British Literature

Book Reviews Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen



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Jane Austen's delightful novel Pride and Prejudice was one of the very first romantic comedies ever written. Austen quickly captures the attention of her readers, as she does in all her novels, with wit, insight, and sundry characters. Pride and Prejudice is saturated with sarcasm, humor, romance, and thought-provoking issues of the time. Pride and Prejudice, written in the late 18th century, is the definitely most read of Austen's novels, and one I would personally recommend to anyone.

Austen's main character, Elizabeth Bennett, is the only daughter in a family of five daughters that has intellectual interests, spirit, and good sense. Her older sister Jane is beautiful, but exhibits a constant naivety in her sweetness and optimism. One of the three younger sisters, Mary, is studious, but unattractive and extremely socially awkward. The two youngest sisters, Kitty and Lydia, are both silly, flirtatious girls, always up to no good. Kitty and Lydia take after their anxious, silly, meddling mother, who is constantly at odds with her dry, sarcastic husband who openly favors Elizabeth. Watching daily lives of these characters unfold is entertaining to say the least.

With the opening sentence being: "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife," it is no wonder that Pride and Prejudice, along with most Austen novels, is consistently regarded as a marriage plot novel, a romance for female readers. However by categorizing it as such, the revolutionary literary aspects of Austen's writing are sometimes marginalized.

Austen was one of the first writers to use free indirect discourse in her novels; her narration is often complicated by its expressing of the thoughts of her main characters. Sometimes in Pride and Prejudice it is difficult to tell whose views the reader is receiving: Elizabeth Bennett's or Jane Austen's. Or are they one and the same? This method allows Austen to show ironic perspectives that are not necessarily to be attributed to her.

Austen's keen awareness of the world she lives in and its inhabitants is also remarkably clear in Pride and Prejudice. She mocks the pompous attitude of the upper class with Mr. Darcy's character, the life of clergymen with Mr. Collins', the idea of the dashing young officer with Mr. Wickham's, meddling mothers with Mrs. Bennett, along with other clear mimicking of different social characters.

With so many intricate lives and plot lines interwoven within this text, it is an easy novel to get completely engrossed in, and one that you will want to keep reading until you know the fate of each and every character. Austen, exhibiting great genius, makes you laugh, cry, question, and understand with her beautiful and complicated tale of 18th century courtship and daily life.

If you read Pride and Prejudice and find you love Austen's writing as much as I do, I would highly recommend reading another of her fine novels. Persuasion and Sense and Sensibility are my personal favorites after Pride and Prejudice. Whatever you do, do NOT see some movie or TV version of these novels and consider that enough. Though there are some fairly accurate film adaptations, none can capture Austen's quick, clever lines that never cease to bring smiles to my face and thoughts running through my mind.

Despite the modern times I am reading Austen in, Pride and Prejudice is a novel that closely observes not only the social hierarchy of the times in which it was written, but also human natures and personalities that are eternal. It is a truly a novel for everyone of every time and place.

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