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Review: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

This is the first in our Book-to-Movie Series. Each Tuesday in July we will be discussing our readers favorite books that became movies. We begin with a classic.

My Thoughts on Pride and Prejudice (and Zombies?)

by Sheila Hollinghead

Pride and Prejudice came in fifth in our poll. (And probably would have been higher if we had limited the voters to females!) It placed second in a BBC poll of the United Kingdom’s best loved books.

Jane Austen created a story two hundred years ago that still resonates with modern readers. So much so that a pheromone was named ‘darcin’ in honor of the passionate hero, Mr. Darcy.

What made this book such a hit that its popularity has continued until today, still spawning new movie versions (even one entitled Pride and Prejudice and Zombies slated for 2013)?

There are several reasons for such popularity. First, Jane Austen employed the use of free indirect speech that allows us to delve deeply into the mind of Elizabeth Bennet while, at the same time, keeping us at a distance, enabling us to laugh at the lovers along with the narrator.

Austen focuses throughout the book on “Lizzy” who is witty, strong willed, and moral, many of the very things we want to be. She is very much her own person, refusing to let others dictate her life.

For example, she stands firmly against her mother’s pressure to marry Mr. Collins, leading to this line uttered by her father:

“An unhappy alternative is before you, Elizabeth. From this day you must be a stranger to one of your parents. Your mother will never see you again if you do not marry Mr. Collins, and I will never see you again if you do.” 

This shows us her integrity. She refuses to marry Mr. Collins even though it would ensure financial security for her and her family. In addition, she rejects the rich Mr. Darcy’s first proposal of marriage, shocking him with her opposition.

Later, when his domineering aunt visits, she again refuses to be cowed. Elizabeth is a brave woman, especially during this time when women were dependent upon men.

And, yet, she was not perfect. She allowed herself to be led astray by Mr. Wickham. She was human with the faults and foibles we all share. Not as pretty as her sister, instead the “witty” one, she’s a woman we readily identify with.

Then there’s the other great character women still swoon over, Fitzwilliam Darcy. What makes him such a desirable man–even before we saw him *gasp* in his wet shirt in the 1995 BBC miniseries?

One of the reasons–he’s not easily attainable. He, at first, loathes Elizabeth. And the feeling is mutual. Yet, unknowingly, she wins him over. In a short period of time, he goes from dislike to passionate love.

However, Elizabeth is not easily persuaded, especially since he insults her and her family when he first declares his love. In vehement language, she tells him exactly why she would never marry him.

And, this gives us another reason to love Mr. Darcy. Even after this harsh rejection, his love never wavers.

Furthermore, he actually listens to what she says to him and changes his behavior. Ahh,  that’s enough to make any girl swoon. A guy who not only listens, but changes his behavior! (Ladies, DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME. Most men will not respond like Mr. Darcy.)

He is an excellent listener and responsive to those around him. He showers gifts on his sister and is a good manager of his estate with happy, loyal servants. He knows how to pay attention to the needs of others.

Furthermore, he takes it upon himself, secretly, to save Elizabeth’s sister. He acts competently without any prodding. He takes charge.

In contrast to Elizabeth’s own father, he’s not snared by outward beauty. It’s the inner Elizabeth that he so passionately loves.

Being the owner of Pemberley, fantastically rich, and good-looking to boot makes him the almost perfect man. (If he were perfect, would we love him quite so much?)

I once thought I was a Jane Austen fan. After reading and rereading her books dozens of times, I realized I am actually a fan of Pride and Prejudice. I am a fan of this hybrid of Beauty and the Beast and Cinderella–peopled with the imperfect hero and heroine to make the perfect love story.

A love story that never grows old, no matter the number of times it’s retold. And even if you throw a zombie or two into the mix.

# # #

Sheila Hollinghead is the author of  Thundersnow (In the Shadow of the Cedar) and Eternal Springs: 366 Daily Inspirations. She lives on a south Alabama farm with her husband of thirty-one years.

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11 comments on “Review: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

  1. Well done Sheila. A very good review. Pride and Prejudice also has a number of “sequels” written by modern authors. Many are free for Kindle. They range from awful with Darcy a sex addict to sweet and well written in the style of Jane Austen. I do believe there is one or to with zombies.

  2. Traci B
    July 3, 2012

    Great review, Sheila. I’m an Austen fan from way back – did my high school senior year English term paper on the wit and humor of Jane Austen, using Northanger Abbey as the basis for my analysis.

    While Pride and Prejudice ranks among my top JA books, I think Emma is my favorite of her novels. Its themes are timeless, as evidenced by the fact that they translated so well into the 1995 movie Clueless, a modern update of Emma. Between the book and the movie, there are 180 years of culture and history, and yet the themes and motifs connect. Also, the 1996 movie version of Emma, with Gwyneth Paltrow, is highly entertaining and very true to the novel.

  3. A.M.B.
    July 3, 2012

    I could read Pride and Prejudice everyday and never be bored! It is very interesting how Jane Austen’s work has withstood the test of time (and yet many contemporary women’s fiction authors are dismissed today). I love the books and the movies and I’ve considered reading the spinoffs. My very favorite Mr. Darcy is actually Rob Webb from The Mitchell and Webb Look: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gTchxR4suto

  4. Topline Tack
    July 3, 2012

    Cool AMB – I’ve nver seen that video before! Love the review, Sheila!

  5. Pingback: The Top Five Books to Movies from Readers’ Realm Poll « Welcome to the Realm

  6. esthershealthyliving
    August 22, 2012

    Life wouldn’t be the same without Mr. Darcy! Great post!

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This entry was posted on July 3, 2012 by in Book Reviews and tagged , .

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