I love romance, especially romance with strong female characters. This, of course, means that I love, love, love Pride & Prejudice. As I usually read sci-fi and fantasy, my adoration for this novel actually surprised me. Having read it countless times, without ever getting tired of it, I credit Austen’s well-rounded characters. Elizabeth is a bad ass of her time, and is Jane Austen’s quiet rebellion against gender inequality and oppression.
The novel Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen, first published in 1813, was initially written between October 1796 and August 1797. Soon after its completion Austen’s father submitted the manuscript for publication under its original title, First Impressions. However the offer was declined.
In the early 1800’s women were expected only to find a husband, reproduce and serve her family. Politics and careers were considered men’s business. The then recent aftermath of the French Revolution had England at war with France, and they did their utmost to eradicate and suppress rebellious and revolutionary ideas. It is therefore conjectured that the reason for the manuscripts initial rejection, was that a woman had written it.
Even when Pride & Prejudice was finally published in 1813, Jane Austen’s name did not appear as the author of the book, and she in fact never gained recognition for her work until after her death.
In spite of it’s somewhat difficult start, the novel was well received and is to this day one of the most popular and well-loved books in English literature. It has gained respect with both literary scholars and the general public, and has been adapted into numerous plays and movies, as well as other novels.
The classic story is a cautionary tale about pride and prejudice, as its title suggests. It revolves around the intelligent and outspoken Elizabeth Bennet, and her family who tries its best at marrying off one of their five daughters to the newly arrived handsome and rich, Charles Bingley. At his welcoming ball we are introduced to one of his closest friends, Fitzwilliam Darcy. Elizabeth and Darcy are in many ways each others opposites and bud heads many times during the novel, still they eventually fall in love as they realize they might not be so different after all.
In the relatively short time I have studied literature, one of the many things I have learned is the importance of your first line. Not only is it the introduction to your story, it is also your first, and maybe only, shot at luring your audience in. Pride & Prejudice’s opening line does exactly that and is one of my favorites as it sets the scene perfectly for what is to come:
“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”
It wakes the reader’s curiosity because of its obvious irony while at the same time establishing one of the main themes of the story – marriage.
Marrying for love was a rare occurrence back in the 18th and 19th century as it was a luxury most people couldn’t afford. Yet, Elizabeth Bennet refuses to marry for any other reason than love. She is portrayed as independent, intelligent and outspoken while also possessing a good sense of humor and self-irony, in many ways a mirror image of her creator, Jane Austen. Unlike her heroines Jane Austen never married despite receiving several marriage proposals, perhaps her reason for this was that she herself refused to marry without love?
In conclusion I can only say: This is a classic, one of the best books of all time, and if you haven’t already – read it! Despite being a book written in the late 1700’s, it is easy to read with a great plot and amazing characters. If you would rather ease into it then I can recommend watching one of the countless movies and/or TV-series made of it. Particularly BBC’s mini series as it almost follows the book scene by scene. Also if you like zombies you could alternatively read Pride & Prejudice & Zombies.