Early on in the first year of undergrad, I realized that there are two kinds of English majors: the ones who love Pride and Prejudice and hate Jane Eyre, and the ones who think the opposite. At first, I didn’t think I subscribed to either though; both books seemed incredibly boring. I remember reading the first page of P&P and immediately just groaning because oh my god how sexist could this get.
And then I realized that the entire thing was just one big Festival of Irony, and then I had my fun with it.
If you’ve never read P&P, I have no idea what you’re doing here. But, I’ll indulge.
Pride and Prejudice is the story of a young lady named Elizabeth Bennet, as well as her sister Jane, and three men who enter their lives and change things up a little bit. There’s more than just these five characters, I assure you; there’s an entire cast of family members, friends of family, acquaintances, aristocrats, army officials, and a whole lot more. The story is rife with people judging other people, and people being mean about other people, and people falling in and out of love with other people, and people marrying other people for money, and people lying about other people, and people being so so so sarcastic.
The whole point of the novel is how very ironic everything is. It’s literally a master class in irony – Lizzie uses it, her father uses it, Darcy uses it. They all speak to each other in tones of sarcasm and irony, and literally nobody is taking anyone else seriously unless it really matters. From the first line of the novel – ‘It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a fortune must be in want of a wife.’ – the book’s tone is set. The entire thing is Austen criticizing her society for being so obsessed with appearances and other people’s face value and never looking at what’s really going on underneath it all. We see Lizzie go through it, we see Bingley go through it, we even see Darcy go through it. Everybody has their moments of clarity, where they finally realize that they’ve been too proud and prejudiced against everyone else to really appreciate what other people are offering them.
(The title of the book only made sense to me about a year after I read it.)
The book’s main take-away message is that nobody is ever what they really seem – from the nicest guy holidaying in the village, to the broodiest guy standing in the corner of the ball, everybody is hiding some part of themselves from other people. But if you just dig a little deeper, you can weed out the Wickhams from the Darcys, and have yourself a much easier time in life.
Final rating: 4/5. An actual classic. Please read this.
If you don’t have time to read this book, then watch the 21st century web series adaptation of it! First episode here: