In celebration of Jane Austen’s 239th birthday today, we have republished this previous article (Published in April) looking back at her enduring classic, Pride and Prejudice.
A couple of months ago I posted an article about having just read A Room with a View, a novel from the turn of the twentieth century. This sunny Spring afternoon I finally finished reading another “classic” piece of English literature, Pride and Prejudice.
In my last article on the subject I made the point that reading these classic books can become a chore, simply because we have been taught to try and analyse in-depth meanings about these books. Although it is clear that many of these classic novels have distinct undertones and themes running underneath the main story which makes them more worthy of re-reading them, I must stress that that isn’t the reason I believe they are – and should be – held in such high regard.
Before I read Pride and Prejudice I was admittedly ignorant of the plot behind it, all I knew was that it had a character called Darcy in, of whom I had thought of as the villain and that (obviously) it was a highly esteemed classic romance. YAWN. Shame on me that the only reason I decided to read it was because my copy of Pride and Prejudice with Zombies sat on my shelf waiting to be read by someone who could actually understand the references and jokes it made.
It seems that I really misjudged it, the book isn’t just a “romance” yet it isn’t some terribly metaphorical or allegorical text either. It is actually an interesting exploration into human emotions, romances and, as the title suggests, our prides and prejudices. Nothing in the story or real life – it suggests – should be taken on face value and I believe that this message is one of the reasons the novel has had such an eternal impact on readers for years since its publication. Of course, the story of Elizabeth Bennett and her sisters’ trials and tribulations in attempting to secure themselves with a husband of merit and fortune is one which, though seemingly trivial, would be interesting in a historical sense, even if the story surrounding it wasn’t so captivating.
I particularly found that the characters in the novel were so well created, I saw myself cheering them on to their inevitably happy endings and triumphing in the losses of the equally well realised “villains”. In short, it’s not often I read a book which I thought was truly original. It is even more surprising to me because I thought that the original might have lost its potency over years of films and books ripping it off, yet it remains untouched. Whether it is possible for new authors to create such a masterpiece again I don’t know, but at least there are hundreds of fantastic original novels out there which are still being read centuries after they were first put to paper.