“Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen

There is no argument as to the quality of Jane Austen’s writing. Her style is very eloquent and sophisticated, and honestly, reading Pride and Prejudice makes me feel somewhat ashamed of my own writing abilities. However, the complexity of Austen’s writing can become slightly confusing for people who don’t live in high society England in the 1800’s. Because the characters are trying to be so tactful, it takes them a page of very complex, subtle language to make a criticism that people in the modern world would make in a few blunt words. This doesn’t really bother me, though. Actually, I find it a bit funny at times. When someone makes a terse, simple comment like Elizabeth’s criticism of Mr. Darcy, I can tell that she must be really mad.

One of the best aspects of Pride and Prejudice is Austen’s characterization. So far, my favorite character is definitely Mr. Darcy.  Even though Elizabeth believes him to be a snobby, self-centered, conceited man, I find him quite interesting and endearing. I would love to read a version of Pride and Prejudice written from his perspective. Elizabeth is very smart, and it is certainly nice to see  this kind of female role model, but reading about her can sometimes frustrate me. I already know the plot of Pride and Prejudice, so when I see her do specific things that I know aren’t going to end well, I’m slightly peeved. I often think, “oh, my goodness, open your eyes!” to some of her actions. Of course, this is a mark of a good novel–caring about what happens, and feeling something towards the events that transpire.

Because the characters are so well-developed and are especially critical to Pride and Prejudice, I often wish that the narration was first-person. It would be so fascinating to see exactly what was going on inside the heads of some of the characters (except for Mr. Collins and Mrs. Bennet, who drive me absolutely insane). I know that most novels of Austen’s time were written in third-person, and it is very helpful because readers can catch glimpses of each character’s thoughts rather than focusing in on one person, but I still think a first-person account from Darcy or Elizabeth, or even Jane could be wonderful.

What I love most about Pride and Prejudice so far is that it teaches a very understandable lesson about judgements and prejudice. When I read about racism and genocides, I think of prejudice on a very large scale, but prejudice can be small, like Elizabeth’s inaccurate judgements of Mr. Darcy. No one in our English class is going to go out and persecute an entire population, but we will all constantly make little judgements about the people around us, even though we shouldn’t. The relationship between Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth is an example of two people truly getting to know and understand one another, and realizing that prejudice blinded their opinions of each other and damaged their relationship.

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8 responses to ““Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen

  1. Although many great authors capture a reader’s attention through the setting and plot line of the book, Jane Austen has the unique capability of truly capturing England’s wealthy and glamorous in the 1800’s through the elaborate exchanges between characters and of course, the characters themselves. With Jane Austen, the concept of a black and white character is entirely foreign. Rather, Jane Austen develops her characters through strengths and weaknesses that make them all the more realistic .There are no perfect heroes or malicious villains, but instead, plausible characters that play with the emotions of the reader as well as the conductor of an orchestra. I sometimes find myself yelling at the book, claiming that Elizabeth is being an idiot or that Mr. Darcy had better watch out as a result of the depth of which the relationship between reader and book characters forms.

    Indeed, I agree with Nora in that “Pride and Prejudice” manages to capture the moments of more subtle acts of prejudice and the consequences of actions driven by pride, rather than the global affect of prejudices. The idea of prejudice itself is certainly universal, but is portrayed from a much smaller scale. In some manners, this view allows the reader to connect to the book on a more personal level for they can often relate to at least one of the situations brought up in the book. Although I will probably have a more difficult time relating to major events of racism in history, I can easily understand the prejudices made when first meeting a person. This is clearly a tool Jane Austen uses to her full advantage to draw the reader deeper into the book and the conflicts that sprout from disputes between characters.

