Oh my – I was looking at The Murder of Mr Wickhan and trying to think if I remembered P&P well enough to venture into something which was using the same characters for a new plot. ??? –
Pride and Prejudice
By Jane Austen – 1813
Read by Rosamund Pike
Rating – 10 / Classic literary romance
So how is it this time? 2022? In the midst of tumultuous times with pandemics, wars, elementary school shootings and threats to democracy of all sorts? It’s comforting to be able to simply chuckle and enjoy. I usually despise romance novels but there are a precious few which I appreciate – this is one.
And I love rereading good books. I don’t have to be concerned with how it’s going to end because I already know that. So I can really relax and focus on the journey itself. This book probably stands a third or fourth reading.
A rich bachelor moves into the neighborhood where the Bennetts live in respectable middle-ness. This is because their home really belongs to their father’s cousin, a minister, so when father dies the family will lose status. The Bennetts have five girls to get married because there is nothing else for women a station above abject poverty to do. But fear not, there are several eligible bachelors hanging around.
The story progresses through a riot of possible matches for the girls who are various ages up to 24 years which is essentially a spinster, a very sad thing to be. Along with the possible matches for the Bennett girls there are several other single young ladies in their circles. Also, they can’t just marry any old single male, he has to be of a certain social standing.
But this is a romantic comedy in many ways, so boy meets girl and girl gets boy right where he wants her. There are distinct themes though. Pride is one – prejudice another (obviously) and they certainly stand out, but reading it in 2022 means that the differences in today’s ideas of love, family, economics, feminism (or the lack of freedom of any kind for women) come into play. This is an honest-to-god classic so it’s not written for 21st century readers. Readers of today are aghast at some of these 18th and 19th “manners” regulating so much of people’s lives. And Austen satirizes many of them so it could be confusing for younger readers. (This is NOT the world of the earnest Little Women!)
The book’s more universal themes are those of honesty, gossip, status climbing, hypocrisy, along with pride and prejudice. These are why people keep reading the book – people really haven’t changed that much. And with very slight twists, they’re the same the world over – Europe, India, Mexico – much of this book plays out in all times and places.
The language interests me – we almost need translations. “Condescending” isn’t an insult in literature of the 18th and 19th centuries, it’s meaning then was more like “down to earth.” I understand that Austen’s publishers polished up a lot of her vocabulary and punctuation.