I’m currently reading Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen for the first time. I have to say that after hearing about it so much as this timeless classic novel, I was really excited to read it. I’m about halfway through, and it’s not a big novel at all – it’s about two hundred pages.
What hits me most about this book, so far, is that the themes explored in it are covered up by the superficiality of the characters and events. I’ve read a few bad reviews of Jane Austen’s work, and the common thread in those reviews was the mention of the fact that all the characters in Pride and Prejudice seem to care only about money and marriage, which are seen as very superficial aspects of life. I think, though, that this superficiality is just a façade and that if you look deeply in this novel, you will notice that the themes explored in it are extremely relevant and representative of women’s situation in the 1800s.
Take, for example, the quest for marriage in the novel. The novel, so far anyway, is not simply about girls looking for a husband. It is more about the pressure put on women to get married to a good man with money and social status – whether it is pressure from the mother, like Mrs. Bennet, or the pressure from the man who wants to marry the woman, like Mr. Collins when he wants Elizabeth’s hand in marriage.
The novel demonstrates the importance of marriage in a society that does not expect women to do well for themselves, and that expects women to find a husband before concentrating on anything else. I also found that in most bad reviews of this book, one of the main criticisms is that the people in the book are not worried about the French revolution, or about anything political at all and instead worried, again, about superficial things. While this is true, I also think that telling this kind of story was extremely important for Austen, because it had to be told.
When Jane Austen wrote this book, women were not expected to worry about anything of the sort. Women were expected to stay home, gossip and look for husbands for themselves or their daughters. I think that while Austen could have taken the approach of writing a novel in which women were trying to worry about things like politics and war to try to shake the preconceived notions of society, this approach’s angle is different, but ultimately has a similar outcome. In fact, by writing a book demonstrating the women’s reality of life in seemingly stable and rich European families, Austen captured all the imperfections and the injustices of the times without stating them in an obvious way. I’m reading this almost as a commentary on the eighteen hundreds, because it does remind me of one.
I could spend hours discussing and reflecting on all the themes explored in this novel so far. I feel like I should talk more about the pressure men put, in this novel, on women to marry them. I’m talking specifically about the scene in which Mr. Collins doesn’t take Elizabeth’s refusal to his marriage proposal seriously. I’ll really need to write a second blog post about the novel.
I really, really like Pride and Prejudice so far.
Did you like it?