    Also, unlike more books, “Pride and Prejudice” is not told from the perspective of the victim of prejudice, but rather the perspective of an omnipotent person. In some cases it is a fantastic trait of the book, in which it allows me to have a “wider view,” with a better understanding of what is going on. At the same time however, I also think that Austen could have perhaps at least explained in more detail the thoughts of the characters, for the way that a character thinks is part of what makes them who they are. I think Austen is missing an important tool of literature that could vastly improve her writing, although I do enjoy it the way it is as well. I find that as a reader of the twenty-first century, I have been quite accustomed to the written novels of today, which are often told from a more singular perspective, or even from the minds of multiple characters. This allows me to have a special insight into the deeper workings of a character and what others may miss when describing them. Sometimes the thoughts of a book character reveal more about their personality than the author could ever describe to you. Still, I kind of miss the lengthy descriptions used by others of older classics.

    • norakearns

      Pride and Prejudice, part 2
      As I read the second quarter of Pride and Prejudice, I have to admit to getting a tad bit lost. So many characters, with so many names that I can’t keep straight! However, this was a minor frustration compared to the twisted romance of Darcy and Elizabeth. My gosh, there were actually a few moments in this section where I was hitting myself with the book and sighing. This is the problem with knowing what happens before reading the book.
      Reading further, I notice the little details Austen includes in her novel to create a stronger attachment between her readers and her characters. The moments where Elizabeth stands up and shows compassion for Jane, or tolerates Mr. Collins, make her so much more likeable to me. In the beginning of the novel, I was not wholly fond of Elizabeth, but as I “get to know her” I find myself caring for her and wanting to be her friend. This attention to detail in Austen’s writing reminds me of how producers and directors of films include the minutest details to perfect their characters, and shape the audience’s opinions of these characters.
      When I first started reading, I was curious: who has pride, and who has prejudice? In reviews and summaries, people say that Mr. Darcy is proud and Elizabeth is prejudiced, but I think Austen shows these characteristics in both Darcy and Elizabeth, and how they are present in every person. Darcy is too proud to marry, or even dance with, someone beneath him, and thinks he is stooping to a lower level when he engages with the Bennets. Elizabeth is prejudiced against Mr. Darcy for being of a higher rank, and makes false assumptions about him based on this. But Darcy is also prejudiced towards Jane, when he believes her shallow and unfeeling towards Mr. Bingley because she is not forthcoming with her emotions. Jane is proud when she refuses to admit that her family has violated the codes of social propriety, and, on several occasions, is too proud to apologize to Mr. Darcy when she knows she has misjudged him.
      As I witness the action made out of pride and prejudice by Darcy and Elizabeth, I think of how, even though this is a novel set in high society 19th century England, people show pride and prejudice in the same exact ways. I think people, myself included, take the stereotypes we have learned about, and apply them to every person we meet based on the few things we know about her. I also realize how detrimental these behaviors can be. Pride and prejudice are what keep Darcy and Elizabeth, and Bingley and Jane, apart from each other. If Darcy and Elizabeth could not be blinded by these characteristics…well, actually, there wouldn’t be a book!

    • Occasionally, while reading Pride and Prejudice, I have a powerful temptation to throw the book at the wall. It is quite exasperating that many of the societal dilemmas of the characters in the story are formed from silly and unwise decisions. For example, Mr. Darcy acts pretty cold towards Elizabeth for most of the story up until chapter 34, where he suddenly declares his love towards her and proposes. How bizarre is that? He doesn’t go through the long ritual of courtship that the other gentlemen in the story seem to follow. He just proposes quite abruptly. No wonder she declines. If he had wished to save himself the disappointment of rejection, he should have acted more cordially towards her and treated others with some level of respect and kindness. Instead, Mr. Darcy let societal expectations drive him away from Elizabeth until he could no longer bear to be apart from her.

      Also, Mr. Darcy clearly has pride issues. From what I understand, the only reason why Mr. Darcy hadn’t proposed to Elizabeth earlier (which could have boosted his chances of winning her hand in marriage) was because he had considered her as an unsuitable wife. He had originally believed her to be an improper wife because she apparently did not come from a family wealthy enough for his standards. By the time he finally proposes, Elizabeth clearly does not find him agreeable company. Mr. Darcy made the poor decision of letting his own pride get in the way of his love for Elizabeth, which eventually led to Elizabeth’s decline to his offered hand in marriage.

