“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife” – Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice, Chapter One.So begins Jane Austen’s brilliant novel, perfectly cast, with sharp wit and characters we all love, loathe and know, even in our own lives. Today, January 28 2013, Pride and Prejudice is two centuries old. There are many celebrations in England, one in fact, a BBC ball at Netherfield, makes me wish I was there, in my long gown and pelisse.( More on the pelisse later) This will be the first of many posts this year, as I celebrate the joy Pride and Prejudice has brought me.
The very first page in Pride and Prejudice allows us a glimpse into the true nature of the relationship between Mr and Mrs Bennet with Austen writing a few fast and sharp lines to highlight their characteristics – brilliant. Mrs Bennet irritatingly speaks of getting their daughters married and Mr Bennet pretends he knows nothing in order to stop her from speaking. I love that we are introduced to the close relationship between Elizabeth( Lizzie) and Jane very quickly, Jane who is so angelic- I wonder if the character was molded after Austen’s sister Cassandra- they stand miles apart in terms of maturity as opposed to Kitty, Mary and Lydia. A fine novel with more humor than I could barely grasp. It contains subtle, between the lines wit, that needed a second, third and fourth reading on my part, at a very young age, to readily understand how well Jane Austen understood society. It seemed to me that she really tapped into the heart of its cruelty and ability to cast out random people who didn’t quite deserve it, their financial prospects alone, dictating their friends and relationships.
“There are few people whom I really love, and still fewer of whom I think well. The more I see of the world, the more am I dissatisfied with it; and every day confirms my belief of the inconsistency of all human characters, and of the little dependence that can be placed on the appearance of merit or sense.” Lizzie Bennet― Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
My relationship with Lizzie Bennet began from the moment I met her, that one quote taught me as much about her character as it did the fact that Austen understood human frailty better than anyone. She was so spot on with many characterizations, cunningly spinning us a story and humorously breaking many barriers. Lovely Lizzie, defiant in her beliefs, kind, though impatient with her mother’s fussy and shameless soliciting of eligible young men for her daughters- it was the impropriety of her actions that annoyed her, not that she loved her less( or at least that’s how I preferred to see it) she did, in her own way. Her special bond with her father, however, is evident in the last pages of the book. Those famous lines we all know, are deeply entrenched. I won’t devote the entire post to all of the characters, that will be for later. I will say Charlotte Lucas is another favorite of mine, she is barely mentioned when people talk about the novel, but she was Lizzie’s best friend and complemented her so well. I enjoyed their friendship. Charlotte’s settling for Mr Collins was a clear example of Austen’s neatly aimed jab at society, again, for having to marry a man for lack of a better prospect due to Charlotte’s age, (in spite of her good education) and meager fortune, rather than for love.
When Lizzie met the aloof, dark, handsome, Darcy, it was a meeting of minds, their verbal skills so well matched( although financially they stood apart) even when they didn’t speak, I wanted them to be together before the end of the book. Her passion so ignited, as she said to his aunt, “he is a gentleman; I am a gentleman’s daughter; so far we are equal” that made me love Lizzie even more. I had a mental picture of Darcy for a long, long time. Then Colin Firth set the standard with his smolder, there will be no going back for me. How I would love to interview Jane and ask her about the creation of Darcy. His temper and judgement being his downfall; yet, the strength of his character far outshines the weakness he displays, allowing us the ability to forgive even as he confesses his feelings.
“My object then,” replied Darcy, “was to show you, by every civility in my power, that I was not so mean as to resent the past; and I hoped to obtain your forgiveness, to lessen your ill opinion, by letting you see that your reproofs had been attended to. How soon any other wishes introduced themselves I can hardly tell, but I believe in about half an hour after I had seen you.”- Fitzwilliam Darcy – Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice Chapter Fifty Eight, Page 211
My very first glimpse of Lizzie( Elizabeth Garvie) and Darcy( David Rintoul) in the 1980 BBC production of Pride and Prejudice
This version will always be my favorite( Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle)
Darcy (Matthew Macfayden)wasn’t my favorite in this, but I liked the casting of Lizzie( Kiera Knightly)
you decide which one you like…
If Jane were to see the current interpretations of her novel, I’m sure she would approve, well, except perhaps the zombie version. Then again, you never know, she was so forward thinking, a visionary in her era, highly observant, sensitive to matters of the heart, with a great sense of humor, she may have been flattered. I really believe Jane would not only have survived our time, she would have been celebrated. To quote Bridget Jones… her “singleton” status would have encouraged more young women to write and live quite happily for the rest of their lives. For someone who believed in love, then found it with a young man who wasn’t her equal, perhaps, and lost it, if she found it again( today, that is) she would have been happy and money would not have decided her fate. If she didn’t, her writing would have sufficed. The fact that all her characters find love, through strife and misunderstanding, one way or the other, although not all are particularly wealthy, shows that Jane wasn’t bitter. She did not resent being a woman( that alone amazes me). She was smart about making fun of society, of its stigma often cast unfairly, of which she herself was a victim. To have her write an adult novel based on country English values, reflective of today’s society, with all its dysfunctions, would have been fantastic – the only one close to that, currently, is J.K Rowling’s A Casual Vacancy.
I hope you stop by, read, enjoy, reminisce, think about your first time reading Pride and Prejudice, where you were, what you thought and let me know.