Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Pride and Prejudice
By Jane Austen
This edition published by Vintage (2014)
First published in 1813, Pride and Prejudice was one of the literary works most widely-known today, and thence, had been scrutinized and dissected by various parties who had their own views to say of the novel. My post here would be based only on my personal views and by no means academic.
In this 2014 edition, the novel comes with an introduction chapter written by British author Alexander McCall Smith. His introduction included opinions on the characters in Pride and Prejudice, but I had refused to form any judgement before I read the book, for his impressions did not seem to be in favour of several characters (which included Mr Darcy, the supposed hero of the novel!)
However, I do agree with Mr McCall Smith when he opined that, “Almost every character in Pride and Prejudice, except the most incidental ones, is suitable for searching scrutiny and analysis – and it is in this that lies the real charm and richness of this novel.”
Indeed, the human characteristics being featured in this novel were diverse, and realistic too – I have met people who resembled the characters of Pride and Prejudice in terms of personality, no matter how absurd: from the negligent ways of Mr Bennet, who viewed life with weird humour and (most of the time) laughed at whatever was thrown in his way; the delusional Mr Collins, who interpreted other people’s actions based on what he wanted to believe in; the practical Charlotte Lucas, who was willing to ignore the failings of Mr Collins just for the sake of getting married; all these characteristics could certainly be found in real life.
Even the title of this novel, I believe, was indicating of the characteristics of the two main protagonists: Pride represents Fitzwilliam Darcy, and Prejudice represents Elizabeth Bennet.
The first sentence of this novel says, “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”
And so began the story of the people of Hertfordshire, who took an interest in the new master of the impressive Netherfield estate there, named Charles Bingley. Mr Bingley was good-looking, pleasant and wealthy. Moreover, he was still single, and many parents in the neighbourhood began to hope that he might chose their daughter to be his wife.
Mrs Bennet was one of those parents particularly excited over Mr Bingley’s arrival. She had five grown-up daughters, and her main concern in life was to get all her daughters married before her husband dies. As Mr and Mrs Bennet had no son, their estate stood to be inherited by Mr Bennet’s relative, William Collins, upon Mr Bennet’s death. Mrs Bennet worried that Mr Collins might turn away all her daughters out of the house when he inherited, leaving the girls homeless – unless the girls’ future had been secured in marriage.
And so, Mrs Bennet was very eager to get all her daughters acquainted with good men – and as the case at the time, to get her new neighbour Mr Bingley interested in either one of her daughters.
Not long after, the residents of Hertfordshire became even more excited when Mr Bingley brought his good friend Fitzwilliam Darcy to stay at his estate. Mr Darcy was also good-looking and single, and most importantly, his wealth was estimated to be more than double from Mr Bingley’s.
However, the excitement over Mr Darcy subsided so soon when people discovered that he was quite a disagreeable person. Mr Darcy was not chatty and he seldom smiled. His temperament appeared to be arrogant, and he only mingled around a small circle of his acquaintances (some studies suggested that Mr Darcy was actually autistic, thus his behaviour, but I'm not going to delve into that).
Confirming the people’s judgement of his self, Mr Darcy had even snubbed Elizabeth, the Bennets’ second daughter, when Mr Bingley suggested him to dance with Elizabeth during a ball.
Naturally, Mrs Bennet formed an ill impression of Mr Darcy for slighting Elizabeth. However, Mrs Bennet was much consoled when she found that Mr Bingley appeared to have taken a special interest in her eldest daughter Jane.
Nevertheless, Mr Darcy soon found himself suddenly attracted towards the very lady whom he had rebuffed previously. Apart from appreciating her beautiful pair of eyes, he saw in Elizabeth a disposition that distinguished her from other women he had ever met. Elizabeth was quick-witted, street-smart; and whereas other women were keen to please and agree with Mr Darcy, Elizabeth had no qualms of standing against him: when they met again at another social gathering, it was Mr Darcy’s turn to be rejected by Elizabeth when he asked for her hand to dance. To Elizabeth, Mr Darcy was just trying to be polite by making amends of his previous snub.
Elizabeth usually had the ability to see beneath the surface of people’s mannerisms, but unfortunately, she had been unable to read Mr Darcy quite exactly, for the man’s initial rebuff of her had apparently inclined her to assume only the worst of him. (She was also wrong regarding her assumptions of Mr Wickham, later).
Meanwhile, everything was going so well between Jane and Mr Bingley, and people began to expect a marriage between them soon – until the latter had to leave Hertfordshire due to some unsettled business. Mr Bingley was supposed to return to Hertfordshire again; but then his two sisters and Mr Darcy, who had also stayed in Netherfield, indicated that he was not returning. The aforementioned three then followed in Mr Bingley’s footsteps and hastily left Netherfield the very next day.
