This book could easily be seen as precursor to feminist literature, because of the willful and perceptive personality granted to the heroine, Elizabeth. However, whilst Elizabeth does stand against social norms and expectations at times, by the end of the book, she does exactly what society requires her to - secure her future and that of her sisters by marrying well. The fact that she does this because of love, rather than social pressure is to her credit, however she has still conformed.
“Pride and Prejudice” has long been the most popular of Jane Austen’s novels. It is a fascinating glimpse into the lives of the landed upper-class in England during the Regency period and a great social commentary on the norms and behavior of society of the period. Austen’s writing is superb, often funny and always entertaining. It is because of this that the book can me read again and again; even when one knows the plot inside out there is still something to keep you interested.The book opens with the immortal line about men in need of a wife, and this one line does the job of a Greek chorus by setting the plot of the book bare for the reader. It is a tale of how best to marry off the Bennett girls to rich, eligible men who will secure their future and that of their family when their father dies and his land passes to a distant male cousin. The Bennett family consists of five sisters: the eldest, Jane, is quiet and beautiful, Lizzy, the heroine of the book is spirited and intelligent, Mary and Kitty who, in the eyes of their father are excessively foolish, and the youngest, Lydia, a spoiled child who’s foolishness and acting out leads to potentially disastrous consequences for the entire family. Their mother is a nervous, hysterical wreck and a most irritating woman, and her husband a distant figure who retreats to his library as often as possible. It is not hard to see how, under such parenting, the three youngest have less sense than they ought.The plot gets going upon the arrival of the young and handsome Mr. Bingley, who rents out the neighboring estate of Netherfields. Mrs. Bennett is quick to try and secure his affections for her eldest daughter Jane, and gradually, a romance does develop, despite Mrs. Bennett’s unsubtle and pointless interventions. Bingley is affable and most appealing, especially when contrasted with his brooding and unpleasant friend, Darcy, with whom Elizabeth instantly finds much to criticize and many arguments between the two ensue from his snubbing her at a local dance.
The novel is similar to almost all such romantic books and films, with a chase up and down the country, circumstances throwing Elizabeth and Darcy apart, only for love to pull them back together again. This book is an excellent example of why you should not judge on appearances, and both Elizabeth and Jane are suitably married, despite the conniving of Bingley’s sisters and Darcy’s aunt, who all have other plans for the eligible bachelors.Whilst the plot is predictable, partly because the book is so well known, and partly because it is so formulaic, the endearing quality of the books is Austen’s writing. Her portrayal of society, with all its gossip, frivolity and concern for its own survival is fascinating. These issues are still relevant today, no more so that in the Indian culture and community, where appropriate marriages based on wealth and status are still arranged by parents, and not by the children. That being said, Mr Bennett acknowledges that his control of his daughter’s choice of husband is limited, and whilst the girls do, in essence, do what the want, they still conform to society’s standards and expectations of them.Through Austen’s lively characterization, there is always much to interest the reader. Jane is endearing for her persistently sweet character, Elizabeth draws us to her with her mix of wit and intelligence, and we even wind up being secretly rather fond of Mr. Darcy and his gruff manner, once we learn of thee secrets he keeps hidden from the world.The language is extremely accessible and rather modern, especially compared to the likes of Shakespeare and Chaucer, which can seem distant and hard to contend with. However, the reader should be aware that the book, as with Austen’s other works, is focused upon the female characters, who propel the plot, whilst the men are mostly incidental.