Book Review: Pride & 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.” – Narrator
During my high school years, I read a few books of the chick lit persuasion such as A Walk to Remember, Love Story, and Just Like Heaven. In my defense, I did so because of a girl and I was trying to put myself in the trajectory of her interests (mind you, I also watched Koreanovelas then because of her). During that time, I learned that she liked Pride & Prejudice and this causes a certain gladness in me because I can now intersect two interests of mine: Literature and her. I thought at that time that, instead of watching the movie, I should go directly to the source material and read the novel of Jane Austen. Some 90+ pages later, I abandoned the book. The book was boring, the language was difficult, and it never captured my imagination like other books did so I decided that Pride & Prejudice will just be one of those things that I can never talk to her about.
Fast forward 4 years later and the book was chosen by our book club as the October read. I was, at first, thinking that I will not attend the discussion because I was not interested in reading a book that failed to enthrall me four years ago. However, a slew of other reasons compelled me to attend the book discussion and the two most important of those reasons are that I received a free copy of the book from our moderator and that there will be lots of food.
Everyone is familiar with the story of Pride & Prejudice. They have either read the book; watched the miniseries or the movie; read the graphic novel; saw the internet adaptation; or all of the above. It’s the mother of all chick literature about a girl that meets a Victorian-era equivalent of the badass. At first, they disagree about a lot of things and their disagreement creates a rift between them that obliterates the chance of any romantic attachment. But, at the last minute, the badass guy will redeem himself by some convenient deed; the girl will realize that she loves the guy all along; and they shall live happily ever after.
Both the main characters, Elizabeth Bennett and Fitzwilliam Darcy, are proud of their individual qualities and also both are prejudiced against the other because of each other’s individual qualities. In a way, they are destined to hate each other. Add to the fact that a certain Mr. Wickham hates Darcy and thus takes it upon himself to badmouth the latter to everyone that will listen. Therefore, aside from Elizabeth’s hate of Darcy because of his attitude towards her, she also hates him because he allegedly acted in a horrible manner towards Wickham. See, they’re destined to hate each other.
Another complication to the already overworked plot are the romances of the other supporting characters. I shall not go into detail but it includes proposals, rejections, elopement, a very self-confident pastor, a mother in perpetual hysteria, a father that does not care, presumptuous males and females, and a lot of flirting.
So how did I find Pride & Prejudice? Surprisingly, I liked it very much. I was not bored like I was 4 years ago and I did not find the language all that difficult. Yes, there were times when I thought that the story is dragging and that there were some unnecessary stretches of the plot but it did not take away anything from my overall reading experience. I found it enjoyable and I was amazed at Austen’s wit and dry humor.
What I took away from the overall story was not the love story but the behavior of the people at that time. For me, Pride & Prejudice was a more effective social satire/commentary than a love story. The love story was boring and contrived but the social satire/commentary was pure gold. I liked how Austen describes the plight of the women at the time where they are only made to think that their only goal in life is to marry and how a single man who is rich is forced by the community to choose someone to marry. Essentially, and I hope that this is an exaggeration, the youth of Austen’s time are only concerned with socializing in order to find someone to marry.
A minor gripe of mine is that the novel turned out to be anti-woman at the end. Lydia and Mrs. Bennet being okay with the fact that they were manipulated by Wickham just so they both can say that Lydia is married; Jane being eager in forgiving Bingley’s mistakes when he decided to put his sisters’ commands over his happiness; and Elizabeth quick and thoughtless realization that she loves Darcy. I refuse to believe that women are that quick to forgive and forget when it comes to love. At least some measure of self-reflection must be done before these women subjected themselves to a lifelong companionship with the men.
If this was solely a love story, I might have not liked Pride & Prejudice. But, fortunately, Austen also wrote about life in rural England and how the people of the country act and behave. From the town gossips, to their fascination with people from the city, their competition in marrying off daughters, the social structure, and the divide between the upper and lower classes. Everything about rural English society that Austen described in the novel was a delight to read.