Monday, January 28, 2013

200 Years of Pride and Prejudice

Today marks the 200th publication anniversary of  my favorite author, Jane Austen, publishing my favorite novel: Pride and Prejudice. In those 200 years, this wonderful story has only grown more popular. It is now considered a piece of classic literature, well-known throughout the English-speaking world, and loved by all - except, of course, those intolerably stupid persons who have no pleasure in a good novel.

I have read Pride and Prejudice countless times, but every time I catch yet another nuance, see another detail that I missed the previous times. The characters have such depth, there's always something more to be learned about them, and each time I read the book I get to know them all a little better. Through those realistic glimpses into each character's motivations and thoughts, I come to understand the real people that I encounter every day from a new perspective.
"'There is, I believe, in every disposition a tendency to some particular evil, a natural defect, which not even the best education can overcome.'" - Mr. Darcy

I've written some about my opinions on Jane Austen's work before. The plot of Pride and Prejudice is so romantic that many romantic comedies have tried to do their own spin on it... you know, hate each other at first, then one party falls in love, gets hurt because the object of their affection doesn't return their regard, and then the rejecting one realizes that they actually do love the other, right around the time that the situation seems hopeless. 

"She was convinced that she could have been happy with him; when it was no longer likely they should meet." - Pride and Prejudice, as Lizzy has just learned to esteem Mr. Darcy, but expects Lydia's wanton behavior to have destroyed her chances for marriage forever.

What the mimicking romantic stories generally fail to replicate is the growth the characters go through as a result of their conflicts. Mr. Darcy takes Elizabeth's criticisms to heart after she rejects him, and Elizabeth accepts Mr. Darcy's defense of his behavior in regard to Wickham, and realizes that she had been foolishly blinded by prejudice. Through the perspective of the other they each come to understand their own need for improvement.

"'I am almost afraid of asking what you thought of me; when we met at Pemberley. You blamed me for coming?'
'No indeed; I felt nothing but surprise.'
'Your surprise could not be greater than mine in being noticed by you. My conscience told me I deserved no extraordinary politeness, and I confess I did not expect to receive more than my due.'
'My object then,' replied Darcy, 'was to shew you, by every civility in my power, that I was not so mean as to resent the past; and I hoped to obtain your forgiveness, to lessen your ill opinion, by letting you see that your reproofs had been attended to. How soon any other wishes introduced themselves I can hardly tell, but I believe in about half an hour after I had seen you.'" - part of the conversation immediately after their engagement.

While the plot of Pride and Prejudice does center on romance, it is not merely a love story; it is a truly witty and insightful story about humans. Fashions, language and the world around us has changed, but people are still human, and no human story would be any good without love.

 “It is only a novel... or, in short, only some work in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge of human nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties, the liveliest effusions of wit and humour, are conveyed to the world in the best-chosen language.”- Jane Austen

2 comments:

  1. Pride and Prejudice is one of my favorite stories. You may have just inspired me to watch the movie again : ) Mr. Darcy had the right idea concerning natural tendency towards evil.

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    1. Yes, I love the 1995 BBC miniseries adaptation!

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