Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
It has been a while since I read this and we were talking about books most re-read and this was mentioned. This has always been one of my favorite books and every time I read it again, I see something new.
The story is set in the 19th century and centers on an extremely proud and wealthy young man, Mr. Darcy and a strong minded, intelligent young woman, Elizabeth Bennett, who forms a strong prejudice against Darcy because of his pride and hurtful manner.
Elizabeth's family is a complete disaster. Her mother flutters over her five daughters and thinks only of getting them married off to wealthy men. She is unbelievable silly and most of the time offensive. She allows her silly and fickle younger daughters to flirt with any prospective young man and when that leads to absolute disaster, she still doesn't see what she has done. Elizabeth's father, while intelligent and kind is no match for his frivolous wife and younger daughters, and rarely interferes, no matter how distastefully they behave. He is only attached to Elizabeth and the kind and lovely oldest daughter, Jane.
Mr. Darcy's friend, Mr. Bingley, has fallen in love with the beautiful Jane, but his snobbish sisters, and Darcy himself are determined that there should be no match which would end in any relationship with the horrible Bennett family no matter how respectable Elizabeth and Jane are. The middle of the book is a saga of offenses, cross purposes, and star-crossed love.
As with all of Jane Austen's books, the plot is not the most important aspect. It is her ability to draw carefully constructed characters who grow and change throughout the book which makes her works classics. Along with the dynamic main characters, there are a number of unforgettable minor characters who are memorable and drawn to perfection. These include, the impossible Mrs. Bennett; the silly and flirtatious sisters, Kitty and Lydia; the supercilious, but somehow redeemable, clergyman, Mr. Collins; the scoundrel Mr. Wickham; and the kind, intelligent, but flawed and lazy Mr. Bennett. Sometimes I think it is the minor characters that draw you in and keep you reading while the more dynamic characters wrestle with their flaws and eventually emerge wiser and more mature; and, since this is Jane Austen, in love with each other. These minor characters are so real, you find yourself trying to figure out who they are reminding you of. Of course, they are an exaggeration, but only in that they are an amalgam of more real traits than are usually found in one person. All their actions ring true and if Mr. Collins would walk into the room, you would know him in an instant.
I know there are many who don't like Jane Austen because there is too much description, too many words and "flowery language," and main characters too concerned with money and getting married, but this is the world she was writing in. Her writing is like a hidden camera on the 19th century. Unfortunately, many people miss learning about this world and human nature because they don't want to do the work necessary to unlock what Jane Austen has to say.
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