Pride and Prejudice

What are men to rocks and mountains?”

Jane Austen

SPOILER ALERT! THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS.

Oh, Pride and Prejudice. The resort of every English student ever in time of exams: funny and strident and spirited and clever.

The story of Mrs Bennet’s attempts to get her five daughters married off before their father dies, Pride and Prejudice is a novel that’s actually (sadly) really difficult to think about because everyone’s kind of already done the thinking for you. Also because it is 10:30pm and I have spent all day trying to wring some sense out of Tom Jones and Pamela. But mainly the first thing.

You know what? I’m going to do a List. Hopefully that way I can put some of my thoughts in order.

  • Firstly, Elizabeth is a great character. I hadn’t realised just how much she flirts with Darcy, mostly without knowing it, and how the intelligence involved in that (mutual) flirtation whooshes completely over the heads of the odious Miss Bingley and Mrs Hurst. It’s a fantastic demonstration of the difference between social and intellectual equality, and makes for some hugely entertaining reading.
  • The book is longer than I expected, which is basically the same as saying that there’s a lot more to it than what usually gets adapted or otherwise discussed. Although re-reading it did instil in me a desire to rewatch The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. Anyway, I loved how much there was to this novel; how well everything gets wrapped up.
  • It’s interesting that we only hear about Lydia and Wickham’s elopement; we don’t actually see it. Actually, it’s possibly only interesting in the light of contemporary novels by other authors – surely Fanny Burney would have shown us the elopement directly – because it’s fully in keeping with Austen’s distaste for theatrics generally, but that tells us something unusual about her novelistic preferences: she feels compelled to use drastic events, but not to look at them directly. Which reminds me a bit of Northanger Abbey‘s inability to decide what it thinks of the Gothic. It’s like: sensational events provide us with a backdrop, a necessary fictional device, but what’s interesting about them is not what leads up to them, or how they come about, but how they affect the world around them. How they open up opportunities for communication or discussion or rehabilitation. Maybe?
  • Pride and Prejudice is actually really quite funny. I know I said that before, but Mr Collins is hilarious, and Mr Bennet’s sardonic humour makes me wish we saw more of him. I mean, Austen is brutal with her weaker characters, making no allowance for human folly. But it’s funny.

All of which is only to say that Pride and Prejudice is a Good Book, because I don’t have the conceptual energy to tie everything together properly, which is going to be a problem when I have to write about it in an exam hall next week. Hurrah.

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