I just finished reading Pride and Prejudice. I won’t hazard a guess on the number of times that I’ve read and re-read this book, but I never ever get bored of it.
Pride and Prejudice is a romantic comedy authored by Jane Austen; it is one among her 6 novels, all written and set in the ‘Regency era’
As the Wikipedia will tell you, Jane Austen was known for her ‘biting social commentary and masterful use of both free indirect speech and irony’ in her works. All such jargon aside, I find her books truly engaging. They never fail to fascinate me with the multi-hued picture she paints of the early English era.
All her books invariably have a woman protagonist and the book traces this heroine’s life from the age of around 18-20 years till she finds her hero, complete with all the trials that she has to endure and the hurdles and obstacles thrown in, and finally ends with their happy union. But what’s interesting is the subtle way in which Jane Austen weaves in the descriptions of the lives and living habits of the people of that era and the region that the book is set in.
From her books, it’s interesting to note the ways in which the men and women of that age kept themselves occupied – what the men did for a living is never quite explained in detail, with most described to have been serving in the armed forces or born into families with good fortune and property. There was of course, no question of the women seeking an employment outside, so the varied ways in which the married girls managed their house and family, and how the others kept themselves busy is elucidated. The social scene is also described to have been filled with frequent gaieties and fun, with the regular balls and dances that one had to attend. The mourning and the ways in which the sorrowful phases of life had to be borne, be it related to the family losses due to the war or otherwise, is also distinctly described.
Another very captivating aspect about her books is the language that is used to describe all the above scenes and scenarios. One can note the marked difference in the way people conversed then, on a daily basis and a careful reading can help one discern the norms and rules that governed one’s speech depending on the situation.
Amongst all the leading ladies of her books, Elizabeth Bennet from P&P is without doubt, the most famous. This book is all about Mr.Darcy’s pride and Elizabeth’s prejudice against him, arising out of this ‘abominable pride of his’, as she says 🙂 Darcy and Lizzy (as she’s fondly addressed) are no doubt the most lovable characters of the book; strangely, far more liked than the good-in-the-real-sense Jane (Elizabeth’s fairer, elder sister) and her love-interest, Bingley.
It’s remarkable the way Austen illustrates how an otherwise sensible, level-headed girl like Lizzy can fall prey to the wiles of prejudice; and how an otherwise widely-admired and well-loved brother and master Darcy is totally misunderstood, owing to his vanity and pride. It’s indeed a gift of Austen’s that she manages to keep her readers captivated by the lives and guiles of these two flawed characters, probably aided by the fact that they are much more true to life than the sugary sweet Jane and Bingley!
All said and done, what appeals the most and gets me to read these books time and again is the classic, old-times romance that is so naturally and beautifully woven into the plot. In an age of Sidney Sheldon-esque romances and crash-bang love stories, this comes as a whiff of fresh air and lingers on to make reading such a refreshingly different experience; it leaves behind a warm feeling of ‘everything is happy and right with the world, after all!’ as one turns to the last page of the book 🙂
ps: For a look at it from the movie-angle visit my friend Smitha’s write-up on the same, coincidentally posted at around the same time as I wanted to! And if you’re wondering how would it be to have P&P in apun ka Bollywood ishtyle, she’s got it all figured out for you – the casting et al, just the right director needs to be found now! 🙂