Pride and Prejudice
Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen, is not your everyday romance novel. Instead, Austen effectively created a funny, witty, and relatable story set in a genre that I would not normally be interested in. Her novel was published in 1813, and the story takes place around the same time. Pride and Prejudice centers around the comfortably well off, but not very rich, Bennet family, consisting of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet and their five daughters: Jane, Elizabeth, Mary, Katherine, and Lydia. The main plot of the story kicks off when we learn that Mr. Bennet’s property is entailed, which means that his daughters cannot inherit it. The only way one of the daughters could secure his property is to be married, which basically sets the plot for the rest of the book’s events. However, the main character is actually Elizabeth, who, throughout the story, develops a complicated relationship with a man named Mr. Darcy. Austen’s novel deals with themes of social class, assumptions, relationships, and of course, pride and prejudice.
Pride and Prejudice is organized into 61 relatively short chapters. Having short chapters is a quality that I like to see in novels. For me, it always makes for an easier read. When chapters are short, no matter how long the book is, it makes the book go by faster. While short chapters provide more stopping points, they also urge you to read one more chapter every time you finish one. It just seem so easy to say, “One more chapter won’t hurt”. This is a very effective method for an author to use. It doesn’t affect the story telling in a negative way, and it also makes it difficult to give up on the read. If there was a chapter that some might view as uneventful (which I didn’t encounter by the way), it would be over so soon that there would not be any time to get bored. You simply move on to the next chapter and get caught up in the story again. Overall, I found Austen’s organization of her book to be effective in a way that it made the story all the more interesting.
Saying that I liked this book is an understatement. In fact, I thoroughly enjoyed it. What seems to be what many would call a “chick book” at first glance turns out to be much more than that. Not only does it tell what I have to admit as a very good love story, it also provides a satirical view of what society was like during her time period. Many would say Austen’s views were radical for her time period, which she displays in her novel. She openly thought that marriage shouldn’t be arranged for social status or money, but that two should only marry for love. She mainly reflects this view in a satirical manner using Mrs. Bennet or Elizabeth’s friend, Charlotte. In a conversation with Elizabeth, Charlotte says, “…it is better to know as little as possible of the defects of a person with whom you are about to pass your life” (Austen, 34). Here, we see that Charlotte has what would have been the common view of marriage for that time period. This is one of the features that makes the book so good. Austen was able to capture the essence of what it was like to be a woman during the 1800’s. Charlotte has come to accept that she might not like the man she will eventually be married to, so she feels that the less she knows about the man, the better off she will be. Elizabeth doesn’t agree with Charlotte, and she even feels that Charlotte doesn’t truly believe that either. Later on in the story, we see whether or not Charlotte actually does.
Something else Austen sheds light on is how social status affected peoples’ opinions of others during that time. In her novel, Austen makes it clear that she didn’t think highly of class distinction. In a conversation between Elizabeth and her cousin, Mr. Collins, Austen shows how class distinction played a role in everyday life. Mr. Collins says, “Lady Catherine will not think the worse of you for being simply dressed. She likes to have the distinction of rank preserved” (Austen, 254). Here, we see that Lady Catherine would prefer that Elizabeth wear a less fashionable outfit so it is clear that she comes from a lower class. Austen uses Mr. Collins to show the ridiculousness of maintaining rank because he continuously treats Lady Catherine better than his own family. The tone of this statement comes off as absurd, which reflects Austen’s critical view of social rank. It is the little jabs and hints like these that make the novel interesting and funny.
The novel isn’t titled “Pride and Prejudice” for no reason. These happen to be two of the main themes you’ll find in the text.