Dear Miss Austen,
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 admire and love your novel, Pride and Prejudice.
I first read the book many years ago in Project Gutenberg while at the same time listening to a Librivox recording. I didn’t know who Jane Austen was, and I only picked the ebook at random. At first it was a struggle because it was my first classic fiction. But when I got used to it, I was hooked.
Austen’s prose is superbly beautiful. Her wit is sharp and her sentences and dialogues are always brimming with intelligence.
I loved it before, and now, I love it anew:
1. I love the characters:
Of course, my favorites are Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy. But I also like Jane Bennet, Charles Bingley, and the Gardiners.
I love them for their virtues. I love them for their character, intelligence, wit, good manners, propriety, modesty, simplicity, good-heartedness, resilience, courage, and elegance.
But there is also something to appreciate from the other, less likable, downright mean or even villainous, characters: They reflect flaws or defects that are sometimes, if not oftentimes, found in us. For example, to my horror, I recognized a bit of myself in Mr. Collins and Mr. Wickham!
2. I love the setting:
I love the simplicity of life in early 19th century England. I don’t know anything about the Regency Period. I am sure things are far from perfect in those days. Things are especially difficult for women. But there were a lot of good things, too: People had a sense of decency and honor, so that when Lydia eloped with Wickham, for example, everyone was scandalized. People were modest, well-behaved, and civil. In other words, they had a strong sense of morality. They followed a strict code of social conduct. Nowadays, people are not very shocked when so and so eloped with so and so, or when so and so is living with so and so. It’s very sad.
I love Longbourn, Netherfield, Rosings, and Permberley. I love the countryside, woods, and gardens. People were not so indolent that they were so dependent on carriages all the time. The Bennet sisters, for example, and especially Lizzy, were fond of walking. But I also love the curricles and barouches.
3. I love the plot (spoilers ahead!):
Pride and Prejudice is basically a love story. At the center of it all is Lizzy, the daughter of a clergyman, who is not wealthy, and Mr. Darcy, the son of an aristocrat and who is very, very rich. When they first met in a ball, they made terrible impressions on each other. Lizzy saw Darcy as proud and arrogant, and indeed he was. Darcy believed Lizzy to simply be prejudiced against him, and so she was. But actually, each of them had a measure of both pride and prejudice. These character flaws promoted misconceptions and prevented them from understanding each other and themselves. When these were later confronted and dissolved, true love developed.
But Darcy was already in love with Lizzy early in the novel. He was first struck by her “fine eyes”, and as they became further acquainted, by her character, intelligence, and liveliness. He has never met anyone like her, who is not intimidated and dazzled by wealth and rank, and who is not afraid to speak her mind.
Lizzy’s love for Darcy grew as she got to know him better. On the surface, he is proud and arrogant, but on a deeper level, he’s noble, gentle, and affectionate. He is such a contrast with George Wickham, the son of the Darcy family’s steward and Mr. Darcy’s former friend, who Lizzy later met and immediately admired for his attractiveness and pleasing personality. On the surface, he is humble and affable, but on a deeper level, he’s selfish, deceitful, and irresponsible.
Then, there’s Jane and Mr. Bingley, of course. Both of them are attractive, kind-hearted and good-natured, so they were easily drawn to each other.
Mr. Collins (who reminds me of Sheldon Cooper), Miss Bingley, Mrs. Bennet, Lydia Bennet, and Lady Catherine de Bourgh are amusing, albeit sometimes annoying, characters. They spice up the story.
I love the scene wherein Lizzy and Lady Catherine faced off each other. The verbal exchanges were superb and can never be surpassed by TV soap operas.
4. I love Jane Austen.
If it’s not already obvious… I adore Jane Austen. She lived in the late 18th and early 19th centuries — that’s a long, long, long time ago. But because of her novels, I feel like I knew her very recently.
We hope to be blessed by a second baby, and this time we wish for a girl, so we can name her Elizabeth Darcy!
My Rating: 5/5
Date Read: September 22 – October 6, 2012