The first time I read Pride and Prejudice, I was fifteen. I carefully selected the title from a reading list for school, curled up in my favorite reading spot, and immersed myself in Jane Austen.
This month, I re-read Pride and Prejudice for a class about Jane Austen. Now that I’ve read the book with a trained eye and the help of a professor, I have a much better grasp of the text. At fifteen, I wasn’t able to fully understand Austen’s sense of humor. Pride and Prejudice is best known for its romance, but the tone is largely satirical. I now appreciate Austen’s mockery of the snobbish Caroline Bingley, her portrayal of the pompous Mr. Collins, and her narrator’s witty commentaries. Though a close reading of the book may reveal some mildly unflattering traits of Mr. Darcy and Miss Elizabeth Bennett, the story ultimately has a fairytale ending. Elizabeth Bennett defies social expectations by marrying for love, but still gets to marry young, handsome, and rich Mr. Darcy. Elizabeth comes to understand herself, Mr. Darcy turns out to be a gentleman, and they all live happily ever after.
It’s easy to think of Pride and Prejudice as a 2005 movie starring Kiera Knightley, and while I like this film adaptation, it doesn’t fully encompass Austen’s work. In many ways, the film adaptation is what we want Pride and Prejudice to be: a timeless rags-to-riches romance about a strong-willed woman and a painfully shy man. However, Pride and Prejudice is actually much more than that: it is a romance, but it is also a satire of 18th century English society and a discussion of social values.
Pride and Prejudice is clever and romantic, but what I love most about this novel is its beautiful construction. Jane Austen has impressive mastery over the text, from her subtle narrative voice to her vibrant characters and her precise placement of each scene. Pride and Prejudice is simultaneously thought-provoking and entertaining, the kind of book that is worth revisiting.