Pride and Prejudice - Not a Book Review
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen is a classic. It needs no introduction, nor does it need a review. The internet is filled with reviews of this book, not to mention it features in most “must-read romances” lists online.
So I don’t need to review the book. Not really.
But I do want to talk about my own thoughts while reading this book; hence this post.
First of all, this was my nth time reading it. I don’t even know how many times I’ve read this before. It just doesn’t get old!
I remember, when I read it for the first time on the insistence of my mom (I was quite literally a kid then), I didn’t understand a lot of words. But I was good at interpreting the context, so I didn’t sit with a dictionary. That would just spoil the fun!
And despite its complicated words and long sentences, I fell in love with the book.
A few days after I had finished, I opened the book again; this time, with a dictionary in my hand. Every word (or almost every word) I didn’t understand, I looked up. Not that I remembered all the meanings. But I went through the entire book a second time. As a kid! (I was not a very busy kid.)
After that second time, I don’t know how many times I revisited the book. It became like an old friend to me. Sometimes, when I was feeling low, I would pick it up and read my favourite bits.
After a long gap (I think the last time I read this book was before I went off to college five years back), I picked it up again a few weeks ago.
It felt like I was reconnecting with an old friend. But I had grown.
This time, I understood all the words in the book. I’m proud of that. But that’s not the only thing. This time, I noticed much more about the book than I had the first several times:
Not just a romance
Before, I had thought this book was just a romance. The sweetest, most awesome romance of all time (in my humble opinion), but just a romance. When I read it this time, I realised that I’d been wrong.
It is not just a romance. The words of this book brim with irony. Jane Austen’s contempt of the social pressures and customs of her time shine through in every passage of the book. Even her iconic first line,
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”
is a satirical look at the beliefs of small-town society in Austen’s period. The language is so complicated that I didn’t recognise the satire for what it was until now (probably because I’m older and wiser, but it could be for another reason).
This passage by Mr Collins:
and the fact that Elizabeth never “comes around” to Mr Collins’ advances, cements my belief that Jane Austen was a feminist in a period much more entrenched in patriarchy than ours (although people, even now, can relate to Elizabeth’s frustration when Mr Collins interpreted her “no” as “playing hard to get”). She expressed her contempt for the rules in the best way she could, and I admire her for it.
Proud or an introvert?
The name of the book seems to point towards the personality (and attitude) of our two protagonists. Mr Darcy is, of course, “Pride” and Elizabeth is “Prejudice”. He seems proud for more than half of the book, and eventually, we all realise that she was prejudiced against him for nearly as long.
But, reading this book now, after reading so much about introversion, not to mention being an introvert myself, I can’t help but wonder about Darcy.
He’s rich and doesn’t much talk to anyone except the people he came with. Elizabeth and everyone in her town chalk his attitude up to pride. But what if he’d not been rich? Would they have reached the same conclusion then?
I can totally relate to his attitude. If I had gone to a party in a new town where I knew no one, I would, of course, stick with my old friends. I’d feel too awkward to approach someone and make conversation with them.
And if someone spoke to me incessantly at that party (where I was already uncomfortable), I would probably not react too well. Just like Darcy.
The poor guy got labelled as “proud” and “disagreeable” just because he was rich. Rich people are arrogant, after all; not poor people.
As I read the book this time, I felt like I was Darcy. I have been judged as “proud” and “rude” sometimes, too. As are many introverts. Because it’s awkward, damnit, to be thrust into a party where you know no one! It’s the typical introvert’s worst nightmare.
When I read the book before, I sympathised with Elizabeth; thought she was warranted in hating him. But now, I’m not so sure. I think that she was an extrovert and he was an introvert, so misunderstandings were bound to happen. Simple.
How is this so romantic?
I know I said I wouldn’t talk about the obvious, but I can’t help it. I think Jane Austen deserves all the praise everyone heaps on her (though it’s all posthumous).
I am constantly amazed at how romantic this book is.
For many of us, romantic stories need to have some ingredients. Dates, dramatic declarations of love, a little bit of physical loving…
But Pride and Prejudice has none of that. Although perhaps,
“In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I love and admire you.”
could be considered dramatic. Maybe.
But the other ingredients are conspicuously missing. The two lovebirds don’t kiss. They don’t hold hands. Elizabeth doesn’t even call Darcy by his first name anywhere in the book! Seriously. It’s a testament to Austen’s incredible skill that a book so polite, so dignified, is one of the greatest romantic classics of all time.
Those were my thoughts about the book…
If you haven’t read it yet, what are you waiting for? It’s worth a read, even if it’s complicated as hell and you may not understand many of the words.
PS: Fun fact: this tiny book is unabridged and as complicated as ever. I bought it for my mom on her birthday at some point :P