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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Pride and Prejudice


Jane Austen struggled to get Pride and Prejudice finally into print.  Finding a publisher was not easy (she even considered self-publishing), but she did not give up.  During the years the manuscript sat on her shelf, she reworked it and changed its title from First Impressions to the even more plot-descriptive Pride and Prejudice.  Now, 200 years later, that novel is still one of the best known, and best loved, books in the world.  

Mr. and Mrs. Bennet live with their five daughters in Longbourn, a Hertfordshire town in which nothing is more important to young ladies and their mothers than making the right match.  A man with a fixed annual income is a must, but even better is a handsome man with an annual income.  And the highly competitive (if a bit scatterbrained) Mrs. Bennet is ready to start marrying off her daughters.  This is, in fact, to her husband’s dismay, all the woman thinks about. 

However, the Bennet girls, beautiful as most of them are, face some stiff competition in their little town, and when a military troop makes temporary headquarters there, the game is on.  But it is when two wealthy young men take up temporary quarters in one of the county’s most spectacular homes and, at the same time, a foolish young preacher comes courting the girls that the fun really begins.

Pride and Prejudice, considering its age, is remarkably easy for today’s readers to read and enjoy.  Austen’s witty dialogue and her writing style work as well today as when the book was first published, ensuring that the novel will continue to entertain readers for many generations to come.  It does not hurt, too, that Elizabeth Bennet, the second of the Bennet daughters - and Austen’s personal favorite of all her heroines - is one of literature’s most memorable characters.  Elizabeth, though, is surrounded and supported by a whole cast of characters that interact perfectly to make Pride and Prejudice the very special book that it is. 
There are the wealthy (Misters Bingley and Darcy and their sisters), the super-wealthy (Lady Catherine), the foolish (Mr. Collins and Mrs. Bennet, in particular), a scoundrel (Mr. Wickham), the rest of the Bennet sisters and their long-suffering father, and a town filled with friends and rivals.

New readers are likely to be surprised by how much fun Pride and Prejudice is, but this is precisely the reason so many re-read it on a regular basis.  Jane Austen wrote romantic comedy before there was such a thing.  She was way ahead of her time stylistically, especially when it comes to dialogue, and it all comes together beautifully in Pride and Prejudice.  This one is not to be missed.
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