“Till this moment I never knew myself.” – Jane Austen
Some say that Pride and Prejudice is a perfect novel, and I probably have to agree with them. The story of Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy is one that people can’t seem to stop revisiting – and for good reason. The text is studied in school and university, and countless adaptations have been made of this truly iconic tale, and it’s all thanks to Jane Austen’s original novel.
While the old-fashioned writing style can be challenging at first for one not used to it, this book is so compellingly and cleverly written that the twisting plot and three-dimensional characters will have you gripped from chapter one to the very last page.
The genius of Austen is a combination of her accurate social insight and observation, expert subtlety, and sparkling wit. On the surface, her book about ‘ladies and horses’ may seem a little shallow, but this book review is about to show you why that is far from the case with Pride and Prejudice.
For those of you who haven’t read or watched some version of this classic tale, Elizabeth Bennet lives a quiet life in rural England with her parents, four sisters and neighbours, the Lucas family, until a wealthy, eligible bachelor by the name of Mr Bingley moves to nearby Netherfield Park and sets the town abuzz with excitement. With mothers and eligible daughters strategically planning their attack, the race for Mr Bingley’s heart (and wealth) is on. Despite being centuries old, Pride and Prejudice is relatable on multiple levels – the most important being the ability of humans to both commit errors and grow in moral character and understanding. Add in a tall, dark and handsome stranger (Mr Darcy), a quirky cousin, a snooty old benefactor, a hysterical mother and a splash of scandal, and this book really has something for everyone.
The themes explored in Pride and Prejudice are first impressions, misunderstanding, moral character, status and power, marriage, friendship and family obligation. Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy have trouble understanding each other, partially because of their own character flaws, misunderstood circumstances, and some poor decisions. Throughout the novel their conversations together, interaction with others and subsequent periods of reflection serve to document their character development and growing understanding of themselves, their peers and each other.
In several places, the text depicts opposing views side by side for readers to analyse. Both sides are given credit, while ultimately Austen seems to be advocating for a balance of the two. When it comes to marriage, Charlotte Lucas’s practical assertion that “happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance” is in direct contrast to Elizabeth’s determination “that only the deepest love will induce [her] into matrimony.” Mr Darcy and Mr Bingley also mirror Elizabeth and Jane for how they view the world. Mr Darcy and Elizabeth are prone to reserve judgement, or in Darcy’s case “a propensity to hate everybody”, whereas Mr Bingley and Jane are depicted as eager to approve of everyone and everything.
“There are few people whom I really love, and still fewer of whom I think well. The more I see of the world, the more am I dissatisfied with it; and every day confirms my belief of the inconsistency of all human characters, and of the little dependence that can be placed on the appearance of merit or sense.”
The central theme running through the novel is the idea that everyone is flawed, shown by the quote above from Mr Darcy, but also that people are ultimately capable of change, shown by Elizabeth and Darcy’s growth throughout the course of the novel.
This edition of Pride and Prejudice is an Ignatius Critical Edition which includes an introduction by Professor Christopher Blum and several insightful critical essays by leading Austen scholars. It contains tradition-oriented criticism, an alternative option to the post-modern, feminist and deconstructionist takes, making it perfect for your teenager or student to read while maintaining a Christian worldview. This could be ideal for either home-school, at home study and discussion, or purchased for as a prescribed text for school study. They serve as an alternative option for customers, allowing teachers, students and anyone who loves a high quality read to buy editions of classic novels without having to, in the words of Ignatius Press, “buy into the ideologies of secular fundamentalism”.
Whether you’re reading for study or enjoyment, diving into the world of Pride and Prejudice will not disappoint!
Reviewed by: Lil van Wyngaard – Veritatis Publishing