…Pride & Prejudice – Jane Austen (7 years later)

‘Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance.’ – Perhaps not Austen’s opinion, but that of her character’s…Pride n 1 a feeling of honour and self-respect; a sense of personal worth 2 excessive self-esteem; conceit.

Prejudice (definitions)

1: an opinion formed beforehand, esp an unfavourable one based on inadequate facts

2: the act or condition of holding such opinions.

Would it be imprudent of me to repeat a previous argument of my own? The so aptly titled Pride and Prejudice could not have been better named even if titled ‘The love of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy.’ The two sole things that kept these two famous lovers apart: Mr Darcy’s Pride and Miss Bennet’s Prejudice towards him.

A Summary: Mrs Bennet has five daughters, in age order: handsome Jane, headstrong Elizabeth, accomplished Mary, Kitty and her incessant coughing and of course the youngest, free spirited Lydia. What, I ask you, are five daughters good for if not to provide wives for men with large fortunes? After all, it is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife. In the beginning there was Mr Bingley, a handsome man in possession of not only a large fortune but a manor. Bingley brings with him a great interest in Jane but also, if possible, a more handsome friend in the form of Mr Darcy. Filled with pride in himself and prejudices towards others Darcy takes a disliking to the conduct of the Bennet family and they in turn take a dislike to him (even with his large fortune.) Mr Bingley’s fancy for Jane and his for him, is paused when he heads to town and in the intervening months Austen depicts the Bennet sisters’ (primarily Lizzy’s) follys and frolicks. A regiment comes to Meryton, Lydia goes to Brighton, Lizzy holidays with her aunt and uncle, they all write letters, letters, letters. Then there’s Mr Wickham, who brings not only an enhancement of Lizzy’s prejudices towards Mr Darcy but intrigue and trouble for the entire Bennet family, en masse.
It is no secret to most of the British population that Pride and Prejudice is largely based around the love of Darcy and Lizzy; the beauty and delicacy of Austen’s delivery of such a story is what makes P&P so infamously well loved. It is the combination of the realism of the time, portrayed in the need to “marry off” ones daughters which was of such importance and the wit and humour that this endeavour delivered that makes Austen’s account of the time, timeless.

Lizzy, the protagonist, is as the majority of protagonists are, different to her sisters. For although she is offered a hand in marriage from the humorous character, the intolerable Mr Collins, (who is to inherit Mr Bennet’s money, at the time of his death,) she turns him down for want of love, and not simply of comfort- even for her whole family. The way Austen describes Lizzy’s feelings towards Mr Darcy so wonderfully captures the uneasy feeling of love that develops over time, without pride, void of prejudices.

It has been around seven years since I’ve read P&P. In these seven years I have completed school, university, moved from my parents house… essentially grown up. The difference between the two reads is astounding. P&P is a rare gem that can mean 100 different things to you over 100 separate reads, reading it in a time when you love or don’t, have or don’t are sad, or not…it still leaves you bereft, wanting more but oddly satisfied. By reading Austen’s legendary work one questions their own prejudices and pride. The reason I chose the quote at the top is that Lizzy doesn’t leave her happiness to chance, but even after refusing Mr Darcy once she only accepts marriage as an option when she is SURE, and that is a mantra that surely can be applied still, 200 years later.

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