First Lines: It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.
I am 27 years old. I took every AP English class I could in high school, majored in English education in college (which was basically majoring in both English and education), and I’ve been teaching for just over 4 years.
I’d never read Pride and Prejudice until now.
What’s ironic is that it was my own prejudice against it that kept me from reading it. I had acquired a distaste for classics when I was in high school after being forced to read Dickens and Ayn Rand repeatedly, not to mention everyone telling me 1984 was great (it wasn’t). I just stopped trusting that classics were actually good.
On top of that, I was forced in college to watch Pride and Prejudice with Keira Knightley by some friends. (They promised Moulin Rouge and didn’t mention P&P was going to follow it.) And after watching it, I didn’t get it. I even saw the play version of this last fall and still didn’t totally get it. What was the big deal with this story? Why did girls fawn over Mr. Darcy, who was clearly a jerk? Why was everyone so ga-ga over this book?
But after reading it…I get it. I’m not going to say it’s my favorite book ever and I want a P&P proposal (pfft, Harry Potter all the way), but I understand the hype.
But this is supposed to be a book review, not my life story. I was charmingly surprised by this book, to be honest. Elizabeth, Darcy, Bingley, and Jane were all delightful for their own reasons. Elizabeth wasn’t afraid to say what she thought if someone pushed her too far. Jane is incapable of seeing the bad in anyone. Darcy is somewhat shy and his reticence comes off as being disagreeable and proud. Bingley, poor Mr. Bingley, keeps getting sucked into plots of someone else’s making. It was kind of cute.
Let’s make it clear though: Mr. Darcy is not, in my opinion, a stud muffin. However, I can see why he’s a famous romantic figure. Darcy is the farthest thing from an alpha male I think I’ve ever read. He’s arrogant at times, sure, but he’s patient and humble and caring when it comes to those in his inner circle. He does what he thinks is best for others and admits when he made a mistake. These are very attractive qualities for sure, and I can see why he’s gained the reputation he has. He’s just not what I would want most. Thank you for putting up with my short stud muffin rant. (I’m sure that Jane Austen’s greatest wish was that Darcy be described as a stud muffin, and therefore, I will continue using the phrase. You may continue cringing.)
Austen’s writing style can sometimes gets confusing to a modern audience, particularly dealing with who is speaking. I frequently noticed that when three people were in a room, sometimes I had no idea which of the three were talking. I’d get almost done with a very long paragraph and realize someone else was actually speaking.
But truly, Austen’s writing was much easier to understand and follow than I expected, based on other classics I’d read. It’s funny and not terribly intricate, but there are webs Elizabeth attempts to dodge. It was more character driven than plot driven, which slows things down a bit, but I had no problem sticking with the story. I remembered the movie/play well enough to vaguely know what was supposed to be coming next and I was fascinated to see what the differences were.
I’m actually rather impressed that this female-driven story did so well for itself at the time. (Not that women didn’t want representation in books–I’m sure they did!) I’m also impressed that the women are well-fleshed out. Not every woman is a likable character. Some have nothing going on upstairs, some are petty, some are vengeful. But on the flip side, there are other women who are the model of female virtue (of the time), women who are strong-willed but kind, women who only want the best for those around them no matter the personal cost. I’m impressed.
Having had so much success with this book, I think I may have to add other Jane Austen novels to my to-read list. I hear good things about Sense and Sensibility…