Pride and Prejudice was the first classic I ever laid my hands on. Grant it, at that time it was the abridged version with surprisingly good pictures, but it was still a classic nonetheless! I brought it to school for "silent reading time", which was a privilege that only my most favorite books received in first grade. Now I'm no longer seven years old. I'm sixteen with a solid knowledge of literature; a knowledge that I hope will eventually transform into an expertise. Now I have the full capability of both understanding and reviewing the novel.
Oh, Pride and Prejudice! Who doesn't know the story? Even if you haven't even read the book, you know the basic components of the plot if you've watched just one romance/comedy in your life. Almost every remedial love story has been modeled after this novel!
Girl meets Boy. At first, Girl hates Boy because he's stuck up and arrogant and Boy can't stand Girl because she actually stands up to him. But then Boy finds himself gradually falling in love with Girl while Girl has absolutely no idea that this happening. Boy offers himself to Girl out of nowhere and Girl sends him packing. Then Girl realizes just how warmhearted and passionate Boy really is and acknowledges her feelings for him. Now "all seems lost" but out of nowhere something happens that brings Girl and Boy back together. Now they both confess their feelings, admit how stupid they both were and THE END!
Yup, that's the basis for almost every chick flick nowadays. But it all started with a novel by Jane Austen. It just so happens that Jane Austen's take is infinitely better. People don't seem to really understand just how out of the ordinary it was to write a Romance in which a woman was actually a "heroine" and not the forsaken damsel in distress. Elizabeth Bennet was one of the first memorable lit heroines who paved the way for greats like Jane Eyre, Cathy Earnshaw, and Margaret Hale.
What is it about Pride and Prejudice that still resonates with readers around the world centuries later? Is it just the fact that every generation adores a good "age-old" love story? Perhaps we love to get the satisfaction of seeing Lizzy and Darcy go through the twists and turns only to arrive at the beloved happy ending. Maybe we love the escape from the real world where people don't always end up together when they've bungled up all their chances and made asses out of themselves.
I love all of those things about Pride and Prejudice! But what I love more is the common misconception that many readers get. To me, Pride and Prejudice isn't a Romance at all! Sure, there's a turbulent relationship at the core of the novel, but there's so much more to it than that. If romance was the only great thing about Pride and Prejudice then no one would like it as much. There would be nothing to separate from countless other romance novels and "Boy meets Girl" stories.
Pride and Prejudice puts a resounding love story at the heart of a social satire and intertwines the two with an artistic creativity. The novel is so timeless because every generation can relate to it. Jane Austen had the innate talent of being able to analyze the follies of human nature and create comedy, irony, and love with it. Our love for Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy is because of their "reality." We see ourselves in them!
When reading Pride and Prejudice, we can all find something to identify with. We all have a tendency to judge people before we really know them, just like Lizzy Bennet. Sometimes we're all just a little too full of ourselves, or perhaps just afraid of breaking the mold and doing what other's might not agree with the same way Darcy was. Some of us might have a house full of annoying little siblings. One might be to preoccupied with boys (Kitty). The other is perhaps a bookworm (Mary). Maybe one is trying to grow up too quickly and be the little rebel (Lydia). Or in my case, maybe we have the tried and true older or younger sibling with whom we have an unbreakable bond (Jane and Lizzy). Perhaps we even have the annoying and clumsy older cousin who tries to hit on us! But at the heart of the story, some of us might have relationships that have gone to hell and back; relationships where we thought "all was lost."
Pride and Prejudice gives a happy ending to normal old people like us. Why wouldn't we love that?