Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
When Elizabeth Bennet first meets eligible bachelor Fitzwilliam Darcy, she thinks him arrogant and conceited; he is indifferent to her good looks and lively mind. When she later discovers that Darcy has involved himself in the troubled relationship between his friend Bingley and her beloved sister Jane, she is determined to dislike him more than ever. In the sparkling comedy of manners that follows, Jane Austen shows the folly of judging by first impressions and superbly evokes the friendships, gossip and snobberies of provincial middle-class life.
My love of Jane Austen began with this novel. Her other works have fully supported this love, but this will always be my favourite. She really tells us a tale whilst teaching us a lesson in morality which is hinted to by the title of the novel. Both pride and prejudice are rife throughout the plot, being displayed by many of the characters, and the consequences of both of these traits are shown to us.
My favourite thing about Austen, and something which is prevalent in Pride and Prejudice is how economical she is in her writing. There are no trivial characters or plot developments - everything has its place for a reason. The novel is a lovely, smooth read because of this, and everything connects in quick succession, driving the plot forward.
As a love story, it’s wonderful and almost unusual in that it doesn't try to lull female readers into securities about how perfect a man should be. Our heroine falls for a deeply flawed character, and does so gradually. There is absolutely no notion of any sort of coup de foudre that normally happens in thousands of other romance novels. She realises she has judged the man too quickly, and too harshly, and slowly but surely falls for him. It’s by no means contrived, and I love it.
Austen's characterisation is always brilliant, in my eyes. She is able to conjure both love and hatred for a character so easily. She gives a great insight into the social norms of that time period simply by crafting her characters in a certain way. Mr. Bennet is my favourite character here, by far. He is incredibly witty and sarcastic, with a very low tolerance for idiots. He has absolutely no qualms of speaking his opinions of his daughters, no matter how disrespectful (but mostly correct) these are. I found him hilarious.
It's clear from Pride and Prejudice and her other works that Austen was questioning the position women held in society at that time. She shows a society where a women’s reputation is the most important thing to her, and she has to conform to certain behaviours to prevent her reputation being tarnished. Although gently making clear her opinions on the matter, she shows us later how serious the consequences would be should a woman behave in a different manner than expected.
Although this one is generally seen as women’s fiction, I’d definitely recommend this to anyone. I have known men to love this one, and to relate to Mr. Darcy on some level. It holds an important message which is conveyed in a very simple, light manner that is wonderful to take in.
69 / 66 books. 105% done!