Sunday, December 17

Overview: Pride And Prejudice by Jane Austen

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In short, its charm, charisma, drama alongside characters we love and love to hate, is alluring in itself.  But essentially it is a story about love and relationships – always a winning combination

The main family who the novel surrounds is that of the Bennets, residents of Longbourn.  Mr and Mrs Bennet, the parents of the five Bennet daughters, are an entertaining duo on the surface, but their incompatibility has sad undertones compounded by Mr Bennet’s advice to his daughter when she tells him she loves a man who he thought she hated, when he says “let me not have the grief of seeing you unable to respect your partner in life.”  However, their personalities and attitudes towards the raising of their children also prove instrumental to the series of events that occurs.  

The five Bennet daughters consist of the eldest, the good natured and slightly naive Jane, her closest confidant and second eldest Elizabeth, the middle and studious child Mary, the second to youngest daughter and shadow to the youngest, Kitty and finally, the youngest, vivacious and reckless Lydia.  Their relationships with one another and their parents are at the core of how their lives take shape.  

The main character is Elizabeth, the headstrong, witty and charming heroin who the reader falls in love with.  She is particularly close to Jane whom she adores, admires and looks after, as well as being her father’s favourite.  Her ‘pride’ and ‘prejudice’ is consistently exposed and developed as she takes her journey in the novel as we see her severely misjudge certain characters, namely Wickham and Mr Darcy, the character we love to hate initially, but like Elizabeth, eventually fall in love with.  It is this that not only leads the main love story in the novel, but also dictates many twists that the plot takes.

Jane Bennet is a peaceful character who always believes the good in people.  Like Elizabeth we feel at many occasions that her need to ‘see no evil’ is her downfall, but amazingly, a certain maturity in her character is exposed when it turns out that her instincts about Wickham and Darcy are correct.  It is fortunate that she is close to Elizabeth as her more realistic opinions balance Jane’s ever present optimism.  It is no surprise that she attracts the similar natured Mr Bingley.

Mary Bennet is the most neutral character who is not particularly close to any of her siblings, neither her parents.  She indulges herself through reading and playing the piano.  However insignificant her character can be mistaken to be, she is the trigger that exposes her family in public as possessing bad manners, much to the mortification of Elizabeth, as it hurts her pride at the joy she presumes Mr Darcy takes in watching their behaviour.

Kitty and Lydia Bennet are a double act led by Lydia, who’s silliness and irresponsible nature is encouraged by her mother.  The opening and famous line of the novel epitomises what Mrs Bennet lives for when she claims that “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of good fortune must be in want of a wife.”  Her sole aim in life is to arrange a good marriage for her daughters, her profound statement inspired by the arrival of Mr Bingley and Mr Darcy in the nearby Netherfield Park.  Mrs Bennet’s desperation to get her daughters married overpowers her ability to judge the suitability of the matches, and this attitude influences Lydia heavily, who, in turn influences Kitty who although is older, lives in Lydia’s shadow.  It also widens the gap between her and her husband, as well as between her and Elizabeth when she deems that Mr Collins, the cousin whom Longbourn is entailed to after Mr Bennet’s death, is a good enough reason for any of her daughters to marry him.  When Elizabeth rejects him based on them being such an obvious unsuitable match of personalities, she is distraught, and this bridge of gap between their attitudes is noted when Mr Bennet tells Elizabeth “From this day you will be a stranger to one of your parents.  Your mother will never see you again if you do not marry Mr Collins, and I will never see you again if you do.”

Next we have our ‘hero’s’ Mr Bingley and Mr Darcy, the latter of whom goes through the biggest journey in the novel out of the two of them.  Although little is delved into of Mr Bingley’s wealth and background, we know he is wealthy, but it is more noted of Mr Darcy’s wealth, social status and background.  He initially creates a bad impression with his proud swagger, rudeness, especially towards Elizabeth and  his general unfriendly attitude.  Despite his wealth, his treatment of Elizabeth is enough to even discourage Mrs Bennet from targeting him as a suitor for any of her daughters.  His character is further ruined by Elizabeth’s discovery of his treatment of Wickham, his childhood friend, an account she receives from Wickham himself.  Although Darcy’s behaviour does not discourage the bad impression of him, he eventually learns to swallow his pride, allow himself to appreciate Elizabeth as herself rather than based on her decidedly lower social standing, and enables him to expose Wickham for the true character he is, as well as allowing Elizabeth to see who he really is.  This is helped by Lydia’s naivety when she falls for Wickham’s charms, and runs away with him without realising how it jeopardises her character, as well as her family’s reputation.

It is difficult to simplify ‘Pride and Prejudice’ into a nutshell like overview, but in essence it is a novel that is true to its title, about wealth, love and relationships, and its characters, so well characterised and breathed life into by Austen, is what makes it a novel that is still written about, read and watched.

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