Jane never heard from Mr Bingley again after that, and even though she initially kept a correspondence with Mr Bingley’s sister Caroline, Jane soon felt that the acquaintance had gone awry. Caroline, whom Elizabeth had perceived as hypocritical, frequently dropped suggestions that her brother was actually in love with Mr Darcy’s younger sister Georgiana.
The news had distressed Jane, and upon halting all correspondence with Caroline, she pretended to live normally. But Elizabeth knew deep inside, her beloved sister was very heartbroken. Elizabeth also began to suspect that Mr Bingley’s sisters, as well as Mr Darcy, were actually working together to separate Mr Bingley from Jane, in order to match him with Georgiana Darcy.
Elizabeth eventually met Mr Darcy again some months later when she was visiting Mr Collins in Kent. By then, her resentment towards Mr Darcy was at a high: apart from her suspicions on Mr Darcy deliberately planning the separation of Mr Bingley from Jane, Elizabeth was also much influenced by the accounts of George Wickham, who knew Mr Darcy since boyhood. Mr Wickham was the son of Mr Darcy’s late father’s steward, and thus his testimonials of Mr Darcy’s ill-nature were very convincing to Elizabeth.
Oblivious to the sentiments Elizabeth had against him, Mr Darcy had professed his admiration and love for her – and even asked for her hand in marriage, when they met in Kent. His proposal was, of course, declined. In addition to the rejection, Elizabeth vexed out everything that she had had against him – especially those pertaining to Mr Bingley’s relationship with Jane, and Mr Darcy’s apparent ill treatment towards Mr Wickham in the past.
Mr Darcy was shocked into silence, and he had excused himself from Elizabeth. The very next day, he passed a letter for Elizabeth, in which he explained his side of the story regarding all the matters that she had accused him of.
Through the letter, Mr Darcy had admitted to playing a part in the separation of Mr Bingley and Jane; to this he reasoned that he was doing it to protect Mr Bingley from possible heartbreak. Mr Bingley was truly smitten by Jane, but on the other hand, based on Mr Darcy’s observations, he saw that Jane may not have the same feelings towards Mr Bingley. Jane was, naturally pleasant, and someone could hardly discern between Jane’s loving someone or just being amiable, but actually indifferent.
Meanwhile, regarding Mr Wickham, Mr Darcy explained his side of the story and suggested Elizabeth to consult several other people – whom he had named in the letter – to testify that he had spoken the truth, in case she should still distrust him. Elizabeth made an effort to be fair and finally, based on her memory of Mr Wickham’s communications with her regarding Mr Darcy, she inclined towards believing Mr Darcy was the one on the truthful side after all.
Nevertheless, Elizabeth still felt unhappy towards Mr Darcy’s actions regarding Mr Bingley. Though she did acknowledge that it was hard to discern Jane’s feelings towards Mr Bingley – for Jane was naturally an amiable woman – but Elizabeth knew that Jane was equally in love with Mr Bingley. Jane was truly hurt when Mr Bingley left and had not contacted her. Even months later, Jane still felt the loss of Mr Bingley, although she tried to act unconcerned.
Elizabeth did not meet Mr Darcy again since receiving the explanatory letter, and she was left with a jumbled mind as to what she should do, or whether she will have any opportunity to reconcile with Mr Darcy someday. Elizabeth was humbled every time she remembered how she had unfairly bombarded Mr Darcy with such mean accusations, particularly those relating to Mr Wickham.
One day, Elizabeth joined her uncle and aunt, the Mr and Mrs Gardiner, on a tour of Derbyshire, where Mrs Gardiner had grew up. There, they took the opportunity to visit the magnificent Pemberley estate, which was owned by Mr Darcy. Elizabeth had some misgivings in visiting it, but on assurance that Mr Darcy was away at the time, she agreed to tour the estate. Elizabeth fell in love at first sight of Pemberley, and she had thought, in melancholy, how she had almost become the mistress of Pemberley – had she not rejected its master’s marriage proposal, and with a barrage of unfair accusations, too!
Before Elizabeth and her relatives managed to finish their tour of Pemberley, she beheld the very shocking sight of Mr Darcy having returned to his estate, a day before he was expected to arrive. Mr Darcy was likewise shocked at the sight of Elizabeth, whom he had not seen for months since their fateful altercation in Kent. Mr Darcy approached Elizabeth first, and his manners towards her had drastically changed – Mr Darcy was no longer aloof or snobbish, but more gentlemanly now. He was pleasant towards Mr and Mrs Gardiner, and had even insisted to introduce his sister Georgiana to Elizabeth.