      However, I do find myself growing rather curious as to the events that unfold, particularly revolving around the gossip and tales Elizabeth hears. Is Mr. Wickham’s tale about Mr. Darcy true? Is Mr. Darcy as selfishly disdainful and arrogant as everyone thinks he is? Could Elizabeth be making assumptions about Mr. Darcy’s character a bit too hastily? I haven’t read far enough into the book to tell, but I have suspicions that Mr. Darcy isn’t who he seems to be. Although I generally find books revolving around town gossip and love affairs quite dull or irritating, Pride and Prejudice is alright so far, even though it still bothers me that some of the characters’ troubles are formed from thoughtless decisions that should have been easily rectified.

      I also find it somewhat annoying when Austen refers to Charlotte as Mrs. Collins after she gets married. I understand that Charlotte’s last name changes with her marriage to Mr. Collins, but I already have to remember about seven other characters in the book, so changing what Elizabeth calls Charlotte in the middle of the book is rather irritating. Regardless, I would have preferred for Austen to leave Charlotte as Charlotte. Believe it or not, it makes an impact on the fluidity of the novel. By changing the name, I actually have to think every time I read Mrs. Collins. “Who is Mrs Collins? Ah yes, it’s Charlotte.” It ruins the depth of my absorption in the book. The name change is a very subtle issue for most readers, but it still bothers me.

      I do admit that I enjoy reading this book to a certain degree, for it is rather unpredictable. I’m can make an educated guess, or inference, about who Elizabeth will marry in the end, but I find that I don’t understand just what events will cause her to overlook his assumed personality traits and marry him. In most of the young adult novels I read, I find that I can generally figure out what is going to happen through the rest of the book by the end of the third chapter. Books these days are just that predictable. It’s nice to read a book in a slightly different style.

      • norakearns

        As I read the third quarter of Pride and Prejudice, I had to drag myself through some of it. While I believe Jane Austen is a very talented author, I think her writing style is a little too descriptive for my taste. I do love books like The Night Circus in which the way settings are described actually give me chills, but I feel that Jane Austen sometimes surrounds a few important concrete details with a page of incredibly complex flowery language that I have to dig through to understand what is actually going on. I know that part of this is that the writing is characteristic of Austen’s time, but I often get lost in these long-winded, descriptive paragraphs and I just want to get to the point. Additionally, some aspects of the book are so vague and unclear because of all of this detailed writing. For example, I’m not even sure whom Elizabeth told what about Mr. Darcy and his many mistakes and behavioral flaws regarding his addresses to Elizabeth, but I can provide you with about seventy-five very complex adjectives to describe just how Lady Catherine condescends to those around her.

        That said, I still do love Pride and Prejudice. I’ve grown so attached to some characters, Darcy in particular, that I can’t help but care what happens (although I think my fondness for Mr. Darcy may possibly have something to do with the fact that I really, really like Colin Firth). And I also agree with you, Emi, about the aspect of unpredictability in Austen’s writing. Even though I’ve seen the BBC mini series approximately 15 times, I still felt a bit of surprise and confusion when Darcy proposed to Elizabeth. I could feel the pace of the novel accelerating nearing the end of part 3, so I think we’re in for a great final quarter of Pride and Prejudice.

        One other thing I have been considering while I read is how much the time this book is set in influences every aspect of the plot and the characters. Reading this section, I was so frustrated by how Elizabeth and Darcy act around each other; If one of them would just admit their fault, all of their problems would be solved. But then I realize that in Austen’s time, people were incredibly conservative and proper, and wouldn’t dare make such remarks. I think that the setting of Pride and Prejudice is almost its own character.

        I look forward to finishing Pride and Prejudice, and know that the last section will be very exciting. Even though I’ve had a few frustrations with the novel, I’m glad that we have chosen to read it. I can definitely understand how Pride and Prejudice has become such a classic.

