Monday, January 9, 2012

Pride and Prejudice



Pride and Prejudice
by Jane Austen
 
It is unseasonably mild out in the middle of nowhere, dear reader, and that bright and refreshing sunlight always reminds me of my favorite book. Not because the novel is uncommonly cheerful, or because it feels as though Spring was written in to the book itself, or –wait—maybe it is those two. Now if you are a regular over at Rusty, my favorite book will not be a surprise for you. In fact, you probably already know the answer before I say it, but in case you are a new friend, allow me to share my love of Pride and Prejudice with you.

First published in 1813, Pride and Prejudice is considered Jane Austen’s greatest work and has become the iconic figurehead of my favorite topic – costume drama. I first discovered Pride and Prejudice when I was thirteen years old. Impressionable at thirteen, I admired Elizabeth Bennett’s character and sharp wit and saw in her a confidence I lacked.

Pride and Prejudice was my gateway novel. It opened to me the world of classic literature – the Brontes and Shakespeare followed, Plato and Machiavelli soon after. Bolstered with confidence and just a pinch of defiance, so too did Milton and Peake. In short – I was hooked, literature was now in by blood and it could not be stripped from me.

A decade later, I’m still enraptured by the novel. But now, I admire Austen’s written rhetoric, her clean and stunning use of dialogue, and the narrative humor coloring her passages. Austen may not have sharply reflected “true life” as a Bronte so famously put it, but she absolutely knew how to draw a reader in.

And I would be very remiss if I did not talk just a little about the paramount reason a reader is drawn in – Elizabeth and Darcy:

“You mean to frighten me, Mr. Darcy, by coming in all this state to hear me? But I will not be alarmed though your sister does play so well. There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises with every attempt to intimidate me.''

“I shall not say that you are mistaken,'' he replied, “because you could not really believe me to entertain any design of alarming you; and I have had the pleasure of your acquaintance long enough to know, that you find great enjoyment in occasionally professing opinions which in fact are not your own.''

Elizabeth laughed heartily at this picture of herself, and said to Colonel Fitzwilliam, “Your cousin will give you a very pretty notion of me, and teach you not to believe a word I say. I am particularly unlucky in meeting with a person so well able to expose my real character, in a part of the world where I had hoped to pass myself off with some degree of credit. Indeed, Mr. Darcy, it is very ungenerous in you to mention all that you knew to my disadvantage in Hertfordshire -- and, give me leave to say, very impolitic too -- for it is provoking me to retaliate, and such things may come out, as will shock your relations to hear.''


“I am not afraid of you,'' said he, smilingly. (Chapter 31)


Before the novel was titled Pride and Prejudice, it was given the name First Impressions, which, when the novel is it an end, makes for just as apt a name, but certainly not as “cool”. Both Elizabeth Bennett and Fitzwilliam Darcy must overcome their first impressions of each other to respect, and eventually love, one another. That is not to say that the characters change drastically, or that their first impressions were false, but that there is more to people than how society characterizes them. Their story is not overly romantic, nor is it hyper-emotionalized; their story is about earning respect from another human being, and learning to love another for their differences.

Pride and Prejudice is not for the person who had to read a classic in high school for a grade, but it is for the romantic who is tired of romantic comedies; it is for the reader who likes to be engaged by words; and it absolutely is for the day dreamer who wants to be warmed by a little bit of Springtime sun.

For me, this novel is like a good, old friend. We don’t spend as much time together as we once did, but when we do get together, we remember how much fun we used to have and even learn a little bit more about each other every rendezvous.  
 
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For sharing your favourite book with us!

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3 comments

huda said...

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Casee Marie said...

Bravo, Heather! Everything resonates so much with me; Pride and Prejudice was my introduction to classic literature, too, and what engaged me wasn't the impossible perfection of Lizzy and Darcy, as seems to be the focus so much in more recent years, but on the beauty of the words, the inner-development of the characters, the way they woke up a bit without necessarily having grand changes of mind or heart or spirit or any of that. It really is so much about time, understanding and human connection. And ridiculous, embarrassing relatives, which is undoubtedly a topic Jane knew a lot of us would relate to. And I don't think Lizzy and Darcy are impossibly perfect, not at all. Darcy isn't the "perfect man" - in fact he's quite imperfect - but it's the way he owns his imperfections in the end, the way they both do, that I think makes them such enduring characters - and P&P such an enduring book. (:

little t. said...

I'm reading this atm! And I'm going to watch the bbc version as I go lol x

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