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Sample Book Review: Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice
Europe is home to many excellent writers in history including the renowned Dante Alighieri, Victor Hugo, Miguel de Cervantes, and William Shakespeare. Among the plethora of men are quite distinctive European female writers too like Virginia Woolf, Charlotte Brontë, and Mary Shelley. Each of them has made its mark on the world’s vast collection of classic literature . It is no wonder that their works continue to be discussed and republished up until this day as they are all splendid authors who produced wonderful worlds in their works. The list of notable European female authors includes Jane Austen who is known for her free indirect discourse writing style. This sample book review will focus on Jane Austen’s famous Pride and Prejudice.
Jane Austen is known for featuring the inner lives of women in her time in her work. The life she grew up living may be witnessed in how the characters in her novel seem to be inhabiting the same closed community or space which is quite normal in that era. Everybody knows anybody who is anybody. News about what is happening in their small community is easily circulated and is made known to everyone in no time. Her female protagonists are likable and also feature humor very much like her own. As Jane Austen does not want her protagonists to be completely detached from the world and their own emotions, she prefers to give them the right mix of sentimentality and humor, which turns out to be quite useful in her female protagonists’ romantic entanglements.
Pride and Prejudice
Pride and Prejudice was written in 1813 and comprised three volumes. It had been published anonymously in the Romantic Era but features Austen’s satirical approach to common European life. Pride and Prejudice is the first time that Jane Austen tries out her newly acquired skill of free indirect discourse writing style. In this writing style, Jane Austen avoids using action keywords like “she said” “he believed” “he thought” and “they pondered.” Austen just rolls off and says what the character intends to without specifying which of the characters thought, felt, or said the statement.
Aside from Jane Austen’s distinctive writing style, Pride and Prejudice was also the first ever romantic comedy to ever exist. Yes, Jane Austen is the one who invented romantic comedy as we know it. The story of Pride and Prejudice pretty much runs like Notting Hill and To All the Boys I Loved Before. It’s a boy-meets-girl narrative and they don’t get along at first but eventually fall in love once they get to know each other kind of story. Jane Austen pioneered that kind of plot in her Pride and Prejudice which is why it really is quite a distinguished classic.
To add to the marvelous pioneering of romantic comedy stories, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice also holds the top spot for having the most famous opening line in a book of all time. Jane Austen employed her free indirect discourse style when she wrote “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife,” and left it to the readers to wonder who said that. Of course, most believe that this statement came from the protagonist Elizabeth Bennet herself. Although, if one further inspects the text, it may be deduced that it is actually Mrs. Darcy who said that since she is the one who strongly believes that all her daughters should be able to marry prosperously.
Pride and Prejudice's original title was First Impressions but had to be changed to Pride and Prejudice when it was published. Jane Austen’s intention in giving her novel the title First Impressions was to make her readers remember how Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy first met and the first impression they had of each other. The title change to Pride and Prejudice is not bad either as it is also a very creative way of keeping the first title – in its own way. Elizabeth’s first impression of Mr. Darcy was that he was too arrogant because he refused to dance with her and his pride inevitably shows itself through his words and actions. With this judgment, Elizabeth is subjected to having prejudiced views of Mr. Darcy based on their first interaction alone.
Since then, Elizabeth’s prejudiced impression of Mr. Darcy has only worsened due to Wickham further ruining Mr. Darcy’s image and that Elizabeth believed that Mr. Darcy is responsible for why her sister Jane has been torn apart from Charles Bingley, her love match, and Mr. Darcy’s best friend. Due to this fact, Elizabeth saw it fit to reject Mr. Darcy’s proposal of marriage. But due to an unfortunate event that may lead to the ruined reputation of Elizabeth and her sisters and the intervention of Lady Catherine de Bourgh, Mr. Darcy’s aunt, the two have been drawn closer together and have chosen to marry each other. In the end, they have married out of love and have realized their wrongs which is Mr. Darcy being prideful and placing emphasis on their class standing difference and Elizabeth having harbored prejudiced sentiments about Mr. Darcy.
