Okay, so I forced myself to finally read Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. I felt that as an English major and an English teacher, I should have read this classic. I was already aware of the basic story line and characters in this novel. Then I saw the movie. So, I figured it was time to read the book.
Let’s begin by talking about why this novel is so significant and why it’s still read and talked about today. Firstly, Jane Austen was a woman – yes, a woman! and the mere fact that she was a published author 200 years ago (although she was published anonymously) is impressive. She wrote with truth and represented the times she lived in in the most eloquent use of the English language. Now, to some of you, this language is extremely difficult. She uses many “big” words that were commonplace in her day. Additionally, her sentence structure tends to be very long, making it easier to get confused.
The universal truths and ideas that Austen presents are timeless. Despite our rise of technology, relationships and people really are the same. People are constantly drawn to the relationships of the characters. We get to see many types of relationships depicted in this novel – it is not a simple love story about Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. There is Mr. and Mrs. Bennet, Jane Bennet and Mr. Bingly, Charlotte Lucas and Mr. Collins, and Lydia and Mr. Wickham.
This is a time when marriage, money and family, were of the highest importance. The novel begins,
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”
From the first line we are forced to look at the idea of wealth and the need to marry. This is of a time when women didn’t own property, so it was imperative to make a good marriage. Mr. Bennet only has daughters, so when he passes, his property will go to Mr. Collins, a distant cousin. Mrs. Bennet is consumed with finding good mates with deep pockets for her daughters. She claims that she married for love, and where did that get her?
This is where our lead character of Elizabeth Bennet gets interesting. She is not consumed with the idea of marriage, or impressing men at local balls. She is a great observer who speaks her mind and will not compromise her happiness for financial benefit. In fact, Mr. Collins first proposes to Elizabeth and she denies him – several times. Watching Elizabeth portray a strong-willed and intelligent female character is fun to read.
If you’re interested in reading a period piece of literature, with interesting relationships, and long sentences, then this book is for you It’s sure to improve your vocabulary if nothing else.