As an avid reader, it’s been with no small amount of embarrassment that I’ve been forced to admit – until recent years – that I’d never read Jane Austen’s classic love story, Pride and Prejudice. To be completely honest, it didn’t appeal to me. First, it was written in the 19th century, so I knew I’d have to get past the barrier of the writing style and speech. Then, to be honest, it just didn’t sound that interesting to me. Admittedly, I didn’t really know the whole premise of the story, but some guy named “Mr. Darcy” didn’t sound all that romantically appealing. But, after a series of other books wherein “Mr. Darcy” or “Elizabeth Bennet” were repeatedly referenced, I figured I better just bite the bullet so that I can at least feel a little bit intelligent. And so I sat down to read an old, dusty copy of Pride and Prejudice that had been in our family since what felt like the beginning of time.
The first few pages were a slow-go. It took me several pages to get the rhythm of the writing style but, after about ten pages, I was hooked. I quickly became immersed in the life of the Bennet sisters and felt the pain of their long-suffering father as he tolerated the drama of his hypochondriac wife.
Pride and Prejudice is really what every good novel should be. It’s humor intertwined with drama, a bit of suspense, a little bit of sorrow and a whole lot of fun. Take for example, the egotistical, self-important Mr. Collins. He’s the distant cousin to Mr. Bennet and the next in line to inherit the Bennet properties. He has money – which is something the Bennet sisters will be without once their father passes – so “out of the kindness of his heart” he proposes marriage to Elizabeth Bennet. From this proposal ensues one of the most amusing misunderstandings in this book. Mr. Collins simply cannot believe that Ms. Bennet would turn him down and so simply chooses to ignore her repeated replies of “no” to his proposal. All young women must marry; Elizabeth Bennnet will be poor and presumably destitute upon the passing of her father, so why wouldn’t she want to marry Mr. Collins? For the answer to that, you’ll need to read the book.
Next you have the youngest Bennet sisters, Kitty and Lydia, whose behavior is so absurd for the time period that you can’t help but feel empathy for the two older sisters who must endure the embarrassment of their unrestrained behavior. Rather than correct their behavior and rein them in, their mother dotes on them and their father just chuckles at their antics.
Then of course there’s the oldest sister: sweet, simple Jane. She’s in love with Mr. Bingley, and this is an obvious match made in heaven since they’re both bitten so strongly by the love bug that there can be no other match for either…though you will wonder for a while whether that match will ever solidify.
And finally – and most importantly – you have Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. I have no idea what Mr. Darcy’s first name is. I’m not sure the author ever gives it; or, if she does, it’s just not important. He’s Mr. Darcy. A seemingly arrogant and snobbish gentleman and the best friend to Mr. Bingley. Clearly from the beginning, the reader knows there’s some type of chemistry between Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet, but how they go from the platform of contempt and dislike of each other is a roller coaster ride involving a whole lot of pride and more than a little bit of prejudice. Hence the title, Pride and Prejudice.
Pride and Prejudice is a truly great read and one that would appeal to both young and mature adults. Surprisingly to me, it is at the top of my list of favorite books of all time. And to think that I was reluctant to read it!
Since reading this book, I’ve had the opportunity to see both movie adaptations; the Kiera Knightly version, as well as the incredibly well-done BBC version. For those who wish to see a screen version as part of the experience, I strongly recommend the BBC version starring Colin Firth. It is the truest book to movie adaptation I’ve ever seen and is well worth the time to watch. It brings the book to life and does so without changing the heart of the story even a fraction. Check it out!
YouTube Video: Mr. Collins Proposes Marriage