I thought I’d share some thoughts on why I love Pride and Prejudice so much. It is of course the inspiration for my recently published novel Elizabeth and Darcy: Beginning Again and countless other retellings.
In some ways the story of Pride and Prejudice is almost like a fairy tale: a woman of no great fortune so entrances a handsome, very wealthy man that he cannot help himself but falls in love with her and they eventually wed.
And yet it is so much more than that. As well as being essentially a love story, Pride and Prejudice subtly critiques the attitude of society to women at that time by having as its heroine a woman who refuses to marry someone that she doesn’t love.
Elizabeth Bennet turns down not one but two proposals during the course of the story, because she knows she does not love either of the men proposing. Of course, the second proposal is from Mr Darcy whom she later does accept, but that is only when she’s changed her mind about him and realises that she does love him and wants to be with him.
The story undermines the type of plot of novels that was popular during that era, which would often feature the heroine locked up by a villain in some far away castle. By contrast, Pride and Prejudice features believable characters in realistic settings. The central characters are mostly women. For me, one of the themes at the heart of the novel seems to be the precarious situation faced by so many women at that time.
Unless they were married, they would have very little security and there was only a short window of opportunity i.e. years that they could marry fairly easily without being considered over the hill. Think of Charlotte Lucas in Pride and Prejudice or Anne Elliot in Persuasion. Of course, the situations of these two characters is very different, but they are both aged about twenty-seven when the action of the respective novels is taking place. Each of them is considered as being practically too old to be married.
These are some fairly heavy issues. But the genius of Jane Austen is the way in which, particularly in Pride and Prejudice, she manages to consider these things in her writing while at the same time telling an engrossing story that works well on all levels. Pride and Prejudice can be read as simply a wonderful romance, or as a critique of the place of women in Regency society, or as many other things.
When I reread Pride and Prejudice, I discover new things about it every time. Like its wittiness, or the underlying wisdom of Mrs Bennet’s obsession with marrying off her daughters, so that they are secure and will not end up penniless with no home to call their own. Much like the situation Jane Austen herself faced after her father died.
So these are just some of the deeper, more complex reasons that I love Pride and Prejudice. But like many people, I also love it simply as a superbly written romance to fall in love with again and again.