  2. Now that I’ve read through about seventy-five percent of the book, I’ve come to several realizations. First of all, it is not solely the inaccurate judgement of character of Mr. Darcy or Mr. Wickham that is causing problems for Elizabeth, but rather incorrect assumptions formed from prejudices. Elizabeth sees that Mr. Darcy is both wealthy and handsome, leading her to associate both traits with the prejudiced idea that he is spoiled, self-centered, and selfish. Due to these preconceived ideas of Mr. Darcy’s personality, Elizabeth continues to make false assumptions and treats Mr. Darcy in a manner reflecting those same assumptions. Those prejudices blind Elizabeth from noticing several traits and actions particularly by Mr. Wickham. For example, before Elizabeth reads Mr. Darcy’s letter, she is oblivious to the fact that Mr. Wickham is rarely consistent in his behavior in relation to his profession. At first, Mr. Wickham tells Elizabeth that he has no fear of meeting Mr. Darcy again, but skipped the ball, with Mr. Darcy as a guest, that was held not too long afterwards. This only shows how he does his best to conceal his past and association with it. I’m truly beginning to dislike Mr. Wickham. He appears to be manipulative and greedy. Indeed, Jane Austen appears to be using Elizabeth as the main source of prejudice and the consequences of judging people too quickly in the novel.

    The second idea I have noticed is that Austen clearly uses Elizabeth as a representative of the follies of forming prejudices about people one has just met and Mr. Darcy as the representative of the consequences of letting pride get the better of oneself. However, in at least one part of the book, both show a little of the others’ primary characteristic. In that manner, I do agree with Nora; that both show pride AND prejudice.

    Lastly, I simply find all of the characters are becoming progressively irritating. Actually, I can’t figure out what is more annoying, the characters themselves, the way they solve their problems, or the problems that they are fretting about. When I read classic novels like this one, it never ceases to amaze me how far humans and culture have progressed as a whole. At least from my observation, there is less pressure to marry people of certain social status’ in modern times. Marrying for a person’s income is somewhat more understandable, but marrying for social status is not as highly valued as it was in previous eras. So, I can’t relate very well as to the whole issue about the scandal with Lydia eloping with and marrying Mr. Wickham. Austen writes about how disastrous Mr. Wickham not marrying Lydia would be after eloping with her. Disastrous to the family’s reputation, of course. I just don’t understand why it would tarnish the whole entire family’s reputation. Well, I suppose at the time it was a very frowned upon occurrence and may lower the number of future suitors for the other ladies in the family, but it still seems like a ridiculous issue. Also, I don’t understand why Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy blame themselves as the cause of this problem simply because they did not publicly announce Mr. Wickham’s history. The whole situation, if anybody’s fault, would likely be Lydia’s. She should have been more cautious about her relationship and waited a few more years to get to know Mr. Wickham better. Also, she should have known better than to make such a life-changing decision on her own. It would have been far wiser to have asked for her father’s blessing or to have spoken to one of her sisters.

    I have officially added several of these characters to my list of “not-smart characters”, but I am even more curious to see how everything will play out. Especially, how the character’s plan on getting out of the huge social mess they’re in now.

    • I’m enjoying your “voice” in these entries. Some moments when I’m reading, I can actually hear you saying what you have written. And I hope you haven’t destroyed any books by throwing them against the wall.

