Being brutally honest about books

Showing posts with label pride and prejudice. Show all posts
Showing posts with label pride and prejudice. Show all posts

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

A Reread of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice  

Date finished: 28 November 2015

I first read Pride and Prejudice five years ago (not as long ago as I thought, actually, when I checked Goodreads) and gave it a 3-star rating. 13-year-old me didn't understand the language, but 18-year-old me found it much easier and more enjoyable to read the second time around.

I enjoyed the plot about as much as I did the first time, but as most of you will know, there isn't much to it. The story is very simple, though it is slightly more interesting than some of the other Austen novels (I say this as someone who had read all her works at 16). It's entertaining enough, but it lacks the complexity that I would expect from a classic.

What I got more out of by reading this five years later was the humour. Jane Austen wrote comedy and said herself that she couldn't sit down to write a serious novel if she tried. I didn't understand the wit as a 13-year-old as I found the archaic/formal/euphemistic language very difficult, but I appreciated it a lot more as an 18-year-old and even laughed out loud once or twice. I'm not sure whether it's due to Austen's style or characterisation that makes it so, or a mixture of both, but some of the dialogue is hilarious. While some of the ideas may not be relevant for 21st Century readers, the humour is timeless.

Something I found worth reconsidering while rereading was the characters. Elizabeth Bennet is supposed to be intelligent, while I think she is a very average woman who makes some quick remarks. That's not to say there's anything wrong with her or that I can't sympathise with her as a character, just that in this day and age she would be ordinary, not the special snowflake she appears to be in her society. Mrs Bennet and her three youngest daughters are unbearable, and Mr Bennet, who is meant to be sensible and intelligent as a contrast to his wife, is not much better. In today's society he would be a horrible sexist, and Mrs Bennet even comments on the unfairness and strangeness of his will that prohibits any of his female descendants from inheriting his property. However, while Mr Darcy's rudeness makes it hard to engage with him, his unconventionality and sense of family honour make him one of very few likeable characters in the novel.

The setting of the novel is so well-known I won't go much into it. Suffice to say, it is interesting to analyse from a feminist perspective: the women of the Regency era have very little options and decisions to make on their own, and are expected to marry as soon and as well as possible. This seems very unfair. But when you think about their society, the men have similar restrictions placed upon them, along with other expectations such as serving King and Country. So I won't make a final statement on whether this is a sexist setting or not. Also, we can't force our ideas on a society from 200 years ago as they just didn't have concepts like sexism in the same way we do.

Pride and Prejudice lacks the depth to be great literature but is instead chick lit. However, it's funny and light and has entertained readers for two centuries. Most importantly, it improves on the second reading.
I'm Alexandria, a 19-year-old reader/writer/blogger from New Zealand. I love language, history, and sci-fi. Hi! I'm always around if you want to talk, which you can do via comments, the contact form, or Facebook.

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