Pride and Prejudice
supposed to be a re-read, I am positive I read “Pride and Prejudice” some 20
years ago, but except for recalling the names of the main protagonists, it turned
out that I remembered absolutely nothing from first time round. So, this felt
as a first read. I am a bit disappointed with myself, “Pride and Prejudice” is
a good enough book to be recalled even that many years later.
In many ways
“Pride and Prejudice” resembles the earlier “Sense and Sensibility”, but given
that we are dealing with the same period, women from the same station in life
and protagonists with similar traits, that is likely to be expected. Certainly,
I can pour very similar praise onto the books.
Bennet is one of five sisters being raised by a very liberal gentleman father
and a silly, emptyheaded mother from a lower station. Stations in life is super
important in Austen’s worlds and the Bennet family is well enough off that they
live in a manor with butler and maids, but not considered wealthy or important
as such. Elizabeth is a smart and perceptive woman and her main difference from
Elinor is that she is frank and independent minded. Traits that also sets her
apart from women in general in this book.
revolves around her relations with a gentleman (from a higher station) called
Mr. Darcy. When they meet early on, Darcy’s friend Mr. Bingley starts a
relationship with Elizabeth’s sister Jane, Darcy feels superior to Elizabeth
family and refuse any interaction (pride), and Elizabeth in her place forms an
image of Darcy as a haughty and very unlikable character (prejudice). Although
we as readers sense already in the early pages of the book that there is a
similarity of mind between these two characters, in their heads they could not
be farther from each other.
development of the story is how these two sentiments are gradually broken down in
a process where both of them learns to check themselves and get a better
perspective on the both themselves and the world around them. The immediate
agency may be a partiality, to use an Austen word, or love to be more vulgar,
but that is way too simple. That is just what sets them in motion. The real
agency is their interaction, how learning about each other and seeing more
sides to the coin breaks down initial perceptions. I think this is the element
that I like the most about “Pride and Prejudice”. Instead of taking the easy
way (a love story) and some melodrama to form a crisis, this is about character
development and not through magic and a friendly writer, but in ways we can
relate to as real people.
not be Austen though if the world was not populated with curious characters.
Like “Sense and Sensibility” all principal and quite a few of the secondary
characters have traits so pronounced to be almost caricatures. This makes them
highly entertaining, but Austen never goes so far as to make them unrealistic.
Mrs. Bennet is the fussy and emptyheaded mother, Mr. Collins the pedantic and
servile clergyman, Catherine de Bourgh haughty and arrogant, Lydia Bennet frivolous
and stupid. My favorite character is Elizabeth father, Mr. Bennet who has
decided to enjoy the entertainment value of all the ridiculousness going on
around him rather than being rattled by it. He takes a slightly cynical view,
but is entirely lovable.
Beside the character
development theme, there are a lot of currents going through “Pride and Prejudice”.
Again, we have a window into the world from women’s perspective which from my
point of view appears frustratingly limited. Elizabeth however is a pattern
breaker, the beginning of a rebel, simply for forming her own mind and acting
on it, but ever so often the women are left to sit back and worry, leaving the
acting to the men. I sense Austen feels this confinement, but the rebellion
starts from a very repressed point. We also get a lot of insights into the do’s
and don’t’s in the Regency world of gentility. So much is said and done by
hints and mutual understanding of the codes and we are not even talking about
the Victorian era. We get insights into what forms the ultimate in humiliation
and degradation when Elizabeth’s sister elopes with the scoundrel Wickham.
Prejudice” feels slightly more mature than “Sense and sensibility” but ticks
all the same boxes. I had a great time reading it and can absolutely recommend
it, although I may be the last person in the universe to discover it.