Pride and Prejudice
Hello and welcome to The Young Reader's Review! Today is an awful day- the clouds have been vehemently spitting thick rain that has been smiting the streets all around, making bitterness and nostalgia of the sunny days of summer latently rise within us. Hopefully this book review will be a welcomed distraction from these sources of despair. So today I am going to be reviewing once again a must-read classic (perhaps you are starting to notice a recurrent pattern): Pride and Prejudice by the one and only Jane Austen.
This is one of those books that you will most probably cross paths with sometime in your education, either by perusing and studying it in the classroom or if curiosity snatches you and grips on to you. Anyway, you must read this classic since it is one of the best literary legacies from the Georgian Era (this era covers 1714-1830 and is marked by the reign of the four Hanoverian kings of Great Britain: George I- George IV) and is representative of the enormous transformations of this period. First, in this book, we can feel social, financial and proprietorial (land owning) tensions that are all chained to one another. If you own a significant property, you subsequently have in your possession large sums of money, which leads to your belonging to a dignified social class (and to a respectable reputation). This story’s plot is implanted in the milieu of the landed gentry. We also cannot forget that the air of the French Revolution (which begins in 1789) cannot help but pass in all of France’s adjacent kingdoms and empires. Great Britain is also persistently involved in the Napoleonic Wars (1793-1815). In Pride and Prejudice, the militia troops noticeably impact even the smaller British cities. The Enlightment period, apprises the people of sciences and literature creating doubts about religion and fueling the rise of secularity. Also, we will see how this is important to the plot, but women’s rights and gender and marriage roles start to be seen in another light. Young women are starting to rebel against arranged marriages. This might also be linked to the influence of the romantic movement.
This shouldn’t come to you as a big surprise but…the story is rather complex. Pride and Prejudice’s protagonist is called Elizabeth Bennet, and is twenty years old. She is the second eldest of the Bennet family, an upper-middle class family abiding in the Longbourn Estate in the fictional Meryton, Hertfordshire in England. Elizabeth is of a very modern nature despite her time period. She is a good-humored, complex but slightly impertinent young woman and is considered as one of Jane Austen’s most endearing and winsome main characters. But there is one enormous problem in the midst of this all: none of the five daughters of Mrs. and Mr. Bennet are married, and Jane, the eldest, is approaching twenty-two years of age. Another related problem is that due to a British law, when Mr. Bennet lies upon his deathbed, the estate and all its components will be entailed to a male family member, who is in this case a distant cousin called Mr. Collins. What an absolute tragedy! And what a surprise, a mysterious Mr. Bingley, a young, unmarried man, who apparently is wealthy, seems to have bought the estate next-door! So they are quite impatient to meet this Mr. Bingley at the next local ball. They also meet his dear friend, Mr. Darcy, a rich, disagreeable man whose proud demeanors prejudices Elizabeth against him. The book is centered around this equivocal relationship that will evolve. Coming back to the ball, Jane and Bingley start to feel mutual feelings for each other but Mr. Darcy disapproves of this relationship apparently because of the social gap between them. We find out later that this is not the real origin of this disapprobation. The two youngest daughters of the Bennet family head to a close town to go meet and flirt with the militia temporarily residing in Meryton. They accidentally meet an officer called Mr. Wickham who claims to have grown up with the former Mr. Darcy and his son. He describes Mr. Darcy as an odious man driven by jealousy due to the fact that Wickham was raised as if he was Mr. Darcy senior’s own son. But is this the truth? Suddenly, Mr. Collins, the future proprietor of the Longbourn Estate, comes to Meryton and asks Elizabeth to marry him. Elizabeth, repelled and revolted, refuses despite her mother’s begging. Mrs. Bennet wants to not only keep the property but also for one of her daughters to get married. Then, a couple of days later, Charlotte Lucas, Elizabeth’s best friend, announces her marriage with Mr. Collins. This perverse and manipulative act disgusts Elizabeth and makes her feel betrayed. As if things couldn’t get any worse, Mr. Bingley disappears and leaves for London without planning to come back. What has happened? And most of all, what will happen? Well, read the book.
Personally, I am an enormous fan of Jane Austen’s writing style. She mixes comedy, with romance and satire with a touch of realism (go see my review on Wuthering Heights to learn more on the Realist movement). This book is both a comedy of manners and a satire of contemporary society. This means that Pride and Prejudice is a criticism of all of these idiotic social norms, that hinder in this case love. Jane Austen decided to find fault within this era by mocking it. Elizabeth’s character, this imprudent but realistic character, is the perfect way for us to see the flaws in this society. Elizabeth’s remarks are often hilarious, especially when she chooses to ridicule her mother who is a traditionalist in her ways, and therefore mocks all traditionalists. So we can conclude that this book is based on very modern ideas.
This story, surprisingly enough, is a love story between Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet. I cannot develop this more without spoiling a myriad of other subplots that happen in this story. But Pride and Prejudice is one of English literature’s most famous and symbolic love stories. This might seem “out of the blue” since so many obstacles are in between them: the gap in between their social classes, Mr. Darcy’s exceedingly snobbish family members, Mr. Darcy’s negative and stigmatizing reputation and many other problems that will drive you completely non compos mentis. As I emphasized before, Elizabeth is in the beginning prejudiced and believes Mr. Darcy to be proud. Isn’t this a metaphor involving us all? Don’t we all have our false presumptions? I think that this is a lesson to learn and acknowledge. Also, as I said, we can tell that gender and marriage roles are evolving during this time period since Elizabeth refuses to marry Mr. Collins even though he can offer a respectable stability. But she doesn’t feel any attachment for him. We can also tell that this idea hasn’t been fully accepted yet from Mr. Bingley and Jane’s relationship. Yes, they do love each other but because of social norms and pressure, they cannot be together.
That is all for this week! I strongly hope that in this book review, I have beguiled you into rushing to your local bookstore or library to get the book! If you have already read Pride and Prejudice or you have been captivated by the story, I advise you to also get Jane Eyre (if you want, I will possibly review this in the future) by Charlotte Brontë which has the same sort of writing style and plot that touches on the same issues. Good reading and see you at the next review!