Pride and Prejudice is a love story written by English writer Jane Austen. Although it was written between 1796 and 1797, it could only be published on 28 January 1813. Since it was considered that writing profession coincides with the duties of womanhood, Austen had trouble finding publishers. Eventually, she had to bring her works out anonymously.
In Pride and Prejudice, Austen examines the misinterpretations caused by judging people by first impressions, and how people can break down those judgments and change for the sake of love as they know each other. Therefore, it is not a surprise for anybody to learn that this book was initially titled as First Impressions. Moreover, the writer criticizes the concept of matrimony of her time. The book is opened with a statement that “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of good fortune must be in want of a wife” (9). While Austen introduces us to different kind of marriages, she emphasizes that a prosperous union should depend on love and compatibility, not wealth and status. The writer, who aspires to make people think while laughing, manages successfully to blend social issues with irony, and convey them to the reader in a realistic manner at a very young age.
Jane Austen takes us through a magnificent journey to England in the Regency era. The story centers on a middle-class family with five single daughters, the Bennets whose possessions will bequeath to Cousin Collins because the family has no male heir. Therefore, the daughters have to marry rich and high-status men to maintain their prosperity. At a ball, a wealthy and single gentleman, Charles Bingley, is instantly charmed by Jane, the most beautiful Bennet sister. His close friend, Fitzwilliam Darcy, looking distant and cold, hurts feelings of Elizabeth (Lizzy), the most intelligent Bennet, by saying “She is tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me…” (15). Our protagonist, Lizzy, quickly judges and dislikes Mr. Darcy. In the meantime, Mr. Collins proposes to Elizabeth who declines him, as she wants to marry for love, not logic. After a while, Elizabeth meets a charismatic soldier named George Wickham who claims that Fitzwilliam has mistreated him. Elizabeth’s bias against Mr. Darcy grows stronger, while Jane and Mr. Bingley are getting closer. Conflicting with his principles, Mr. Darcy starts to be interested in Elizabeth. Mr. Bingley’s sudden leaving upsets Jane deeply. Lizzy knows that Darcy must have something to do with this decision.
Trapped between his heart and mind, Mr. Darcy cannot restrain his feelings anymore. He proposes to Elizabeth who declines his offer by accusing him of being the reason for Jane’s and Wickham’s misery. Heartbroken Darcy apologizes with a letter for distrusting Jane’s feelings. He also reveals that Mr. Wickham deceived his 15-year-old sister to get her possessions. Lizzy questions her feelings and judgments after this letter. In a journey, Elizabeth comes by Mr. Darcy’s enchanting estate. Cleansed of his pride, Mr. Darcy behaves so sincerely that Elizabeth’s feelings blossom. Meanwhile, Lydia, the youngest Bennet, dishonors the family by running away with Wickham who is later convinced about marriage by Darcy’s large bribe. Soon after, with Darcy’s emboldening, Mr. Bingley proposes to Jane who says yes with great joy. Finally, Mr. Darcy asks for Lizzy’s hand one more time by apologizing for his redundant pride, and Elizabeth accepts gladly by expressing her regret about her prejudice.
Jane Austen tells her story from a third person’s viewpoint which usually traces our protagonist, Lizzy. The reader sees events through her eyes. With the aid of free indirect speech technique, the narrator makes us skillfully witness not only the characters’ conversations but also their hearts and minds. Her portrayal of places, events, and individuals are so elaborate that it is impossible for the readers not to visualize them. Although not all of the characters are likable, they are exceptionally well-drawn thanks to Austen’s incredible observation capability. Every word they speak or every behavior they perform is in perfect harmony with their personalities. Whether you are fond of them or not, you cannot help but care about what will happen to them.
Jane Austen rejected the Romantic Movement of her time. She used a realistic sense while writing. Therefore, the romance in her novel is not slushy. Main characters do not fall in love at first sight as we are used to. After each obstacle, they undergo a series of changes. The chemistry between those two is so well conceived and externalized that, when they finally come together, we shed tears with them. The story is well-written and quite engaging. It flows exquisitely thanks to Austen’s sarcastic and fluent expression.
The novel was written more than 220 years ago. Therefore, the language may seem to be outdated. There are some words such as “genteel” that are not in use nowadays (38). Sentences are sometimes exceptionally long for today’s readers. There are also some punctuation and formatting flaws that contradict with our current grammar rules. Nevertheless, it is possible for literature lovers to discover the elegant vocabulary of Georgian Era English. The irony is a dominant style throughout the novel. Austen slyly makes social criticism through her caricatured characters like Mrs. Bennet. In doing so, she chooses to be funny, rather than being offensive. Consequently, reading this book is such an entertaining ride.
Jane Austen has been criticized for constantly writing regular events of a constricted area and specific people. Apart from the issues surrounding her, she isolated herself from the problems England had undergone. She wrote only about familiar matters, for she fueled from realism. Despite that, she has succeeded in transforming the ordinary into unforgettable with her intelligence and ability. Occasionally, she diverges from the realistic manner she aims. At such times, the novel can be extra romantic. There are a few unnatural, forced encounters between the characters. This leads the reader away from the story and hurts the reality of the book.
Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is one of the most beloved British classics. Although it did not receive enough attention at the time of its publication, it didn’t take long to gain the value it deserves. There are many books such as Bridget Jones’ Diary inspired by and many literary studies on this precious novel. In this book, the writer blends romantic and realistic movements together, and she successfully demonstrates her unique style. Being one of the first female writers to use comedy factor, Austen was able to combine the observations of her genius mind with a sarcastic expression, and shined in a male-dominated world.
Pride and Prejudice hosts the readers in the early 19th century with dexterity by exposing social hierarchy, manners, courteous language, and gimmickry of the period. While its intended audience was wealthy middle-class, I recommend this book, which has succeeded in touching my soul, to all the literature lovers, especially those who are interested in the Regency England.