Introduction and Notes by Dr Ian Littlewood, University of Sussex.
Pride and Prejudice, which opens with one of the most famous sentences in English Literature, is an ironic novel of manners. In it the garrulous and empty-headed Mrs Bennet has only one aim - that of finding a good match for each of her five daughters. In this she is mocked by her cynical and indolent husband.
With its wit, its social precision and, above all, its irresistible heroine, Pride and Prejudice has proved one of the most enduringly popular novels in the English language.
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Then she told me a local theater company was putting on Pride and Prejudice! I had to rededicate myself to the novel so I would have it done in time for the play. Once I really got into it I loved it.
Even though the characters are old fashioned and the book was written long ago when social conventions were different, I still found it easy to relate to the sisters. Seeing the play just cemented my renewed love of Jane Austen's storytelling.more
I'm still not sure it's so utterly vital, or the pinnacle of wit or writing talent, but I do confess to enjoying it. Given how famous and influential it is, if you are in the position I adopted before, do give it a try. I don't blame you if you don't find it interesting. I obviously eventually got into it. The characters were really what got me, with their little quirks and flaws. Even Mrs Bennet, who is irritatingly hysterical, is kind of endearing -- heck, even Lydia and Wickham are kind of endearing in their lack of repentence and their silliness. I know a lot of girls swoon over Darcy, and maybe this is the fact that I haven't seen any tv/movie adaptation, but I didn't at all: I was rather of Lizzy's opinion to begin with. Still, he became more likable later on, and I enjoyed that. Lizzy herself -- well, she jumps to conclusions, but she has a mind of her own and isn't afraid to snub and refuse a man. I imagine that would have taken some guts, in that period.
I have to say, I still found the plot fairly boring. If I didn't kind of want to see how the characters reacted and eventually got together, I probably wouldn't have stuck with it. It's not that the pacing is bad or anything, not when you consider the novel in context, but I'm just not really one for books in which the main object is everyone getting together at the end. Especially when the supposed love and affection between the characters falls relatively flat for me.
I swear I'm not a pod person. And I still defend people's right to utterly loathe and detest Austen.more
Pride and Prejudice was written in 1813 and is an excellent example of what is known as a novel of manners. It deals with the behavior and manners of the gentry of Regency England, which had strict codes of conduct and dealt harshly with anyone who broke those codes. Although, Pride and Prejudice is set in the Regency time frame, the book is actually timeless. It deals with matters of the heart and how people can allow prejudices or their pride to color their world view, leading to mistakes that could later haunt them.
Jane Austen is a spectacular writer, knowing exactly how to draw the reader in and keep them captivated. Her characters are fully explored, often times in a humorous way. Mr. Collins and Lady Catherine are the best examples of this- they are depicted in such a ridiculous way that it is easy to picture them in their various scenes.
Pride and Prejudice is my favorite novel. I have read it again and again over the years, always finding it fresh and exciting. I always cringe when Elizabeth or Mr. Darcy make a serious error in judgment and wait on pins and needles to see if they ever will find their way to true love. I highly recommend this book to all readers. It will capture your attention and take you on an eventful and satisfying journey.
I do have a few criticisms, though, although these may not be entirely valid, as the way in which people were able to behave, particularly women, when JA wrote this, may have something to do with it.
I would however have put in a couple of showdowns, one with Mr Collins, which was relegated to a line in a letter from Mr Bennett, and the other with Lady Catherine, which so should not have been ex camera.
Worth a read, surely, and I will read again I am sure, and what greater accolade for a book could there be?more
Given that this is outside my field, I'm allowed to *prefer* without thinking....so, I get to say that I liked Austen's decision in Emma to make the most talented, beautiful, and wise character Jane Fairfax, not our heroine. It's easier in terms of, you know, "relatability," to mark the protagonist with genius.more
If you want to read a classic romance with true heat and a plot that's actually interesting, read Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre instead. Bronte is far and away a better storyteller than Austen.more
Elizabeth Bennet, with her ready wit and sparkling repartee, with add a jingle of unheard music and half-glimpsed rainbows to whatever already harkens in your tired subconscious. Holding hands with her will be Mr. Darcy, his droll cynicism and sarcastic edge providing the perfect backdrop and grounding to her more gracious allowances.
