Hello readers and welcome once again to Literary Wanderings!
Some days ago, I completed an introductory review of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, prefacing it with comments on the introduction to the compendium that the book is from. Now, after finishing the book, I can see what Fowler means. Pride and Prejudice, at its core, is a novel about female empowerment, and doing what’s best for you. I don’t mean that in the sense that you follow everyone’s advice because they say you should, but I mean that in the context of having the confidence to follow your own mind, and not letting prejudiced opinions force you into a decision you don’t necessarily want to make. Making sound judgements would be a better phrase for it.
Overall, Pride and Prejudice is a book with many surprising twists and turns to it that I didn’t expect at all. True to form, the focus on the day-to-day lives of each of the characters definitely shone through in the book. Although it did make for some tedium at the start, it quickly picked up pace and I was actually laughing in glee and shock. I don’t laugh at books, period. I’ve read slews of comedy/satire novels, and I just can’t get a laugh from them. Pride and Prejudice succeeded where they all failed and for me that’s an immediate like.
I love the suspense that Austen uses throughout the book. It speaks to her constant use of detailed interactions, and it also makes it easier to connect with the characters. As a reader it’s easy to feel like you’re another party wandering around Austen’s world, and you’re encouraged to judge the characters through their attitudes and presentation. Some are a little too ludicrous for belief (see Lady Catherine De Bourgh), but others remind you of real people you might encounter on a daily basis. I think this is what brings people to Austen’s books: that ability to write characters who are so realistic that it’s like they have been pulled from the world around you and put into a novel. It reinforces the fact that although you might be looking at a heroine or a villain, they’re all just ordinary people and they all have changing, fluid personalities which can’t be put into boxes. This is what many good novels of the classic era tend to do and something that many modern novels tend to avoid.
Another interesting point to make about Pride and Prejudice is its immediate contradiction of social expectations of the era. It’s a book heavily influenced by notions of society and class, and when this is overturned (see Elizabeth, Darcy, Bingley, Jane, Lydia, and Wickham) it’s quite clear that the chaos it causes is a serious social ‘crime’. In this sense, Austen mayhaps be making a point about the way in which her world operated, and how social norm can be looked past and disregarded in favour of love over class. It’s an interesting and risky move to be taking, considering her own social position and gender, and one that could have easily reduced her readership and respect amongst fellow authors. This in itself may be one reason why she was often denounced by others such as DH Lawrence as the equivalent of a two-bit author. She also pays some lip to gender classifications outside of the usual binary with specific reference to Caroline Bingley, and addresses forms of social anxiety and aversion with reference to Darcy’s character and habits.
I, for one, feel like I seriously underestimated the qualities of Austen’s work. Pride and Prejudice is quite a strong novel which is true-to-life in its own unique way. It doesn’t dress up romance as something that happens with the wave of a magic wand, it doesn’t overcharacterise people, it doesn’t trivialise anything, and it takes no prisoners when addressing society roles. Austen herself was a brave author for writing on such a topic when it was generally frowned upon for women to be anything but homemakers, more kudos to her for getting published. It’s a good example for everyone out there who might be struggling with their own identity as an author, or even just as a woman or anyone really. It shows that sometimes personal power is far more valuable than following society’s rules or the opinions of those who hold power, and that’s a lesson that I won’t be soon forgetting. If you haven’t yet read any of Austen’s books, I suggest starting with Pride and Prejudice. You’ll be sure to get a lot from it, and enjoy everything along the way.
As for the next update, it’s going to be on Homer’s Greek epic, the Odyssey. Ever since doing a project on the story back in grade eight I’ve wanted to read the whole thing for myself. Now is my chance. There may also be a smattering of Kindle book updates and the usual content.
In the meantime, never stop reading!