Pride and Prejudice is the first Jane Austen novel that I read after having watched the movie version. I loved the movie and that persuaded me to read the book as well. The book is based on a love story between two people of seemingly conflicting or opposing behaviours (one exhibiting pride and the other prejudice. The cliché here being ‘opposites attract’) and it also gleans over the socio-economic conditions of 18th and 19th century Europe.
The author, with her classical writing (and Jane did that like a pro), brings us closer to the norms of her time – such as the affinity of society towards people of class; the trend of marrying girls early; aristocratic manners & gestures of bowing and curtsey as tokens of respect; the romance of ballroom dancing; the conventional method of people’s communication via formal connotations and much more (I wish I had a time machine to travel back into that era!). The magic of which could only be felt while reading the novel.
Jane Austen’s eloquence just blows my mind! The bland and simple everyday dialogues are transformed into such eloquent phrases that I couldn’t help but reread those sentences to entrench myself in the rain of magical rhetoric showered by this magician of an author.
Secondly, the reason I liked the story particularly is because of the characters – their buildup and forthcoming transition in the novel. I would go as far as saying that this story could also be categorized as a thriller one! Because you would find yourself judging and critiquing the protagonist at some point while reading, but you would soon realize—as the story unfolds—that you were so very wrong; especially with regards to Darcy and Wickham.
The story is set in the early 19th century and revolves around Mr and Mrs Bennet with their five daughters. Their socio-economic condition can be described as middle-class. And so, like every other traditional middle-class family, the Bennets are concerned about getting their daughters married to a handsome, rich and ‘agreeable’ young man.
The female protagonist, Elizabeth Bennet or ‘Lizzie’, is the second daughter of the Bennets. Her elder sister, Jane Bennet is her closest friend and the one on which the sword of marriage is hanging. The story takes a twist with the arrival of two noble and young men in their vicinity. One of them being the male protagonist — Fitzwilliam Darcy and another, his closest friend, Charles Bingley. With the aroma of these four characters, Wickham (the anti-hero) and sisters of Mr Bingley, Austen creates the delicious potpourri of Pride and Prejudice.
Elizabeth taught me to be headstrong and to make choices on one’s own terms.
What I learned from the characters:
What I liked about her –
“There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises at every attempt to intimidate me.”
She is a no-nonsense kinda girl. And I loved that part of her. Elizabeth taught me to be headstrong and to make choices on one’s own terms. She didn’t care how superior in status anyone was, for if her self-respect was injured she would not bat an eye in promptly clapping back.
If she had wished, she could have accepted the marriage proposal by her cousin (William Collins). But she said an outright no — despite coercion from her mother. And she repeated this pattern! No matter what, she never compromises on her values, on her worth or any other x,y,z thing.
What I didn’t like about her –
“There are few people whom I really love, and still fewer of whom I think well. The more I see of the world, the more am I dissatisfied with it, and every day confirms my belief of the inconsistency of all human characters, and of the little dependence that can be placed on the appearance of merit or sense.”
This pessimism is what made me doubt her otherwise smart and witty self. I think humanity is not worthless. Humans, despite all their flaws, are loving creatures. We must learn to see the goodness in people & not judge them right away.
Secondly, I didn’t like her tendency to yield to her temper and prejudice. The way she rejected the proposal by Mr Darcy wasn’t a respectable denial but a vengeful refusal, as evident by the dialogue,“I had not known you a month before I felt that you were the last man in the world whom I could ever be prevailed on to marry”.
People could learn what consent is from Darcy.
What I liked about him –
People could learn what consent is from Darcy. He was prepared to accept and respect a rejection of his proposal and the no means NO. Something all men can definitely learn from. Despite Elizabeth’s harsh refusal to his proposal, he responds by saying – “Forgive me madam for having taken up so much of your time and accept my best wishes for your good health and happiness” (this dialogue stole my heart – literally).
There was no coercion from him. No deliberate convincing. No hard feelings. No hogwash. In fact, he started respecting her more after that, as was apparent by his respect towards her distant family as the story proceeds.
When he proposed to her again(after being sure of Lizzie’s feelings towards him), he still didn’t force it on her and was willing to happily accept whatever her decision was, as evident by this dialogue – “If your feelings are still what they were last April, tell me so at once. My affections and wishes are unchanged, but one word from you will silence me on this subject forever.”
His character also teaches us not to be revengeful of people who hurt us. If he had wished, he could have ruined Mr Wickham’s life, but he decided not to. And that’s the essence of mercy that every human should inculcate and learn from.
What I didn’t like about Mr Darcy –
Apart from some of his romantic traits, Darcy is a douchebag! I mean, really! Who proposes to a girl with, “In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed“, and follows that with condescending and insulting remarks about her family?
Okay, he was being honest and didn’t want to flatter her by false humility as he believed (“Nothing is more deceitful than the appearance of humility”. But dude – get some diplomacy classes! Sometimes it’s not okay to flaunt your moral ethics.
If he teaches how to respect rejection, he also teaches how not to start a proposal. Besides, he is a narcissist, disparaging, self-conceited and extremely proud man. Just because you inherited your father’s good fortunes does not in any way give you a free pass to shove your superiority in people’s faces. If this was not enough, he decided to meddle in his best friend’s personal love affair by his not-so-Sherlockian observational skills and almost risked ruining his friend’s love life!
And thus, I finish my first book review. I would recommend everyone to read this novel at least once in their lifetime, for it has a lot of wisdom to be taken from apart from the “oh-so-romantic” love story of Elizabeth and Darcy.
Also Read – The Yellow Wallpaper Review: When Medical Science Failed Women
Featured image used for representative purpose only. Image source: Mental Floss