Ok, I’m going to have to ask you to indulge me a bit here. I love Pride and Prejudice, I wrote part of my masters dissertation on this novel. I have read this novel, forwards, backwards, upside down and sideways. If I understood any foreign language enough, I’d try to read a translation of this novel! Seriously guys, I think I qualify for fan-girl status! So when I realised that today is the 20oth anniversary of the publication of Pride and Prejudice I knew that there was nothing else I wanted to write a post about, even better, I discovered a whole cohort of other bloggers who wanted to do the same thing, so without further ado, I would like to add my contribution the the “Pride and Prejudice Anniversary Blog Hop”
“All Marriages are Not Created Equally,
aka Don’t Let Me End Up Married to Mr Collins”
Jane Austen is, with good reason, considered the master of the romance novel. In her six published novels all the various guises of love and marriage are explored, both of which are prerequisites for a good romance. I believe, however, that it is in “Pride and Prejudice” that her genius for this genre is truly realised. It is in this novel, more than any of the others, that marriage (and getting married) becomes the primary theme and concern: its famous opening lines “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife” serve to immediately highlight this. These are possibly amongst the most famous first lines in the history of literature and it is part of Austen’s genius, in my opinion, that she manages to capture so perfectly the core of her novel’s focus in one sentence.
For me, “Pride and Prejudice” works as a good example of the marriage plot because it is wholly invested in discovering the perfect marriage. Its main focus, as a result, is in finding a satisfactory way to bring Lizzy and Darcy together. What makes it even more special, and probably factors in its enduring popularity, is that Austen’s novel is so much more complicated than the basic boy meets girl chick-flick style plot we have become used to. Pride and Prejudice is as much a comment on the obsession with marriage as it is a love-story. It exposes all the wrong reasons for marriage before showing the us how much potential marriage has, when the reasons for it are right. We believe that Lizzy and Darcy love each other, not because we are told at the very beginning that this is the case, but because the plot gradually progresses towards this revelation. Swept up in watching Lizzy’s movement towards recognising her own feelings, we are drawn into, and invest in, her marriage to Darcy. As a result, in this novel, marriage feels like a natural progression and not an end.
One of the key factors in this is Austen’s creation of the wonderful, effervescent, Elizabeth Bennet. Lizzy is independent enough to resist the more practical aspects of her society in order to marry the man she loves but not so lost to any sense of propriety that she can disregard it completely, as Lydia does by eloping with Wickham. By offering her readers such differing reasons for marrying Austen steps away from simply getting her heroine married, and instead seems to directly ask us the question “On what basis should a marriage go forward?” Simply getting married is not the object in “Pride and Prejudice”, for she shows by examples, such as Lydia and Wickham, Charlotte and Mr Collins, that there are many inducements to enter the state, other than love and compatibility. Instead she is more concerned with finding the right match, and how to be sure once you think you’ve found it. The ultimate goal for Lizzy is to find her own identity and act in a way that is best for her and her future happiness. She doesn’t marry Mr. Darcy because she has to, she marries him because ,boy oh boy, does she want to.
Perhaps one of the reasons this novel has endured for two hundred years is because Austen taps into something that everyone understands, and is still relevant today, how to find it is all, health, wealthy, happiness and love. The circumstances we face may be different but ultimately everyone still wants a cocktail of all this and “Pride and Prejudice”, after all these years, still shows us one of the most perfect examples of it in Lizzy and Darcy.
Maybe you’ve read Pride and Prejudice to shreds, like me, or maybe you’ve never read it. Either way why don’t you make 2013 the year you discover, or rediscover, this novel?
Then come back and tell me all about it!!
Even better, if this has just whetted your appetite don’t forget to check back all week for more Pride & Prejudice related posts. Or why don’t you check out the rest of the “Pride and Prejudice Anniversary Blog Hop”