Sunday, December 11, 2016

Classics Club 37: Pride and Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice is definitely a light and entertaining read. It is not the meatiest, most worthy or life-changing classic that I've read. Personally I don't subscribe to the view that "proper classics" have to be deep and difficult to read. Further, I'd argue that the light exterior does not mean a lack of worthy content. In fact, Austen makes several pertinent points within this novel.

There are two key reasons why I found Pride and Prejudice such an enjoyable read. The first is the witty dialogue. I loved the pointed, biting comments made under the veneer of polite civility. I just wish I could come up with such retorts when the situation demanded, even if I'm too polite to utter them! The humour when Mr Bennet remarks that his wife's nerves are his old friends, so often has he heard them mentioned or when Mr Bennet counsels Lizzy on the marriage proposal from Mr Collins, not to mention the spirited discussions between Lizzy and Lady Catherine over Darcy's proposal are just a few examples where the dialogue zings and the pages seem to fly by.

The second is the memorable characters. From self-centred , flighty and immature Lydia to slimy,  odious, pompous Mr Collins virtually all the characters remain with the reader after the final page has been turned. Witty but negligent Mr Bennet and his meddling, foolish but well-meaning wife; proud, haughty and loyal Mr Darcy; rude and over-bearing Lady Catherine; the eminently realistic, practical Charlotte Lucas; the almost-too-good-to-be true Jane; and of course the spunky, intelligent, thoughtful Lizzy, who has flaws many readers can relate to, are characters that won't soon be forgotten.

At first sight the plot seems a mere frippery. A family with five daughters trying to marry them off to rich husbands. Mrs Bennet's obsession seems a little ridiculous. Yet, in the context of the time it was not. Mr Bennet's property was, not through his own choice, entailed to a male relative. The Bennets have no sons, so the only way to ensure a secure future for their daughters, one free of severe financial hardship and all it would entail, is to arrange suitable marriages for them. And here lies one of the novel's important messages - the dangers and difficulties caused when women are denied equal rights to education and property. One other serious message is alluded to in the title. Lizzy, Darcy and some other characters cause unnecessary problems for themselves and others when they allow their own pride and tendency to pre-judge others to guide their actions.The novel can be read as a lesson to the reader not to to do the same in his or her own life.

I love Pride and Prejudice. Since it is light and entertaining it would make a great introduction to the classics, especially for readers not ready for a deep and difficult tome.


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