Austen opens one of literature’s most well-known novels with the declaration that ‘it is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife’. This sentence is both one of the most celebrated in the English language and a summary of Pride and Prejudice‘s plot before the novel has even begun.

Pride and Prejudice tells the story of five young sisters and their predetermined quest to find a partner. The eldest of the brood is Jane Bennett who is blessed with beauty and a good nature, followed by the protagonist Elizabeth Bennett, Mary, Kitty and the problematic teenager Lydia who later goes on to elope with the infamously manipulative Wickham.

Mrs Bennett in the BBC's 1959 adaptation of 'Pride and Prejudice'
Mrs Bennett in the BBC’s 1959 adaptation of ‘Pride and Prejudice’

While Austen’s novel provides so much character to observe as a reader, I couldn’t help feeling that the novel was ‘missing something’ throughout. As Austen writes without sentiment and poetic prose, it was often hard to form an emotional bond with Pride and Prejudice and the character of Mr Darcy with whom Miss Elizabeth Bennett eventually falls in love. Darcy’s character comes along with connotations of a sex symbol and the man all women should want. However, Austen barely shows any of his relationship with Lizzy, making it difficult to form opinions on his character, which is extremely disappointing.

Despite Pride and Prejudice‘s distinctive frank style being difficult to adapt to, Austen does make it work through the heroine as well as her mother and father. Elizabeth Bennett is her father’s favourite daughter and the one he thinks has the most sense (which is not surprising due to the fact Lydia and Kitty daydream about men all day, Mary may as well join a nunnery and Jane is too kind for her own good), while her mother – who has a constantly nervous disposition – prefers her eldest and most beautiful daughter. Lizzy is the most human of all the sisters and is prejudiced against Mr Darcy as she misinterprets his character completely. She also stands up to his proud, arrogant manners and tells a man with great power and wealth exactly what she thinks of him, showing how truly strong her character is.

rising courage
A quote from the protagonist, Lizzy Bennett

Almost a year after Darcy’s first proposal, Lizzy falls in love with him and that’s when the novel gets interesting again. For me, Pride and Prejudice is almost like a rollercoaster ride: one minute you love it, the next you struggle to read it and then you love it again. While Pride and Prejudice is not the greatest novel ever written, it is one that everyone should read with its redeeming romantic comedy style entertaining the reader throughout.

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