Pride and Prejudice: Main Characters
- Elizabeth Bennet – Elizabeth Bennet is the protagonist of Pride and Prejudice. She is the second born of five daughters in the Bennet household. She is a witty and lively girl who takes pride in her ability to judge people quickly. Although, she is not safe from being caught up in her own emotions even though it may cloud her judgment. As the story goes, she unlearns the habit and learns that holding prejudices against other people has its dangers and that she could be horribly wrong about her initial judgment, just like she was wrong about Mr. Darcy.
- Fitzwilliam Darcy – Mr. Darcy is seen to be arrogant, antisocial, and full of himself by Elizabeth and basically everyone in town as he had publicly refused to dance with Elizabeth saying that “she is tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me.” Completely oblivious to how the people are reacting to his presence, he even proceeds to break Jane and his friend Mr. Bingley up as he thought that love is lacking on her part. This angers Elizabeth, but he manages to redeem himself. In the end, he realizes that he should never have let his class standing make him act like other people, in particular the Bennets, were beneath him.
- Jane Bennet – Jane Bennet is the prettiest among the five Bennet sisters – she is also the sweetest, too. Right from the beginning of the story, she makes a romantic connection with the talk of the town Mr. Bingley, much to the joy of her mother. Even if the Bingley sisters do not treat her well, her nature of being nonjudgmental – in contrast to her sister Elizabeth – makes her overlook the way she is being treated. Even after hardships, her love for Bingley reigns, and they are engaged at the end of the story.
- Charles Bingley – Mr. Bingley is a polite and good-natured man. He is the closest friend of Mr. Darcy thus he is susceptible to being influenced by the man. As he is good-natured, much that it is bordering on naïvety, he had been tricked by his sisters with the help of Mr. Darcy into going to London. He realizes the true intention behind this ploy and returns to Meryton. There, Mr. Bingley proposes to Jane.
- Lydia Bennet – Lydia Bennet is the youngest among the Bennet sisters and is known to be their mother’s favorite as they share common characteristics such as being inclined to socialize and men. Lydia is the definition of reckless and impulsive and often does things even if it will embarrass her sisters or tarnish their family name. She doesn’t care to think about the repercussions of her decisions and is the reason why she has had a hasty marriage to the swindler Wickham – whom he quickly grows tired of and seeks support from her older sisters instead.
- George Wickham – George Wickham is a manipulative man who managed to trick the sisters Elizabeth and Lydia into believing the lies he told – Lydia obviously more so as they had ended up getting married due to the fact that they had eloped. He had marred Mr. Darcy's reputation in Elizabeth’s eyes and had squandered the money Mr. Darcy’s father have left him with the condition of his joining the clergy. He did not fulfill his promise to Darcy to use the money to study law and instead used the money to lead a dissolute lifestyle. And just like he did to Lydia, he also seduced Darcy’s sister Georgiana. Thankfully, Georgiana has been saved before the two could elope.
- William Collins – William Collins is a good clergyman to whom the Bennets' family estate has been entitled to since the land simply cannot be passed on to daughters due to the rule of entailment. As his patroness, who also happens to be Mr. Darcy’s aunt, encourages him to marry, he intends to choose one of the Bennet sisters to make amends for the entailment. He proposes marriage to Elizabeth, who declines and angers her mother and made her father proud. In the end, William Collins ends up getting married to Elizabeth’s best friend, Charlotte Lucas.
- Mrs. Bennet – Mrs. Bennet is the mother of the five siblings. She is a firm believer in prosperous marriage and that all of her daughters should be able to marry a rich man for they are not bound to inherit their father’s land. She is intent on marrying off her daughters to wealthy men for the sake of financial security and does not take into consideration the suitability of her daughters’ marriage. Her daughters’ marriages seem to be all that she cares about.
