Pride and Rrejudice is one of the most captivating and engrossing novels I have ever read. It is not just a love story, but a plethora of complicated situations in which two people from different societies meet, misunderstand each other and then gradually fall in love. And the issues have been dealt with carefully, both in a humorous way and at a serious level.
The author Jane Austen, one of England’s most cherished and frequently read novelists, was born into the landed gentry in the town of Steventon, in North Hampshire ,on December 16, 1775. She and her elder sister Cassandra were educated primarily at home by their father. In her youth, she read literature avidly, wrote fragments of novels and histories, and took part in standard social activities such as formal dances and visiting. In her adulthood, her daily life included assisting her parents at home and looking after her many nieces and nephews. During her mature years, when she was an author of repute. She remained at home, preferring rural domesticity to the London literary scene. She died in Winchester of Addison’s disease on July 18, 1817.
All of her works deal with the lives of young, marriageable men and women in England’s nineteenth-century rural landowning and aristocratic classes. Young readers have always admired Austen’s charming heroes and heroines, whose journey to find the right partner is complex and often humorous. Austen’s work is also known for its finely crafted plots, meticulous language, subtle irony, and for its realistic and satirical exposition of the society in which Jane Austen lived.
The novel revolves around the Bennet family which consisted of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet, and their five marriageable daughters. The Bennets belonged to the middle class society and due to the absence of a male heir, they were to lose their home and property to Mr. Collins (Mr. Bennet’s relative), after the latter’s death. Mrs.Bennet, a loud and comically foolish character, is obsessed with the thought of getting her daughters married. Mr.Bennet comes across as an indolent person, irresponsible father and a sarcastic but amicable wit. The story is about the experiences of the daughters when they come across various bachelors, which leads to many problems and the rise of sentiments as well.
However, the most captivating of all, is the unison of Elizabeth-Darcy. While Elizabeth, the second daughter, is talented, witty and gracious, Fitzwilliam Darcy is a high-headed aristocrat who looks down upon the Bennets due to the insolent ways of Mrs. Bennet, Lydia (the fourth daughter) and other family members. Their relationship-a combination of attraction and contempt-is certainly one of the most exciting in all literature.
The setting of the novel rotates from rural areas of London to urban areas. While The Bennets live in Longbourn, the rural area in the county of Hertfordshire, the scenes take place in nearby Rosings in Kent county, where Mr. Collins occupies a clergyman’s ‘seat,’ and in the central county Derbyshire, where Darcy lives. Austen considers rural communities as places of comfort, traditions and intimacy, unlike London, where values keep changing, and life revolves around trends and trade.
Darcy and his aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, are members of the aristocracy, England’s hereditary ruling class. The Bennet family and the clergyman Mr. Collins, like Jane Austen, fall into the category of landed gentry, which means that they own property in the country, are well-bred, and hold a good social position. The Bennets are ‘poor’ only in comparison to others of the gentry.
Marriage in the novel is depicted as a complex institution, in which finances and social grandeur play a vital part as compared to emotions and camaraderie. The most famous quotation from Pride and Prejudice says it all, “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” The novel does not question or challenge the inferior position allotted to women in early nineteenth-century country life. Mr. Bennet’s daughters cannot inherit his property, and they receive less schooling than males of the landed gentry. Twenty-seven-year-olds such as Charlotte Lucas marry preposterous and fallacious men for fear of wearing the label ‘spinster’ at thirty. Women cannot work and are therefore economically dependent upon men. For women, ‘success’ is defined solely in terms of marriage and domestic affairs. In short, in terms of what they provide for men. Austen doesn’t approve of such practices, as is depicted in her novels.
The novel has a sarcastic tone, particularly in case of Mr.Bennet , who speaks ironical statements in all possible situations. The author, Jane Austen, has used simple and precise language. She uses irony to give a comic effect, which also enable her to communicate her ideas more effectively than literal language. The clarity in language also comes from the fact that no ornate and embellished elements have been included. A superlative usage of symbolism has also elevated the literary stature of the novel, as it brings out impeccably, the flaws and virtues of characters, and the imagery of beautiful country side and Pemberley gardens.
The story has a tight structure with one main and three sub-plots. Though the narrator is omnipresent, it usually presents the situations as Elizabeth (the protagonist) sees it.
The novel has very powerful characters possessing vivid personality trait,s which are slyly uncovered as the novel proceeds, in the right manner and at the right time. For instance we see, on one hand Elizabeth is a very wise and independent woman, yet at the same time, she was prejudiced, subjected to misconceptions which were based on hearsay. Also, on one hand while Charlotte takes the most unsound decision of marrying Mr.Collins. Yet we see how skillfully she dealt with the queer and peculiar ways of Mr.Collins. Thus, a successful attempt has been made to mingle the negative and positive traits in the characters.
We see, through its dynamic characters, Pride and Prejudice contrasts many human qualities; depth and superficiality; honesty and dishonesty; pride and humility; independence and servile compliance; selfishness and generosity. Most importantly, Austen contrasts weak people with those who can recognize their own shortcomings and thus mature.
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