A few days ago I finished reading Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen – this month’s pick for the Classics Bookclub @ 5 Minutes for Books. It was my first time reading it, and one of the first classic novels I’ve attempted to read in a long time (I think Gone With the Wind was probably the last one, and that was a few years ago at least).
One of the reasons I’d avoided reading this book for so long, was because I’d already seen the movie with Kiera Knightly, which was enjoyable but confusing in my opinion. I’ve seen several movies based on Austen’s books and have previously had a very hard time reading a book when I’d already seen the movie. You could say I’d developed a prejudice towards the situation.
And of course, Austen’s books all seem a bit dry in many ways, with their antiquated language and tendency to blather on about what sometimes seems like nothing. Despite often enjoying them, I have not been good about reading all the classics and I think I may have been a bit scared that I wouldn’t understand it, after so many years away from a classroom – that I’d find it boring simply because I lacked the propensity to enjoy it. Oh yes, I was prejudiced.
I think, if you’ll bear with me for a moment, that you could easily compare my experience reading this book to Elizabeth Bennet’s experience with Mr. Darcy. The first half of the book bordered on dreadfully boring in my not very humble opinion, the language seemed stale and unnecessarily verbose. I thought for quite some time I’d have to force myself to finish it. But then somewhere in the middle I fell in love – I realized the language wasn’t terribly stale at all, the story was easy to understand, and the level of “wordiness” was actually just right. Her writing style began to become marvelous to me and now even as I type this, I think I’ve perhaps been reading classic literature quite long enough because it is surely affecting my writing style.
By the time I realized I was loving the book, I was no longer certain why I hadn’t liked it originally. I’m not sure if my initial dislike of the book was the author’s fault or my own. Had I become lazy after so many years of reading only modern literature or did Austen’s writing style change over the course of the book – perhaps even on purpose? Was it her intention that I feel prejudiced towards the book intially, marking it off as unworthy of my time, only to wow me in the middle, win me over the by the end, and have me quite in love when all was said and done?
In short, at first the book seemed unnecessarily dry and proud and boring – but by the end it was surely the warmest, most involved book I’ve read in awhile. I’m quite fancying myself in love with it. I might marry it. My family will be quite shocked, I’m sure. Can you see the parallel yet or should I say the same thing in a different way again? No? You’re good? Alright then – here are some questions that the ladies at 5 Minutes for Books (you know the masterminds behind this whole Classics Bookclub) whipped up for our response:
For first time P&P readers:
Did you like the novel? Were there any surprises? Was it what you expected? I should think I’ve answered this sufficiently and won’t bore you again. If you skipped over the above paragraphs though, I’d advise you read them now, as they are the answer to this question.
For all readers:
Do you have any favorite lines of the novel? Oh there were quite a few lines that literally made me laugh out loud – let me see if I can’t find a good one… Okay, I think these are two of my favorites, spoken by two of my favorite characters:
“Oh! If that is all, I have a very poor opinion of young men who live in Derbyshire; and their intimate friends who live in Hertfordshire are not much better. I am sick of them all. Thank Heaven! I am going to-morrow where I shall find a man who has not one agreeable quality, who has neither manner nor sense to recommend him. Stupid men are the only ones worth knowing, after all.” – Elizabeth Bennet, Chapter 27, page 113
“I shall offer to pay him tomorrow: he will rant and storm about his love for you, and there will be an end of the matter.” He then recollected her embarrassment a few days before, on his reading Mr. Collins’s letter; and after laughing at her some time, allowing her to at last go, saying, as she quitted the room, “If any young men come for Mary or Kitty, send them in, for I am quite at leisure.” – Mr. Bennet, after seeing 3 of his daughters engaged or married in short succession. Chapter 59, Page 273
Why do you think the novel remains so popular 200 years after first publication? What makes it timeless? Well I think like most great works of literature, the timelessness is in the topic – feelings of pride and prejudice between the classes, between the sexes, and even between members of a family are something that have always been. The situations, locations, and manner of description may change, but the feelings don’t. And I think in general, people like to read something they can relate to – this is a book which will be forever relateable.
The novel’s original title was First Impressions. Did you have any first impressions of the novel that were refuted? Any that were supported? Are all the first impressions in the novel correct? Another question I answered quite a bit in my beginning paragraphs. I certainly had first impressions of this book – from the dingy appearance of my library’s copy, to the aforementioned intially dry language, and my prior experience with reading a book whose movie I’d already seen – I certainly had every reason not to look this book if I’d wanted to, but luckily, like Elizabeth, I managed to turn myself around and admit when I was loving it.
Why do you think the novel is named Pride and Prejudice? How are each manifested in the story? I think the answer to this is pretty obvious – between characters who were overridden with pride or prejudice in any one regard, and the joining of a proud person and one of prejudice in the end – I can see First Impressions fitting well also, but perhaps that was too obvious and not quite catchy enough. And it wasn’t just about first impressions after all – it was about overcoming your own faults and accepting others – learning to love each other even when they drive you crazy or you don’t understand them – at attempting to know the people around you truly and not just making assumptions.
Did you read Pride and Prejudice for the Classics Bookclub? Be sure to put up your posts today if you haven’t already, then go and link up here! Next up for the book club is Jane Eyre, a novel I’ve been very much looking forward to reading, since I read The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde a couple months ago. I’m rather liking this whole classics bookclub thing. It gives me an added excuse to catch up on my classics, something I clearly will benefit from greatly.
One last thing before I go: