So. I read and enjoyed Pride and Prejudice. But what do you say about a book so well known that hasn't been expressed (more eloquently for sure) so many times? Let's look at the film adaptations alone. Really. Too bad Netflix streaming only offers the one from 1987. I was seriously anticipating seeing Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy because he's kind of awesome. Anyway. Let's get on about the book and forget the films.
The five Bennet sisters reside in a country town outside of London (I suppose anyway) with their calculating mother and rather aloof father. When a Mr. Bingley arrives at his country estate nearby, with a pretty handsome party, the girls' lives are thrown into a flurry. Elizabeth Bennet, our heroine, makes an unfortunate acquaintance with an unfriendly Mr. Darcy, while Jane becomes smitten with that certain Mr. Bingley. Oh, and don't let me forget Mr. Wickham, whose character graces the group and is sure to delight the most prudent individual in the room. Or Mr. Collins... that guy. What a joke. Throw in some letter exchanging, ball attending and relative visiting and you've got a story.
I'll admit that not reading a classic novel for a while (ok, one from or around this period of time, so late 1700s/early 1800s) did not help me in understanding each sentence completely. Yes, I just admitted that some of those five-line long sentences with about a zillion superfluous notes of tenderness were really tough to get through, let alone UNDERSTAND completely. (Note: Sometimes I contemplate emulating the whole letter writing process and sending it to J just to see what he'll say. I'll let you know how that works out.) For the most part, however, I understood enough to know when someone was word slapping another character in the face or kissing another character's butt or whatever. And I did appreciate it. I certainly don't want someone thinking I'm criticizing Ms. Austen and her beautiful language, because I'm definitely not. It was just different. The realization that many of my contemporary reads (think new releases) are pretty much easy peasy and don't require me to struggle with the language, so much as the meaning of it all, hit me about halfway through. I liked it.
Take heed! SPOILERS from here on out...
I understood just from taking history classes and feminism courses that Elizabeth Bennet is a force to reckon with considering the period. She definitely (in the most polite terms) expresses her frustration with her sister, Jane, who fails to see the defects in any individual's character, and has no problem outright refusing (in the most disgraceful manner) a man that can spend more in a year than all of the families she knows combined. A woman like Elizabeth, a female whose father hasn't planned to support all of his lovely daughters after his demise, would hardly be in a position to reject such a suitor. But she does and deep down we all know that she loved ever minute of that heated exchange.
It's her character that makes this work so wildly popular (that's what I like to believe anyway). Ok, so maybe the romance aided its standing as well. While I haven't delved too much into how the general public responded to it when it was initially published (I know that Austen wasn't admired until many years after her death), I can't imagine that reactions were anything but shock at the impertinence (to borrow one from Austen) of Ms. Lizzy. She enforces marrying for happiness and not for money, and while this probably wasn't the most sound advice for many single ladies, we know that Austen herself turned down marriage proposals because she just didn't "feel it" with those offering. Furthermore, Elizabeth is smart and quick-witted, which we assume is an attractive quality because Mr. Darcy just can't resist. Let's not forget that she maintains her amusing and intelligent demeanor through and through because that's who she IS, and not because some guy thinks it's kind of cute, or whatever. So, Elizabeth Bennet is kind of awesome too. I chuckled while reading and that is way better than crying. Sure, there may be several situations that just happen to work out so perfectly that you have to check yourself before rolling your eyes, you'll end up loving the characters all the same.
My one complaint, aside from deciphering the language, was the fact that she alluded to moments, rather than outright including the conversation, when individuals expressed themselves in a vulgar manner. Naturally I was interested as to what was said that was considered so vulgar.
The completion of Pride and Prejudice was my first step towards finishing 50 titles in five years. Note: This title may or may not have been selected based on the fact that I recently got a copy of Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James.