Everything starts with a belief that a woman needs a (rich) man to keep a roof over her head and a penny in her pocket. When you have five daughters, Lizzie, tell me what else will occupy your thoughts. Then perhaps you’ll understand, I recall Mrs. Bennet seeming to say. I don’t think Jane Austen merely created a Cinderella story to sell, with a poor woman and a rich prince charming. I somehow get this particular impression that Pride and Prejudice, no matter how the love story runs, is also about being a woman of middle class with lack of fortune, four sisters, and an uncertain future who is forced by the prevailing system of her society at that time into marrying a man to guarantee her life. As one of the most memorable classic romances, Pride and Prejudice has become a vivid prove of women’s financial dependency on men in their relationships, despite the gloriously glorified fact that love (still) counts.
Mrs. Bennet is all but in a fuss knowing that the rich Mr. Bingley has come to their country and stays at the Netherfield Park, a mansion not so far from Longbourn where the Bennets live. She believes that, for the sake of their future, she must marry one of her five daughters off to him. But then, she doesn’t have to make such a great effort to smooth her way, for Mr. Bingley seems to have already settled his choice on Jane, her oldest daughter, then and there in the ball arranged to welcome him and his friend and sister. And in this very party, too, Elizabeth, Jane’s closest sister, meets the mysteriously rich and arrogant Mr. Darcy, who falls in love with her almost immediately, although not properly expresses it. His rude comment about Elizabeth gets her burned with anger and decided that he’s the worst person she’s ever known. She hates him almost instantly, and, in a later occasion, forthrightly expresses it.
“From the very beginning, from the very first moment that I met you, your manners showed me your arrogance, conceit and your selfish indifference to the feelings of others. On this basis was built, by later events, an immovable dislike. After I had known you a month I felt that you were the last man in the world whom I could ever be persuaded to marry.” —Elizabeth Bennet.
Their love saga is then purely filled with mixed feelings of pride, on Darcy’s part, and prejudice, on Elizabeth’s part, becoming more complicated by the issues of family background, rank, money, and misunderstanding. At the end of the story, Austen convinces us that all those hindrances blocking their way can be solved only by love, pure and sincere love.
As we can already see along the book, pride and prejudice are attached to the characters of Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet. Darcy is naturally proud, what with his rank, wealth, position, birth and background. The little time he spends with others only adds to his awkwardness in dealing with especially a woman, a woman with stubbornness, a sharp wit, and a sharp tongue, too, like Elizabeth. Despite her lack of fortune and education, Elizabeth is not someone to look down our nose at. Unfortunately, her somewhat innocence brings her disaster, where the false account of Darcy’s bad behavior by someone whom she mistakenly trust blends with her false first impression of him to inflict hatred and prejudice she determinedly holds, which then blind all of her judgements. Pride has unquestionably stopped Darcy from expressing his feelings, and prejudice has firmly shut Elizabeth out of the truth about him. These two traits also what make them an unforgettable couple, the proud man and the stubborn woman who set the standard for the characters in any romance story today.
I thoroughly enjoyed Miss Austen’s style of writing, it’s romantic and nicely flowing. It’s sweet without being too much to bear, even for someone who doesn’t particularly like romances. I admittedly found myself smiling at every sentence, every dialogue, every scene like an idiot. This may not particularly happen to everyone reading Pride and Prejudice, but I have to say that this is what magnetic about the book. What’s more, it’s not, in my opinion, merely a Cinderella story created to spark some (false) hope in the heart of every woman that their status or position in the society will not prevent them from having a rich, handsome husband. This book is also implicitly about the difficult situation of women in a society which doesn’t allow them to be financially independent, forcing them to agree that marriage is the only way to guarantee their future and to escape from poverty. In this very book, Austen also straightforwardly describes, with much disagreement, how women in her time were not the heirs to the property of their own parents because they all would be left to the male heirs. Marrying for love was a rare thing, while marry money had been a must to survive. This is the point where I think that it’s not only Austen’s love story which lasts forever, but also the ugly truth about women’s problem she describes here to deliver the said love story. Unfortunately, all those great features have to be ruined by the dull sequence of events Austen plots along the book. I’m not saying that it ruins everything, it just didn’t attract me the way it should have. When I watched the 2005 movie adaptation, I felt more into the whole narrative.
However, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is a beautiful work of classic romance, one of the great and deservedly memorable classics. It has almost everything to satisfy a reader and is definitely recommended for both those who pursue the works of English literature, and those who want to indulge themselves in romances.