Staff Review – Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife”. With one of the most famous opening lines in English literature, Jane Austen begins her tale of the Bennet family, Mr. Darcy and more in arguably her most famous novel, “Pride and Prejudice”. Jane Austen would come to be known as the writer who gave the novel its modern character, writing about the average person in a beautifully compelling way. The story of “Pride and Prejudice” is a story that is as relevant as when it was published in 1813 as it is today, over 200 years later. The story follows Mr. and Mrs. Bennet and their five daughters, and the reader mainly follows the second eldest, Elizabeth (or Lizzy). Lizzy Bennet is headstrong, sure of herself, and not in any rush to marry. While her older sister Jane is enraptured with the handsome Mr. Bingley, it is his friend Mr. Darcy that keeps Lizzy’s interest (whether favourable or not) throughout the novel. Both characters (along with several others) are blinded by their pride and lead astray by their prejudices, causing them to misinterpret many people they meet and causing strain on various relationships.

I first read “Pride and Prejudice” back in university, but as I was likely reading about 7 novels at the same time for various classes, I didn’t overly retain it as well as I’d liked. While I had seen the 2005 movie version of “Pride and Prejudice” before, I recently took it upon myself to watch several of the adaptations of Jane Austen’s works that I could find. From there, I decided that the novel needed another chance, without so many distractions this time. The story of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy is such a classic tale of wounded egos and misinformation – even though the story was written so long ago, Austen’s themes and characters are still incredibly relatable today. Both characters hold a dangerous amount of pride in themselves, as Elizabeth acknowledges, “I could easily forgive his pride, if he had not mortified mine.” Both characters are quick to opinions, and while those opinions may change over time, and are too proud to admit it, causing their story to take some time to progress as the reader is enthralled to see how these characters can possibly end up together.

While “Pride and Prejudice” is focused on Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy, there is a wonderful cast of characters throughout the novel that make it even more entertaining. The Bennet family is one of my favourite literary families – I love the dynamic between Mr. and Mrs. Bennet, as their banter in the opening chapter of the novel sets the tone for their relationship (and indeed, the novel itself); her, worried and overdramatic, him, calm and in control. As Mr. Bennet reminds his wife, “I have a high respect for your nerves, They are my old friends. I have heard you mention them with consideration these twenty years at least”. We soon meet their daughters: the beautiful Jane, fun and free Lydia and Kitty, and quiet Mary to round out the Bennet girls. Other exceptional characters include the aloof Mr. Collins, the charming Mr. Bingley and his sisters, and the charismatic Mr. Wickham.

Any adaptation you watch of “Pride and Prejudice” is sure to delight – the quintessential version being the 1995 BBC series starring Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy. There are also several stories inspired by Austen’s classic, such as “Bridget Jones’s Diary” (where we once again see Colin Firth play a man named Mr. Darcy). There are also many novels at TBPL and beyond that are inspired by the classic tale, such as “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” (you can tell what the difference will be in this one!) and “The Other Bennet Sister” (focusing on Mary Bennet). If you haven’t read any of Jane Austen’s classic novels, I suggest you start! “Pride and Prejudice” is smart, surprisingly funny and full of love, both for family and partners. The relationship between the Bennet family is a treat, and the story of Elizabeth and Darcy is one for the ages. This story is a classic for a reason! If you haven’t already, pick up Jane Austen’s masterpiece “Pride and Prejudice” today!

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