A love story? Yes, perhaps there was such sketched upon the pages. But what you take from this book will be the outlines of these two lovingly etched, ineffably charming, faultlessly proper, and brilliantly bellicose beloveds; a true "book-mark" to keep you from ever again losing your place in the world :-)more
I had a Major British Writers teacher at university who was easy for me to like immensely. He lived in a world where television was an anathema and where he watched films like Naked and read everything from Coleridge to Irvine Welsh. His one true flaw? He also loved Jane Austen. Over the course of our class, he tried in earnest to get me to realize that Austen was a feminist writer. I disagree wholeheartedly and the only reason why this gets two stars from me is because it was written during a time when it was difficult for women to write especially publicly. I also think that Jane was a fairly keen observer of the high society that was taking place and if I enjoyed frivolous poetry that tends to go nowhere, I'd have a much higher appreciation for the writing of Marcel Proust. Really, it's such a shame Marcel Proust was born a century later and wasn't interested in women anyhow. He and Jane could have made the most boring couple in human history.
One thing I want to be considered here and this is where my main justification lies has to do with women in relation to men. Women have always been seen in terms of this alone. That's why the idea of feminism is still considered rather radical today. The idea of woman as a separate identity existing in a way which she has no consideration for men in terms of how it affects her actions and thoughts is rare. John Berger explores this in (I think) his novel G about the poet Goethe and Woolf explores the idea in A Room of One's Own. In Virginia Woolf, we have some examples of the female entity as separate from the male. None can be found in any Austen I am familiar with. Instead, every function of the female is intended to ensnare a male. While it's true that the female protagonist shows some evidence early in the book of being able to function independently, it all predictably falls apart at the end, doesn't it? And what is the true goal of it all? Well, class rank, fortune, and incredibly shallow views of others. I think Jane Austen is somewhat evil actually because she's perpetuated the subconsciousness of thousands of women that these things (and men) matter more than their own identities. I'd even go so far as to say that they perpetuate the idea that these exact things are what identity is instead of the thought processes, actions, and personal history that may be separate from all of this.
True, Austen was a feminist by being a writer in her time period but I would not describe any of her writing as feminist and would instead label them harmful to humanity in subtle ways of course. If you want to read a better example of early female literature that had more of a feminist tone, I'd suggest Anne Bronte's The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.
I avoided Jane Austen for years. Through high school and college, I had a mental image of the Austen reader -- blonde flip, sweater set, pearls, plaid skirt, intense expression, English Major at some school in the Northeast. I saw them as frilly little historical romances, frivolous at best, boring at worst, and to be avoided at all costs.
I was so wrong.
Those who love Austen sometimes find it hard to explain the reasons to someone who dislikes them or -- like me -- has a preconceived notion of what her books are. Yes, the goals of the female protagonists is marriage, one way or another. Romantic love is a feature and a motive. But there is so much more. Austen saw, depicted, and quietly criticized the limited options and circumscribed life for women in the late 18th/early 19th century. She poked holes in the conventions of her society, mocked its conventions, and skewered the behaviors that society forced on its members. At that point in time, in England (and many other Western countries) a woman had limited options -- she could marry, or she could find some sort of work to support herself. The higher her class, the fewer options for work she found available. Educating herself could be difficult, if not impossible, and her choices in either marriage or employment were limited. Being born the daughter of a gentleman -- someone who owned property and occupied a particular socio-economic strata -- had both privilege and problems.
This is the world Austen describes for us in Pride & Prejudice, perhaps her best known novel. In Elizabeth Bennett, she creates a character we can understand. We can like her and enter into sympathy with her. She's bright, funny, generally good humored, and as prone to making mistakes as any of us. We watch her grow and change while also enjoying her sometimes acerbic and often accurate observations of those around her. Austen uses Elizabeth's wit to great effect. Moreover, Elizabeth is not seeking romance for most of the book. In fact, she is trying to avoid it for a variety of reasons, which makes her very unusual for her time and place. Romance does not become an object for her until nearly the end of the novel. In the mean time, we watch her trying to fit into her world. She's more concerned about her friends and family, and the choices they make concerning love, life, and romantic attachment.
Still -- why do I like this book so much? Why do I love it and read it over and over again? I guess I gave the answer to that question early on. I love this book because it isn't what I expected it to be, and each time I read it, it still turns up some new little thing I wasn't expecting. It's like a friendship -- familiar, comforting, fun, honest, and still surprising.more
Thus, the two stars are for Austen's rebellious attitude toward gender disparity, but I just find P&P too outdated and out-of-touch with someone like me.more