Pride and Prejudice: Setting
Pride and Prejudice is set in England sometime during the Napoleonic Wars . This is a time when young ladies do not have autonomy on how they spend their time and is instead encouraged to socialize or rather flirt with men who are suitable and advantageous for marriage. Their lives are more or less confined within the space of a small community where they live and where they are to attend in balls. Even in a seemingly uneventful setting, something interesting happens in the lives of the Bennet sisters and the others.
Pride and Prejudice: Themes
In Pride and Prejudice, there are five main themes that Jane Austen explored freely. These are love, marriage, social standing, pride, and prejudice. Her novel revolves around these five factors and is evidently present in each of the character’s personal opinions.
- Love – Love is hard to come by at this age. Young ladies are encouraged to marry men who will give them financial stability instead of being encouraged to find love. Pride and Prejudice has featured one lucky couple: Jane Bennet and Charles Bingley. Their love for each other reigned in the end despite the fact that Bingley’s sisters have been desperately trying to separate the two of them for they do not see Jane as a good match for their brother. The story ends with Bingley finally getting out of the shackles of his sisters and being able to make his own decisions and go back to the woman he loves and propose marriage to her.
- Marriage – Marriage might be the central theme of Pride and Prejudice as most of the characters, especially Mrs. Bennet, have been raving about the topic. She highly encourages her daughters to go and get married to suitable men and acts like it is her life’s mission to see that her daughter do so. She gets incredibly upset when Elizabeth turns down the proposal of Mr. Collins as this will enable her daughter to keep the family estate and is proud of her favorite daughter, Lydia, despite her poor choice of man to wed. Other characters, like Lady Catherine de Bourgh, on the other hand, are intent on stopping marriages that she sees unsuitable. She takes matters into her own hands and goes as far as intervening a proposal that is to be made out of love.
- Social Standing – As social standing has always been important in every society – much more when Pride and Prejudice was written, the characters’ social status seem to be under constant criticism as they are judged to be worthy or not of one’s hand or at the very least, one’s attention. Social standing is a frivolous way to ensure a person remains part of society despite their personality and how they treat other people around them.
- Pride – Being one of the title themes of the novel, pride is most seen in the character of Mr. Darcy and the way he gives an air of importance. He is well aware of his wealth and social standing and that is what fuels his pride. However, pride is also present in Elizabeth as she is too prideful to even admit to herself that she is starting to develop feelings for the man she used to judge ever so harshly.
- Prejudice – Another title theme of Pride and Prejudice, prejudice can be observed in Elizabeth’s character and the way she judged Mr. Darcy without even having talked to him previously nor gathered information about him. And so when she does receive negative outlooks about Mr. Darcy, she does not think twice and just accepts the story that has been told to her for it fits her prejudice against the man.
Jane Austen has created a unique and extraordinary yet remaining satirical novel in response to the societal pressures that is being experienced in her time. She has shown that forming matches and finding suitable marriages is indeed not that easy even in a preordained setup of finding a match in a ball or party. She has presented the societal, class, and sexual pressures that are unbearable for some people in her time. Jane Austen successfully illustrated the constraints that gripped society in the 1800s. She had also shown a twisted way of how a mother would envision the best for her beloved daughters.
At the end of the first ever romantic comedy Pride and Prejudice, the couples the readers have wanted to end up together right at the beginning of the novel did indeed end up getting married happily. The novel has a seemingly simple storyline as consumers are now used to this kind of plot by this time. However, in Jane Austen’s era, Pride and Prejudice was simply a remarkable story worthy of reading and capturing the hearts of readers. With her unique writing style, Jane Austen has surely hooked her readers into forgetting the time as they turn page by page and surprised them that the precious story has come to an end.
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Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. Thomas Egerton, Whitehall, 1813.
Dillon, Sarah. "Pride and Prejudice". Encyclopedia Britannica, 21 Aug. 2020, https://www.britannica.com/topic/Pride-and-Prejudice. Accessed 8 February 2021.
Prahl, Amanda. “Pride and Prejudice: Jane Austen’s Biting Satire of Polite Society.” ThoughtCo, 28 Aug. 2020, www.thoughtco.com/pride-and-prejudice-overview-4179034.