Since this is a very popular classic, I won’t bother including a summary. It’s universally known. As for my thoughts on the novel, see below. In short, I didn’t like it and I stopped at Chapter 18 because I refused to continue torturing myself a moment longer. If my harsh reaction to the story turned you off, then maybe you should skip the extended thoughts below.
I thought I would enjoy reading Pride and Prejudice this time. After all, I’m older, wiser, and more mature than the last time I read it. A few years usually make my reading the classics a more positive experience. I hated The Great Gatsby when I read it in high school, but now I like it. And I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have enjoyed Jason and the Argonauts as much as I did last year if I’d read it while in high school or college. I wasn’t as patient with stories when I was younger.
So I thought the same would be true for Pride and Prejudice: I’d return to it a few years later and love it so much that I’d go out and buy all the copies with pretty covers. But I guess I just don’t vibe well with Jane Austen. And when I tried to figure what exactly I don’t like about the story, I found it hard to come up with an answer. At first I thought it was the story. But I enjoyed the movie adaptations and I still thought the story funny when reading it. Then I suspected the writing. But I enjoyed the prose and sped through parts that contained mostly prose. Then I realized it’s the dialogue. It threw me off and since dialogue makes up a good bit of the story, I ended up not liking the story at all.
I can’t say what exactly I didn’t like about the dialogue except that it confused me and was tedious to read. Often, I had to rephrase the dialogue in a way that I would understand. Even thinking about it makes me what to stop writing this reflection. Ugh! Let’s move on and discuss something else.
It’s the characters that make this story worth reading and I like how Austen introduces them. They all stand out, even the bookish Mary, who isn’t given much voice in the story though she tries. I’m not sure if I would have thought of this prior to listening to a great BBC discussion on Pride and Prejudice, but I began to consider the narrator as a character while I read. In a way, it was as if I was in attendance at one of the many country dances with the narrator and she was whispering conspiratorially in my ear, telling me about all the characters in the story. Only a few characters are able to speak for themselves, otherwise I learn about them through the narrator’s gossip.
The characters who stood out to me this time were Mr. and Mrs. Bennet: Mrs. Bennet because I sympathized with her efforts to marry off her daughters and Mr. Bennet because I didn’t like him. I don’t agree with Mrs. Bennet’s methods and, yes, she is silly, but my heart went out to her because she does the best she can to ensure a comfortable future for her daughters. The only way the girls can have a secure future is if they marry a man with some sort of wealth and since the girls are getting on in years, Mrs. Bennet is, understandably to me though I would be annoyed by her, aggressive in getting them husbands. I thought the narrator was a little too heavy-handed with Mrs. Bennet and other minor characters because we only see one side of them. This works for the story but I guess because I started to like her a little, I wanted to see another aspect of Mrs. Bennet.
As for Mr. Bennet, he’s a good man but a horrible father. He’s lackadaisical and doesn’t take an interest in his daughters’ future. Sure, I understand he’s introverted and enjoys his quiet time and is beyond tired of wife’s and younger daughters’ hysterics, but I still thought him unkind for constantly criticizing them simply because he is more knowledgeable and has a more stable constitution than them. In that way, Elizabeth takes after her father since she takes pride in being better and smarter than her peers. Because Mr. Bennet doesn’t take much initiative in securing a comfortable future for his daughters, the responsibility falls to Mrs. Bennet and I didn’t like that he poked fun at her efforts while he does nothing.
From the reviews I’ve heard and read, everyone who has read this book likes Elizabeth. I can see why. I admire her smarts and that she doesn’t blindly chase after men like some of her sisters and that she has strong morals, which she stands by. But I didn’t like her. I think it’s because of her pride. If I’d continued reading beyond Chapter 18, I probably would have felt differently about her.
“Without thinking highly either of men or of matrimony, marriage had always been her object: it was the only honorable provision for well-educated young women of small fortune, and, however uncertain of giving happiness, must be their pleasantest preservative from want.”
Okay, I have one more point to discuss before I wrap up and it concerns the misconception these days that women are gold diggers. Sure there are some women and men who are, but not all women should be considered as such. I don’t know about other cultures but in the Black community, I often encounter men who believe this. While reading Pride and Prejudice, I started to wonder if this misconception came about because back in the day a woman’s goal was to marry a wealthy man so that she could live comfortably. After all, there was little else a woman could do to care for herself and ensure financial security. I’m inclined to believe the misconception started then or maybe before then since this is the second book from the 1800s I’ve read that mentions it. It angers me that this label is placed on women in a time when a woman wasn’t allowed to be independent in any way. I’m of course speaking of the European and American western world here since that’s all I’m familiar with at the moment.
Great story but I didn’t enjoy it or learn anything new from it. I recommend the movies.