Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Last Call ... PRIDE AND PREJUDICE by Jane Austen ; love, society, norms, relationships

I have ambiguous feelings about Jane Austen.  I didn't like 'Sense and Sensibility' too much, and although 'Pride and Prejudice' was definitely a more sophisticated novel, I still found myself being frequently bored and with a loss of focus. The writing has a part in it, but also the story line does too.  So I decided to google it in order to clarify this confusion I have with the novel, against the fact that I did enjoy some parts of it quite a lot.

One of the first things I discovered was that 'Pride and Prejudice (P&P)' is apparently a required reading for most literature majors in college.  And after this I had my answer, an epiphany.  'P&P' is a classic literature for the simple reason that it is challenging, among other things.  Not being quite so 'well-read,' I would have to say that is why 'P&P' seemed at times to loose me.  Just like our society today, I have, for a while, been a 'non-reader.'  As a result it is more difficult for me sometimes to get into an intricate plot involving a social novel where there are so many characters and so many stories and so many connections.  Additionally, 'P&P' also has a wide range of vocabulary, and that added a little bit to the difficulty of understanding some things.  So I think these two things in combination are really what led me to fly off the pages at times.  I don't think I'm accustomed to social novels just yet.  For now, even though in the future I hope to change this narrow passage of reading, I have a stronger inclination for philosophical, intellectual, and spiritual plots.  That is why if it wasn't for Elizabeth Bennet I don't even think I would have even finished the novel. It was her character and the events surrounding her that kept pulling me back into the novel even until the end of it.

Having said that, I am ready to delve into the novel (this might be a spoiler, so if you intend to read the novel with fresh eyes, I would advise you to be cautious on reading this entry).  The novel is definitely sophisticated and written with great language. There are many themes to talk about.  But I found this book left a big impression on me in ONE significant way, and that being the characters Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy, their stories, and their relationship to one another.  Elizabeth is definitely a character with a good head on her shoulders.  She's not a passive person, she's intelligent, she stands up for what she believes in and isn't afraid to speak her mind even if it against the usual norms, and she's definitely a character who seeks the truth about the people around her. She's often grouped as one of the 'defiant heroines.'  You can say she has a lot of pride in herself.  Mr. Darcy's character is mysterious and frequently under scrutiny.  He undergoes a transformation in the eyes of those around him, though.  There are many prejudices surrounding his persona, his character, his relations with others, and his life history, but as we see towards the end of the novel, he's very loving, passionate, caring, loyal, and a person of truth.

The journey of these two characters towards each others' love is one of my favorite parts of the novel.  At first, neither of them, seem to be interested in each other.  Mr. Darcy doesn't involve himself much with Eliza  but he does carry a sense of inclination towards her, and Eliza finds him repulsive but with a sense of curiosity about who he really is.  Eventually, Mr. Darcy confesses to her that he loves her.  She's unbelievably shocked at the confession since he had lead her to believe the exact opposite about his intentions.  She rejects him by telling him how she finds him irritating by the fact that he has been involved in the separation of her sister and her love, in the implication of Mr. Wickham's isolation from Mr. Darcy's family, and lastly which is not quite as explicit as the first two but still important to Eliza, his nature of coldness towards her.

Soon he replies with a very long letter explaining mostly the first two cases (with a definite prideful nature).  By giving her another angle to the story she finds herself re-adjusting her prejudices towards him and defines a new perspective for herself where Mr. Darcy isn't quite the villain everyone has made him out to be.  She doesn't really confess her attachments to him until the very end of the novel, after his aunt meets with her to determine whether she will at any point be inclined to interfere with his marriage to his cousin.  Of course, Elizabeth Bennet, and I loved this part in the novel, tells her that her feelings are none of her business.  She can worry all she wants about the marriage, Mr. Darcy shall do whatever he pleases and if he is to marry, fine, and if he is to choose her then there should be no objection - it is after all his choice, and not at all dependent on anyone or anything except them two.

Soon Mr. Darcy discovers the news, he comes back to Elizabeth and they end up engaged.  At this point, their interaction for the truth of everything present and past is the most beautiful aspect of the book.  I truly enjoyed their conversations, their interactions, and their love for one another.  I'm so glad the book ended with Elizabeth Bennet's story... because I was honestly just about to put it down and thankfully I read enough to read into her story with Mr. Darcy and it made the novel so well-worth reading.  I would say to anyone who wants to read this book that if at any point you feel like you want to give up, wait for Elizabeth Bennet to enter and you'll think otherwise.... and just keep going like that and she will take you to the end.... :)

Pride is a very prominent theme throughout the book, it's evident, it's in the title.  And so I thought I would write in a quote from Mary (one of the sisters-she's the quietest and most reserved of all sisters) about pride and vanity, one of the most profound quotes in the book.

'Pride, is a very common failing I believe.  By all that I have ever read, I am convinced that it is very common indeed, that human nature is particularly prone to it, and that there are very few of us who do not cherish a feeling of self-complacency on the score of some quality or other, real or imaginary.  Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used synonymously.  A person may be proud without being vain.  Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves, vanity to what we would have others think of us.'
 Mr. Darcy replies at some point on the subject of pride: 'where there is real superiority of mind, pride will always be under good regulation.'  I think this applies to pride as much as to prejudice, and I find this to be the ultimate theme of the book.  With level-headedness and a good intellect many of the characters overcome pride and prejudice about themselves and about those around them.

I'm glad I got through P&P, I have one more to go.... :)

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