“How despicably have I acted!” she cried; “I who have prided myself on my discernment! I, who have valued myself on my abilities! who have often disdained the generous candor of my sister, and gratified my vanity in useless or blameable distrust. How humiliating in this discovery! yet, how just a humiliation! Had I been in love, I could not have been more wretchedly blind. But vanity, not love, has been my folly. Pleased with the preference of one, and offended by the neglect of the other, on the very beginning of our acquaintance, I have courted prepossession and ignorance, and driven reason away, where either were concerned. Till this moment I never knew myself.”
(from Pride and Prejudice, page 279)
I read Pride and Prejudice for the first time about a decade ago, and I just finished re-reading it. My first thought after finishing it for the second time was, “Gosh, I love that book!” Followed by a jumble of thoughts that included something like “Jane Austen is a genius,” “Mr. Darcy is so hot,” and “Does it mean I’m crazy if I have such a huge crush on a character in a book?” (We won’t even discuss my love for Captain Wentworth.) Now I know why over the weekend I was inspired to arrange all of Jane Austen’s novels, minor works, and letters in a decorative tin on my bureau. When I don’t know what to read before going to bed, I can reach for Austen, which is comfort reading for me. And no matter how much I enjoy all the sequels and re-tellings, there’s nothing better than reading the originals.
I’m sure you all know the plot by now, but since I’m recording my thoughts for posterity, I hope you will humor me for a moment. And if you’re someone who hasn’t yet read Pride and Prejudice, I want you to turn off the computer, get your hands on a copy, and lock yourself in a quiet room for a few hours. Seriously, you just need to read it. But I digress.
Pride and Prejudice is the story of Elizabeth Bennet, a young woman with four sisters and a mother obsessed with marrying her daughters off to avoid the indignity of being thrown out of Longbourn when their father dies. Mr. Bingley rents Netherfield and becomes Hertfordshire’s most eligible bachelor, and Elizabeth’s older sister catches his eye at the Meryton Assembly. However, Elizabeth doesn’t catch the fancy of Bingley’s haughty friend, Mr. Darcy, and when she overhears him say something not so nice about her, she’s already determined to dislike him.
When the militia comes to town and the handsome, charming George Wickham befriends Elizabeth, she believes the things he has to say about Darcy doing him wrong. Meanwhile, there is the matter of her ridiculous cousin Mr. Collins coming for a visit with the intention of marrying one of the Bennet girls, Elizabeth’s best friend, Charlotte, willing to marry pretty much anyone just to get herself settled, and Elizabeth’s parents and siblings, except Jane, going all out to embarrass themselves in public every chance they get. Then, Bingley and his entourage quit Netherfield with no intention of returning, but Elizabeth learns the reason for Jane’s heartache when she crosses paths with Darcy during a visit with Charlotte and her cousin. Elizabeth thinks she has it all figured out, and she has no qualms about putting Darcy in his place. But is she too quick to judge? Is there more to Darcy than meets the eye?
Even though I knew everything that was going to happen, it felt like I was reading the book for the first time. I found myself cringing when Mrs. Bennet and Elizabeth’s younger sister, Lydia, behave badly, I shuddered when Mr. Collins sets his sights on Elizabeth, and I wanted to cry out “No!” when Mr. Bennet decides it was okay for Lydia to travel with Colonel Forster’s wife and the militia to Brighton. I wanted to slap my forehead when Darcy tells Elizabeth how he feels about her against his better judgment, and I felt embarrassed right along with Elizabeth when she encounters Darcy unexpectedly at Pemberley.
I could go on for hours about how much I love this book. There’s humor, with Mrs. Bennet being the most outlandish of them all; social commentary, with plenty of instances of unhappy marriages and how Elizabeth is determined to marry for love; life lessons, when you learn to accept your failings and try to change; and a cast of captivating characters, with those who grow over the course of the book, those who you can’t help but fall in love with, and even a few you love to hate. I hope I’ve given those of you who haven’t read Austen yet a reason to give her novels a try.
Unfortunately, I’ve decided that it’s time to retire my old copy of Pride and Prejudice. The book means a lot to me, having acquired it through “borrowing” money from my late father’s change dish. Well, the front and back covers are starting to detach, and I managed to rip one of the pages when I stuck my bookmark in it. Although I love the old book smell when I flip through it, I’m going to have to get a new copy.
Check out my reviews of other Jane Austen works:
Disclosure: Pride and Prejudice is from my personal library.
© 2011 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.