P is for ‘Pride and Prejudice’

Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is a well-reputed 19th century classic. I love it. It’s my favourite book, and I own four copies of it and pretty much every spin off/parody/fan-fiction ever printed. I have also seen pretty much every movie adaptation and spin off as well.

I’m a little obsessed.

It all started when… my mother took me to the library. I found an old subtitled VCR copy of the five and a half hour BBC adaptation. I was about fourteen, and I had never heard of Jane Austen, nor Pride and Prejudice, before.

I pulled it off the shelf, and my mother, looking over my shoulder said, ‘I think you’ll like that’. So I borrowed it. Over the course of the loan period, I think I watched it about 4 or 5 times… that’s 1635 minutes – 27 and a quarter hours. That’s over a day’s worth of view time!!!

From then on, I have not been able to get enough of the conflict between the prejudiced Elizabeth Bennet and the proud Mr Darcy. There’s just something about it that keeps making me want to revisit the story.

For those of you thinking that the reason is because Pride and Prejudice is a romance novel and is basically a chick flick in written form, I may just slap you. I know it’s easy to dismiss Austen’s work as a girl book that has no depth, but please don’t.

I had a very heated argument in a class once about this topic. My classmate, a male, wrote Austen and Pride and Prejudice off as girly trash. And I objected wholeheartedly to such a notion.

I’ll tell you why:

Jane Austen was not your typical 19th century woman. Instead of being obsessed with finding a husband, as was the norm of the time, she instead was interested in making herself a living through her writing. To say that all her characters are “marriage obsessed” grossly misinterprets what I believe to be the true comment she is making on society. Instead of saying that all young women should find husbands, she is saying that being obsessed with marriage can be detrimental – as per Lydia with Wickham. She is saying that to be obsessed with marriage is foolish, and portrays this by comically exaggerating obsession within Mrs Bennet.

Elizabeth is not one of these women who is obsessed with finding a partner. She is quite content with her books, and the friendship of her elder sister and her father. She is not closed off to the idea of marriage, but she does not seek it. She judges the world around her by their degree of obsession with matrimony.

The thing to remember with Austen is that she is deeply, deeply sarcastic, and you cannot take anything that she writes about life and marriage on face value. What can be seen as “girly trash” actually contains a multitude of layers.

So if you are planning on reading P and P, or have read it and have given it the label of “girly trash”. Read it. Find those layers. They’re there. Appreciate the genius that is Austen.

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See you Saturday!

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