Considering how pervasively Pride and Prejudice is referenced all over pop culture, you’d think I’d already have read the book. Or, you know, at least caught one of several on-screen adaptations. But nope, not yet. All I had was a faint sense of the plot—a love story about Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy, who’ve got to overcome their pride and prejudice to be together. I’ve been meaning to read the classic, unabridged version of Pride and Prejudice for years. I even snagged a second-hand copy from this nondescript Books by Weight bookshop in Worli back when I lived in Bombay. It took this episode of the FT Weekend podcast, to finally commit and give the novel the attention it deserves.
And here’s the thing- the novel was my dedicated bedtime reading for over two months. I was prepared for the text to be complex relative to modern texts. There were sentences that could go solo as paragraphs! To maintain the motivation, I watched the 2005 film adaptation side by side, especially during those first 100 pages. Soon I noticed Austen’s repeated use of the double negation, typically to add humour or to soften criticism. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Austen was a really funny lady. What really blew me away was her brilliant use of humour and satire while tackling topics like women’s roles, family drama, love, class, and reputation.
In just 250 pages, Austen creates an immersive world set in an early 1800s rural England and crafts characters with such depth, including secondary characters Mr. Collins, Lady Catherine, and Wickham. For me, the awkward and sycophantic Mr. Collins is a thoroughly entertaining character. He’s full of pride but has no actual qualities to be proud about. About Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy I have lots of thoughts and feelings which I will not share here because I wouldn’t be able to say enough. But rest assured that I’m ready to be inducted into the Jane Austen Society.
So, if you’re up for a change from your usual reads, pick up a classic. You’ll love having those bragging rights. And maybe the classic you pick up could be the story of how Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy learn to unlearn their pride and prejudice so that they can come to appreciate and accept the other’s goodness. A story so influential it’s practically the basis for the modern romantic comedy genre.
There were lots of highlights but here are some favorites.
- “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”
- “Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used synonymously. A person may be proud without being vain. Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves, vanity to what we would have others think of us.”
- “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.”
- “As soon as they were gone, Elizabeth walked out to recover her spirits; or in other words, to dwell without interruption on those subjects that must deaden them more. Mr. Darcy’s behaviour astonished and vexed her.”
- “Darcy had walkedd away to another part of the room. She followed him with her eyes, envied everyone to whom he spoke, had scarcely patience enough to help anybody to coffee; and then was enraged against herself for being so silly!”
- “I have said no such thing. I am only resolved to act in that manner, which will, in my own opinion, constitute my happiness, without reference to you, or to any person so wholly unconnected with me.”