lørdag den 11. februar 2023

Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen (1813)


Pride and Prejudice

This is 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.

Elizabeth 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.

The story 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.

The 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.

This would 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.

“Pride and 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.

9 kommentarer:

  1. I'm with you all the way on Mr. Bennett! To me the most ridiculous is Mr. Collins. I love him. Poor Charlotte. But that was another illustration of what women did to get by at the time. Jane Austen is such an enigma. A preacher's daughter who never married. Yet she had so much insight into manners and people. Next up I think is "Emma". That novel rivals this one in my opinion. Emma is a very different character than either Elinor or Elizabeth. It's a funny coming of age story.

    1. I was surprised that it was Charlotte who got married to Collins. I thought Mary was the perfect fit, but then again , maybe the idea was to prove the point about women marrying to secure themselves rather than for love. A sad point really.
      I am completely unfamiliar with Emma, but if you vouch for it, then I am certain I will love it.

    2. I was wrong. It’s Mansfield Park coming up next. That’s good too of course.

    3. Actually I switched them myself, so I already started om Emma. I think my version of the Book has them switched. Emma is from 1815 and Mansfield Park only from 1817.

    4. Finally an Austin book with a heroine who doesn't need to worry about money! But that doesn't preclude a beautiful character arc and some funny characters. I'm going to listen to it while I get ready to move.

    5. It was indeed a good book and interesting with a different viewpoint.
      I did not know you were moving?

    6. Yes, we are moving to Las Vegas where my brother and his many children and grandchildren live. I am caring for my husband and I need the moral support of my family. We're pretty isolated here. I've moved a lot in my life but I must say it's even less fun when you are older.

    7. I can imagine that. Las Vegas is an ... Interesting choice. I hope it works out and that you will not miss California too much.

  2. Las Vegas was the only choice if I wanted to be near several members of my family. I doubt I will be gambling often.