Friday, February 3, 2012
Thoughts: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (Part One)
This is going to sound like a cliché, and I’m probably the millionth person who’s going to say this. Pride and Prejudice and I have such history. I know it sounds presumptuous to make such a possessive claim over a book that was already around long before I was born, and will continue to be loved long after I’m gone. I can’t hide it, though. Every time I look at my much-abused copy of Pride and Prejudice, a flood of memories overcomes me, and I just realize that, yes, the book really is a part of me.
I first read it when I was in the seventh grade. I’m almost twenty-one now, so do the math. I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning, ignored my Algebra homework, and concentrated instead on the courtship of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy.
Compared to the pimply boys in my grade who could only talk about Counter Strike or World of Warcraft, Mr. Darcy was perfection. He was brooding but deeply intelligent, arrogant but with a sensitive side, and, of course, there was the added charm of Pemberley. If we put all those other amiable qualities aside, I couldn’t help but wonder at the fact that he didn’t fall for Jane, the beautiful sister, and fell for Elizabeth, the sassy smart-ass, instead. Perfection, indeed.
Over the years, every time I was asked about my favorite book, my steady answer (aside from Harry Potter, of course) was always Pride and Prejudice. I read it over and over again, especially the parts with Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet. The barbs. The passion simmering under the surface. I ate it all up.
I’m ashamed to say the genius of Jane Austen’s language flew past my head, and I completely swooned over Mr. Darcy.
Since I started this blog, though, I realized that I did what I often called ‘my favorite book’ a great disservice. I treated it as a mere love story, when it could offer so much more. Also, the last time I read it must’ve been two or three years ago, and I felt like a phony, claiming it as a favorite book when I didn’t really remember it anymore.
So, in order to fully appreciate and reacquaint myself with my so-called favorite book, I decided to reread it. Boy, I was in for an eye-opening experience.
The little witticisms I didn’t notice before were now laid bare before my eyes. I stopped focusing so much on Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet, and realized how rich the secondary characters were.
I discovered nothing new about Mr. Bennet, but Mrs. Bennet, who had always been a source of great irritation, didn’t seem so desperate to hook any man for her daughters anymore. I saw things through her eyes for a brief moment, and realized that, twisted as it may sound, she was just being a good mother. Choices were a bit limited for women during Jane Austen’s time, and their only salvation from poverty was marrying. No wonder Mrs. Bennet made man-hunting her lifelong goal. The woman had five daughters she needed to marry off.
And Jane Bennet. Oh, how I misunderstood you. I always liked to think of myself as more like Elizabeth, but, lately, I’ve come to realize that I have more in common with Jane Bennet (if you push aside her great beauty, of course). Elizabeth is the one with easy, frank manners, but Jane is the mystery. Due to her beauty, Jane has always been the center of attention, but, beyond that, people have no idea what’s going on inside that head of hers. They don’t know what or how she really feels inside. I always thought she was dull, but she was never dull. She was just brilliant at hiding or not showing her emotions.
I don’t think I can possibly end this, without talking about Charlotte Lucas. I used to think of her as the sensible but not really attractive friend, but I’ve come to realize that she’s so much more than that. Charlotte Lucas is a bit sad. In one scene, she tells Elizabeth, “I am not romantic you know. I never was. I ask only a comfortable home…” I think she represents a lot of women in Jane Austen’s time who didn’t have a choice, who were forced to settle for a man who was ‘good enough.’
I once read somewhere that Jane Austen accepted a proposal from a man of extensive property, but took it back the next day. More than once, I’ve wondered about Austen’s decision. I like to think that she chose to be alone, rather than settle for a life with the wrong man.
At the ripe old age of 20, I can never be sure, but I think I’d rather end up like Jane Austen instead of Charlotte Lucas. Unlike Charlotte, I am a self-proclaimed romantic. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not hoping for a Mr. Darcy, just someone who can watch Vampire Diaries with me, someone who’s going to help me look for that Thomas Hardy novel at the secondhand bookstore even if it’s going to take hours. As great as a comfortable home sounds, I think I’d rather be with someone who feels right.
To be continued once I actually finish rereading Pride and Prejudice.