“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife”. And with this, perhaps the most famous ironical sentence ever, begins Austen’s masterpiece. First published in 1813, it achieved instant success and its popularity has endured till this date. With a working title of First Impressions, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen has remained an evergreen favorite among all in the literary world. Every English major has read it and moreover, there are so many others who aren’t majoring in English, but are still among this classic’s ardent lovers.
Pride and Prejudice follows the trials and tribulations of the five Bennet sisters- Jane, Elizabeth, Mary, Kitty and Lydia, with all their various quirks and mannerisms. It is a truly funny and satiric novel in the sense that it subtly pokes fun at the various stereotypes in Regency Era England.
We see the irony in appearance and character- for instance, in the fine-bred Lady Catherine de Bourgh and her condescending manners, Mrs. Bennet with her silly and loud ways as well as Mr. Collins who surely loves to hear his own voice. There is also a comparison made between simplicity and intricacy in between Jane and Mr. Charles Bingley, and Elizabeth and Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy. The novel’s title may be a reference to Mr. Darcy’s pride and Elizabeth’s prejudice against him; however, it goes both ways.
Since Pride and Prejudice can be classified as a novel of manners, we can also see quite a few social themes that haunted every action and thought of people in 19th century England. Reputation is one major theme in this novel, but it comes into prominence with Lydia’s elopement with Wickham. At the base of the story, we can say that Pride and Prejudice is a story of two young people coming together, as love inexplicably binds them together. It is thus no wonder that love should be one of the major themes of this novel. Financial status or class is another recurring theme- it is what drives Mrs. Bennet with the threat of the entail hanging of her head, and Lady Catherine de Bourgh when she visits Elizabeth towards the end, and expresses how unfit any union of her and Mr. Darcy would be. In the same vein, social appearance, humility and prejudice are also among the few other themes.
Personal growth is quite a major theme throughout the novel- it takes place in the two major characters of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy. Taking this factor, Pride and Prejudice can also be classified as a bildungsroman. A lot of the storyline is also taken forward through the medium of letters- among Jane, Elizabeth, Caroline Bingley etc. thus we see an effective use of the epistolary form as well.
I remember that that first time I read this, was back in 2012 when I was perhaps in the eight standard. I had loved it then and I loved it as I possible read this for the hundredth time this semester. It truly is a wonderful experience every time I read it and one of the obvious choices when people ask me for classics recommendations. I rated it, as usual a 5/5 stars; I do not know anyone who would grant it any less!