An Analysis of the Literary Classic Pride and Prejudice
This is an analysis of my all time favourite and a timeless classic Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. The book belongs to the classic literature genre and is extremely popular among book lovers all over the world. I have read and reread Pride and Prejudice quite a few times over the years and it has never failed to lift my spirits every time. It has the ability transport me to another time and place very different from my own, yet somehow familiar. The book, at its heart, is a love story told in the traditional manner of storytelling, languid and slow paced. It is not a Mills and Boon kind of romance. Its characters attend balls, respond to dinner invitations, and are presented in court, all of which are unfamiliar social customs to most of us today. Here, I need to warn those of you who come looking for a quick read that this book is not for you. However, if you love to lose yourself in the written word and exalt at the various remarkable ways in which an author uses language to paint a picture in your mind, then this book is for you. The book has plenty of humour, plot twists, and unforgettable characters. It also has many feminist ideas woven into the story, which is quite remarkable for the period to which its author Jane Austen belonged.
About the author:
Jane Austen, an English novelist, was born on 16 December 1775 in Hampshire England. Her father George Austen was an Anglican parish rector. Her family was close-knit, open-minded and encouraged intellectual pursuits. She had six brothers and a sister with whom she was close to and with whom she corresponded through many letters. These letters were the main source for piecing together her biography. She has written six full-length novels in all, with irony, realism and a commentary on the prevailing social systems prevalent in all of them. They did not bring her much success during her lifetime and were published anonymously. It was only much later around 1833 that they became well known and were acknowledged as being penned by Jane Austen as opposed to Anonymous. However, all this occurred posthumously as she had passed away on 18 July 1817 at the age of 41.
Jane Austen began working on Pride and Prejudice, as we now know it in 1796. However, it was then entitled ‘First Impressions’. It was only published in 1813 after having been rejected by publishers before that.
The main theme that runs through the narrative is the choice of love over money in marriage.
Another theme that the author touches upon is the issue of entailing an estate to a male heir, which was a prevalent custom during that period and extremely unfair to the female heirs.
Besides the author also seems intent on pointing out the important role that good parenting plays in the upbringing of children and the development of a child’s character and morality. This she chiefly does through the examples of the Bennet’s youngest daughters Catherine and Lydia, where lack of adequate parental control leads to them developing wild and immoral characters.
The author also depicts societal divisions based on class, wealth and lineage.
The narrative is principally set in Hertfordshire on the Longbourn estate, although it does move away to other locals at times. Longbourn House is where Mr and Mrs Bennet and their five daughters Jane, Elizabeth, Mary, Catherine and Lydia live. However, the family estate is entailed which meant that only a male heir could inherit it and that on the death of Mr Bennet his wife and daughters would be left without a home and practically penniless. Consequently, this makes Mrs Bennet overanxious in marrying off at least one of her daughters to a wealthy man, which she is convinced will secure all of their futures, even at the cost of her daughters’ personal happiness. Her overzealousness leads to many humorous situations in the narrative but causes embarrassment to members of her family. As an aside, this reminds me of most Indian mothers! This theme of marrying off daughters well to secure their futures runs throughout the novel, with most of the mothers in Hertfordshire trying to do so, and is very relatable in the Indian context. The author also satirizes the convention of entailing an estate prevalent during that period, and humorously draws attention to the unfairness of this custom on women, which left them penniless and compelled them to choose money over love when finding a husband.
This love story is not your usual predictable kind. The author seems intent on driving home the point to her readers that one should marry for love and not for money. Through an account of the conjugal life of Charlotte Lucas who marries Mr William Collins for a secure future rather than for personal happiness, Mr Collins being the future heir of Longbourn House, the author starkly depicts the consequences of such a marriage.
We also have Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy who is the man with the money but with an unappealing personality. He is described by the author as being ‘proud, to be above his company, and above being pleased’. He is aloof and distant, keeps to himself even in company, and hence everyone including the woman he falls in love with, Elizabeth Bennet, dismiss him as being a proud snob not worthy of attention. In fact, at the ball where they first meet Darcy refuses to dance with Elizabeth saying that she’s “not handsome enough to dance with” while Elizabeth in a conversation with her friend Charlotte on the topic of Mr Darcy says, “To find a man agreeable whom one is determined to hate! Do not wish me such an evil!” These incidents depict the intensity of the dislike that Elizabeth and Darcy have for each other initially. However, over the course of various social interactions and meetings Darcy begins to have a change of heart where his opinions on Elizabeth were concerned, and much to his dismay and against his will, he falls in love with her. Elizabeth, however, believing in marrying for love rather than money, rejects Mr. Darcy’s marriage proposal, due to certain prejudiced impressions of him that have formed in her mind, chief of those being her belief in his having wronged George Wickham and his role in separating her sister Jane and Charles Bingley, who was falling in love. Elizabeth sustains her prejudices against Mr Darcy through the book. It is only towards the end of the narrative that Elizabeth realizes that the incident with Mr Darcy that Wickham recounts were untrue, and Wickham is actually a cheat and charlatan. As for her sister Jane and Mr Bingley, Mr Darcy himself works at bringing them together again thus redeeming himself in the eyes of Elizabeth and leaving her with regrets on her hasty presumptions on the character of Darcy. She begins to see him in a new light.
The book follows the journey of these two individuals, Elizabeth and Darcy, who at the beginning of the book find it hard to be civil to each other, but over time, and after getting to know each other better, reconcile their differences and discover as well as affirm their love for each other.
However, the book is not just about this love story. The love story of Jane Bennet and Charles Bingley also runs a parallel course with the story of Elizabeth and Darcy, Bingley being a close friend of Darcy. The main storyline also digresses to narrate the stories of Charlotte Lucas’ marriage to William Collins, and Lydia’s elopement with Wickham.
Pride and Prejudice has been adapted for film and television and it is highly probable that you would have watched it in one or the other form. However, I would still vote for the book as having the most engrossing and satisfying storyline and would recommend that you read it and acquaint yourself with its characters first hand, and get to know them as their creator first visualized them.
Pride and Prejudice also listed in the top 5 books list. Top 5 Books Every Woman Should Read