“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” So begins Austen’s second novel, Pride and Prejudice, published in 1813.
I am a bit ashamed of myself for never making my way through the entirety of this novel before now. Why? Well, I blame Colin Firth. Seriously. I could never be bothered to read on when all I had to do was pop in a DVD. And, well…just look at him. **swoon**
To be honest, I thought that particular adaptation was quite equal to the novel. However, there are certain places where the novel is superior for detailing feelings and certain elaborations that are just not possible to achieve through film.
What did I think of the book?
I am still uncertain how I feel about it. Yes, yay for the girl getting the boy and whatnot and all the happy ending stuff. But, as I look at the novel for other things, it leaves me with a large degree of uncertainty about what I would like to say about the whole thing.
Did I like the novel? Very much.
Will I re-read it? Most definitely.
Things I noted:
- In reading from Susannah Carson’s compiled essays, A Truth Universally Acknowledged: 33 Great Writers on Why We Read Austen, I stumbled across a short piece by writer, Benjamin Nugent, about nerds. He posits that the socially awkward folks like Mary Bennet or Mr. Collins are the nerds of the day–they can’t seem to really make a connection with societal expectations no matter how hard they try. While I can agree that they are socially inept, I am wondering more why it is that they are the ones focused on moralizing over the behavior of others. Certainly they are judgmental as many of the characters in this novel are, but they are morally judgmental without having the experience or sense to justify their waffling on.
- I guess what really bothers me about the whole thing is that in a home with that many girls–regardless of the time period–I cannot believe that all five were absolutely civil in their actions to each other. At no point is it ever mentioned–through all the moping about family behavior–that anyone ever did a damn thing to curtail anyone out of line. Never do Elizabeth or Jane say a peep to their other sisters or even their parents about the issue. And how on earth does Elizabeth manage to not to slap Lydia when she returns, proud-as-you-please, as Mrs. Wickham–still behaving like a spoiled brat without a care for the circumstances to which she has inflicted on the family? As an older sister, I could not have been so kind nor could I have bothered with social niceties. But maybe Austen wanted to provide an idealistic version of this kind of household regardless of the clashing personalities and behaviors?
- For child rearing, I see the dreadful consequences of being raised to expect someone would give you everything one could want without being taught ambition to secure it for the future (Lydia/Wickham). Darcy has the same kind of expectations except he is secure as the heir of an estate and not, as Wickham grew up, a favored child of a family friend; he has the responsibility of estate management and family weighing him down in the world. In marriage, I see the long term results of an ill-considered partner in Mr. and Mrs. Bennet. In Mr. Collins and Charlotte Lucas, while I see stupid reasons for marrying and a lack of romance or feeling, there is a similarity of character which may make the choice not truly devoid of logic–though not recommended.
- Miss Bingley is a good foil for Elizabeth. Lizzy, for all of her charm, is also quite a spiteful little thing–and sometimes she is spiteful just for the glee it brings to her. Could she be just as shrewish as Miss Bingley? Oh, I absolutely believe it, given the right set of circumstances, even though Austen tries to soften her edges by telling us she is amicable and likes to let the past go (which she never does). I think here they just manage their commentary differently: Miss Bingley to shame or denigrate character; Elizabeth to poke at ego; but both do it to feel superior.
- The very last chapter seemed like a throw-away. Isn’t there a better way to provide “what happened to…” commentary than just random paragraphs questionably arranged? It just stopped so abruptly that I began to wonder if I wasn’t missing a page or two!
Ok. That was my two cents on P&P for the moment. I may give it another read sometime during my Classics Club stint to see if what I think has managed to percolate enough to form a more coherent examination…