  3. norakearns

    Pride and Prejudice: 8 out of 10 stars
    Jane Austen is one of the most beloved authors in history, and for good reason. She crafts eloquent, beautiful stories that were revolutionary for her time. Her characterization makes one feel as though she is standing in the small rooms of Longbourn or the great halls of Pemberly being just as thoroughly irritated by characters like Mr. Collins and Mrs. Bennet as Elizabeth Bennet herself would be. Through subtle details Austen makes readers fall in love with Mr. Darcy, despise Lydia, and want to wag a finger at Miss Bingley.
    Additionally, Austen portrays the idea of prejudice in a relatable way. She does not write of horrific injustices like the holocaust (although that was long after her time) or genocides, but rather shows Elizabeth’s stubborn resolve to dislike and therefore misjudge Mr. Darcy. It often forces one to evaluate herself and consider the prejudices she has held.
    However, if someone is on the hunt for a fast, exciting read, this is not the book to choose. In my opinion, Pride and Prejudice would be best read slowly, about 15 pages per night, over a long period of time, never taking an extended break from reading. There is no action in the novel, and most of the time characters are just sitting in their lounges, worrying about whether or not long sleeves are the latest fashion and who will marry whom. These characters get winded just from standing up. Additionally, the protagonist, while supposed to be a strong female role model and one who breaks the mold of the women of her time, often sits around and waits for things to happen just like her female peers. This is definitely a book one reads to appreciate the quality of the writing, not to be held in suspense or overcome with laughter.
    One must also read slowly, because otherwise there is no hope for comprehension. When I was able to take some time and read slowly, I was able to read carefully and appreciate just how amazingly crafted Pride and Prejudice is. This, combined with the excellent characterization, is why I gave this novel eight out of 10 stars.
    The language is complex and confusing, the details can be difficult to follow, but this is still a novel that everyone should read, if only for the last seventy pages-which are excellent-and to see what truly sophisticated writing looks like.

  4. Pride and Prejudice: 7 out of 10 stars
    Jane Austen’s writing style is definitely different from the writing of 21 century young adult novels. Instead of having to flip through a chapter book with an awful choice of vocabulary and boring overused plots, Pride and Prejudice is written with complexity and sophistication, particularly personified in its characters and their manner of speech. Austen also uses a sort of “flowery” language I haven’t seen often, except perhaps in very old classics, like Wuthering Heights. It’s refreshing to read actual decent writing for once, for I feel that Austen’s writing truly represents the traditional idea of writing. With each word seemingly arranged and chosen with care, it’s generally a pleasure to read, although it can also be slightly overwhelming at times. I had to pause my reading often in order to look a word up or reread a passage to figure what exactly was going on. I admit that it can be a difficult reading on occasion, yet it is enjoyable to read something so different. If books were clothes, Pride and Prejudice would be a gorgeous and glamorous silk ball gown, while modern day young adult books would be t-shirts and baggy sweatpants. There just isn’t a better way to compare it.
    One of the most intriguing aspects of Austen’s writing is her characters and in particular, the dialogue between characters. Austen uses their conversations to contribute to the personification of characters, thereby further developing them and making them more life-like. It provides the reader with a way to identify key attributes of specific characters through the type of words they use and the inflection in their chosen words. The characters Austen develops, like Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth, have stimulating conversations as a result. The conversations can occasionally become incredibly dull and slightly confusing due to the fact that they rarely get to the point and have a very roundabout manner of addressing a situation or topic. However, it is common for conversations between characters to be interesting because they hold a plethora of hidden meanings and cleverly concealed insults that demand to be unscrambled.
    Personally, I find that it would be best to read Pride and Prejudice all in one go. It’s rather irritating to read a section of the book, then stop for several weeks. In fact, it’s simply far too difficult to remember what happens and who is who if you put the book down for too long. I agree with Nora in the fact that there isn’t much action. I swear that the extent of physical activity the characters underwent would probably be walking to their neighbors house. I also found myself alternating between irritation and amusement when reading Austen’s writing, for the complaints and problems of these upper class people are honestly generally ridiculous.
    Despite moments of irritation, confusion, and frustration, I found myself enjoying a majority of the book. After all, every book I’ve read so far has a few drawbacks, and those happen to be the ones that are particularly prevalent in the novel. I was however, delighted with the complexity of the writing, impressive vocabulary, and well-developed characters.
    Unfortunately, I don’t think this would be a good book to have the class read because it would likely be torture for several readers, knowing that few find such novels containing intricate gossip plots and ridiculously blinded romantic characters who have a tendency to make terrible life decisions.

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