Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Pride and Prejudice

Alas, the poor blog languisheth.  I finished Pride and Prejudice five days ago, and am well into the next one on my list, but I haven't had a chance to compose an entry until now.  I know you're all dying to know my opinion.

Although I have seen several film versions of this Jane Austen classic, at last I have taken the opportunity to read the book itself.  The film versions do justice to the plot and dialogue, but there is much in the structure of the novel that can't adequately be captured on film.  The first part of the book takes place mainly as a series of performances in the public sphere, but Darcy's letter to Elizabeth is a clear divide, after which the plot and character development take place mainly through letters and internal musing.  This contrast between writing styles parallels the plot development, which begins with the characters' first impressions of each other and interactions with each other, and then moves to a more thoughtful section in which the characters must reassess, and sometimes completely deconstruct, their initial opinions of each other.

There are libraries full of scholarly analyses of Austen's work, and of this novel in particular, which I cannot summarize.  I can merely touch on the book's  relationship to its context and historical setting.  The work itself is set during the period of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars, which are only implied in this novel in the movements of troops and garrisons from one English town to another.  War and political issues are never mentioned.  Pride and Prejudice was also written after Mary Wollstonecraft had become well-known as one of the founding feminist philosophers, and Austen's main character Elizabeth, while not feminist in the current sense, certainly has views about the education and role of women, views which conflict with those of her society. (Darcy agrees with Elizabeth on many points.)  The novel is set among the landed gentry of 19th century England, and addresses issues of class, inheritance, perception and identity.  All this, woven into a most delicious love story.

Best catch: Mr. Darcy
Guy you want to slap: Mr. Collins
Biggest airhead: Lydia...no, Mrs. Bennet...no, Lydia...no, Mrs. Bennet...no...
There was a lot of: dancing, walking, conversing, analyzing others' behavior
This book makes you want to: write letters, walk in the countryside, play the piano on a quiet evening
This book makes you glad you don't have to: fawn over those in higher social classes, become "accomplished" in frivolous amusements (women), walk three miles to your neighbor's house


bren j. said...

Those stats are, as usual, hilarious! (For my part, I pick Lydia as biggest airhead.) You'll notice that none of the film versions of the novel as properly cast Mr. Collins - at least from a physical standpoint (no pun intended). I don't suppose it's unusual, but interesting nonetheless.

Also, my dear friend, Kara, I am APPALLED that you have never read P&P before? Shocked, really. But I'm glad it won you over. Persuasion is my favourite Austen novel. You might have to consider adding it to your list this year.

Kara said...

Persuasion is already on my list, which is filling up rapidly. I think I have 3 spots left...yikes! I should probably do a curious confessions entry in which I chronicle my literary life...and its gaps.

Sarah Beth said...

Pride and Prejudice is one of my favorite novels, it's one of the only books that I liked as a movie as well. I'm ashamed to admit that as much as I loved this book it's the only Jane Austin Novel I have read (so far).