My apologies for being gone for so long. I’ve been caught up in some volunteering work recently and making progress on Pirates of Time, so my reading has had to take a back seat as a result. But never fear! I do have an update on my progress for you.
Pride and Prejudice took a little getting used to. It’s the first Austen book I’ve read, and reading her style was something of a surprise. The edition I have is part of a compendium with an introduction by Karen Joy Fowler, who makes a few interesting points about the enduring nature of Austen’s novels:
1. Her books are about women who are usually more interesting than her men
2. All of her books are structured around a plot of marriage
3. She tends to focus on the domestic lives of her characters; thus the magic of her work lies in the description and observation rather than its page-turning quality
4. Her presentation is genteel, her subject matter decorous, her prose lacks muscularity, and her plots move as deliberately as her sentences
5. She’s read by women.
Fowler also asserts that Austen’s work falls into the crossroads which many author strive to achieve: that of being respected in both popular culture and in academic culture. Her appeal as a female writer, who wrote for women, and about everyday life, comes not just from the unique, realistic approach she took to literature in the early 19th century, but also for the melodramatic undertones that most of her works contain. There are some examples of this in Pride and Prejudice itself, but I won’t give you any spoilers. Many critics, it seems, underestimated her over the years and assumed that her work was not fit for reading by a public who wanted morals and a solid, puritanical story for their young girls to read and take examples from. In later years, the opinion changed and Austen is now lauded amongst the likes of Shakespeare for her honest portrayal of life, where her focus is not on the woman in peril or the woman preparing for engagement, but on her friends, sisters, and lovers. It helps to provide a rounded perspective where other authors give little consideration, and aims to provide a sense of character development through the eyes of others. It reveals one of Austen’s central tenets, repeated throughout most of her work: that it’s not the person who changes, but the perceptions of those around them.
As for Pride and Prejudice, I’m currently about halfway to two-thirds of the way through it and there are a few things which have surprised me so far. First of all, the text in my edition has been taken from a much earlier edition. No original date is given, but a note at the beginning of the compendium states that the text has been ‘reset’ from the individual Penguin Classics volumes, which are edits from the first editions (Sense and Sensibility in 1811, Pride and Prejudice in 1813, Mansfield Park in 1814, Emma in 1815, and two posthumous in 1817 (Northanger Abbey and Persuasion)). I find that this is a unique element which allows the reader to immerse themselves into the work as if they were reading it a few years after it was initially written. Austen’s understandings of grammar, spelling, and punctuation have all been retained, and make for an interesting reading experience considering her style is so different from the accepted standard of 2015.
A second point I find particularly interesting is Austen’s use of chapter separation. She has not left the chapters to their own devices; instead she has split Pride and Prejudice up into three distinct ‘books’, which serve as different ‘acts’ in the plot per se. Though it’s not a commonly used device these days, it works. It lets the reader follow the work and not get confused with the various twists and turns within.
Here’s the part where I start talking about the bits that were mildly annoying. And, really, there isn’t much to say. The only thing I would put in this section, without second-guessing, is the fact that when I started reading Pride and Prejudice I was under the impression it was going to be a romance novel, of the likes of Emily Bronte and Wuthering Heights. I was wrong on this point, and after an introduction to the world of Pride and Prejudice thanks to The Lizzie Bennet Diaries on YouTube I found the book much easier to read.
Anywho. Time I sign off. I’ll finish reading the book soon, and give you my full opinions then.
In the meantime, don’t stop reading!