Does one ever have a need to introduce Austen? I would say not. But I will say that for once I am damned proud to be English.
Publisher: (Numerous, but I’d wager Vintage would be a good one)
First Published: 1813
Date Reviewed: 13th February 2010
Pride And Prejudice has delighted readers for almost two hundred years. It is studied in schools (a pity because it may mar an otherwise potential fan’s interest) and discussed on a consistent basis. The expectation of a thorough review is monumental.
Elizabeth Bennet first comes into contact with Mr Darcy through her family’s new neighbour, Mr Bingley. The Bennets are a modest family so when it appears Mr Bingley has taken a fancy to daughter Jane they are astonished, but not as much as by the manner of Mr Darcy who appalled them all with his pride and assuming behaviour. Mr Bingley seems too good to be true and so it appears he leaves the county suddenly. Meanwhile the Bennets have trouble in the form of their cousin, who has been made heir to their home, and the youngest daughters who have discovered pleasure in the attention of soldiers. Elizabeth can never forgive Bingley for what he did to Jane and doesn’t particularly want to meet Darcy again but somehow he just keeps turning up. Connections and manners may not be what they seem.
Pride And Prejudice is one of those novels you should read if you’ve developed indifferent feelings towards it due to the publicity. What is said of the plot, writing, and author, even if detailed, really does not articulate just how good a novel this is – and that on various levels. You can assume I was one of the indifferent many, and it was only through my own self-imposed goal to read a number of modern classics that I got around to reading it.
Austen wrote of and during an era where people could be quite pompous and women, though able to speak, cautioned not to make a fuss. Austen herself turned this notion on its head, her views on such subjects are clearly explained through the use of her characters, but also in the way she addresses herself as an author within the pages. Not only does she show an understandable lack of compassion for the pride of the middle classes but she sets out to make humour of them without being rude. She sees through falseness in a way that is appealing today – whatever you may feel towards any one character, Austen feels too. Many of her peers would likely have shunned this work, while others who suppressed their feelings on life would have rejoiced in it.
It is perhaps in wit that Austen shines most. She laughs with Elizabeth at narrow-mindedness and gives duologues an oft glittering complexion, an example of which can be seen here:
“Your mother insists upon your accepting it. Is it not so, Mrs Bennet?”
“Yes, or I will never see her again.”
“An unhappy alternative is before you, Elizabeth. From this day you must be a stranger to one of your parents. Your mother will never see you again if you do not marry Mr Collins, and I will never see you again if you do.”
Elizabeth is a well rounded and likeable character, she would fit into 21st century life easily and this is what gives her her longevity. Mr Darcy would be a rival to Edward Cullen of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight saga had he been written recently as he has the same brooding qualities that cause young women’s hearts to melt to this day. On that note it is unfortunate that most young people nowadays will afford Pride And Prejudice none of their time whether they study it or not.
Austen revels in descriptions. She provides a clear picture of settings in the book; it’s easy to create the scenes in your imagination. It also helps that most of her characters are fully realised in that she supplies knowledge of their major personality traits and uses the bare basics of eternal stereotypes as a foundation. Because she is so transparent in this regard it doesn’t matter that not all the book is set in summer – you come away from your sittings feeling as though the sun has been shining each and every time.
Sometimes, old English aside, it appears as though Austen could have benefited from a good editor. Hyphens are used at the start of sentences and there are occasions where semi colons are too frequently employed. This becomes quite a distraction, as such practises would be sent back to the drawing board today. And that is the only bad point of the book. The editor of the version I read (Penguin Classics circa 1972) deleted some of the place names, which was rather annoying, but that is not Austen’s fault of course.
Pride And Prejudice is a colossal stake in our literary hierarchy and it has, rightly so, defined somewhat what good publications should be. The stereotype it has been given is apt. This is a splendid book and long may it continue to delight.
May 8, 2010, 4:15 pm
I think the deletion of place names isn’t something done by the editor? At least if you mean that there’re often — instead of a placename? I think it’s a part of all the versions of Pride and Prejudice. I’m not a 100% sure though. I remember reading somewhere why it was done, but I can’t remember it.
I’m glad to hear you enjoyed Pride and Prejudice. I love Jane Austen, especially P&P and Persuasion.
Charlie: I am wondering that now, as similar happened (but only a couple of times) in the Sense And Sensibility I read. It’s strange though, I can’t see any reason for it being done. If you remember where you read about it I’d be interested in knowing :)