Elizabeth found Georgiana to be a very shy girl, but very likeable nonetheless. Mr Bingley also happened to be around in Pemberley at the time, and Elizabeth found that both Mr Bingley and Georgiana were indifferent towards the other – which just proved that Caroline Bingley’s suggestion that they had any understanding, was unfounded. Instead, Mr Bingley had inquired about Elizabeth’s family, and although made in general terms, Elizabeth could see that he was anxious to hear about Jane.
Then, disaster struck the Bennets while Elizabeth was in Derbyshire: she received an urgent letter from Jane telling that Lydia, their youngest sister, had disgraced the family by running away to Gretna Green to elope with Mr Wickham. The family and some friends who knew Mr Wickham had tried to trace their whereabouts, but they had not been found and were believed to have not reached Scotland at all.
Elizabeth and the Gardiners had to leave Derbyshire immediately to help the search. Mr Darcy, deeply concerned when he saw Elizabeth broke down at receiving the news, was determined to help the family, albeit anonymously: Mr Darcy had discussed with Mr Gardiner beforehand and was insistent that the latter must take credit for everything later and not mention Mr Darcy’s involvement at all.
In the end, it was Mr Darcy who succeeded in locating Mr Wickham and Lydia in London, and the two were yet to be married. Apparently, the elopement was Lydia’s idea; Mr Wickham was not as eager, for his mercenary self always preferred a wealthier lady. Only on Mr Darcy’s pressure that Mr Wickham finally agreed to marry Lydia, who was nothing more than an airhead with no money to tempt him. After securing Mr Wickham and Lydia’s marriage – in order to salvage what little was left of Lydia’s reputation – Mr Darcy was most insistent on having Mr Gardiner taking all the credits while he remained anonymous. It was agreed that Mr Darcy’s involvement would not be announced, but the news did reach Elizabeth later when Lydia had let slip about it.
Elizabeth was most thankful to Mr Darcy, for he apparently had no reason to concern himself with the Bennets’ problems, but still he took the pains to find that one man whom he was not on good terms with, and to settle his marriage too.
After the fiasco created by Lydia, the Bennets became the most disgraced family in Hertfordshire, with the other daughters’ reputations also likewise tarnished. Elizabeth now believed that her respectability must have slipped even lower in the eyes of Mr Darcy: not only had she rejected him in a most imprudent manner, but she had accused him with falsehoods, and now her sister Lydia had created a most embarrassing scandal and gotten married to the man whom apparently was most hated by Mr Darcy. Elizabeth was convinced that there was no way Mr Darcy would want to be married to her because he will then become Mr Wickham’s brother-in-law! It was very ironic that as Elizabeth felt more affectionate towards Mr Darcy, one obstacle after another came up as if to keep them even more apart.
One day, almost a year after the Bingleys and Mr Darcy left Hertfordshire, the neighbourhood was all abuzz again at the sudden return of Mr Bingley and Mr Darcy to Netherfield. To much surprise, the two gentleman had called on the Bennets first upon their arrival, as if to rekindle a connection which had long ago seemed already void.
The two men had really come to see their respective love interests, and to determine whether their feelings were still mutual after all that had passed between them. Mr Bingley and Jane reconciled first, and disproving of Mr Darcy’s previous assumptions of Jane being indifferent, she had accepted Mr Bingley’s marriage proposal with much happiness. Mr Darcy and Elizabeth joined in their joyousness not long after, having also reconciled their past differences, with Mr Darcy also seemingly unperturbed by the family’s reprobation in the eyes of the society.
The marriage between Mr Bingley and Jane, and Mr Darcy with Elizabeth, had apparently restored the Bennets’ reputation in the eyes of the Hertfordshire residents. Elizabeth settled in Pemberley with Mr Darcy, while Mr Bingley and Jane stayed in Netherfield for a year before moving out and settling in an estate not very far from Pemberley.
And they lived happily ever after... obviously.
So what actually makes Pride and Prejudice one of the most beloved love story of all time? And why do so many women swoon over Mr Darcy that he had to be ‘reincarnated’ in a huge number of romance novels written by many a contemporary authors?
Other people may have different opinions on both questions, but for me, Pride and Prejudice was a most wonderful love story because it is a story of the triumph of true love over the test of time and other obstacles. Mr Bingley and Jane, and also Mr Darcy, had maintained their affection towards their respective love interests despite being separated from each other, and without being assured that the other would respond to their feelings in kind, too.
Regarding Mr Darcy, although Mr McCall Smith had mentioned in the introduction chapter of this book that there was nothing of Mr Darcy that could warrant such attention from women, apart from his good looks – I beg to differ.
For one, Pride and Prejudice was certainly lacking in terms of detailed descriptions, whether of people’s physical appearances, or any physical locations. Mr Darcy was generally mentioned as good-looking, although a detailed description of him was not available, and thus I myself was unable to imagine how he actually looked like. Mr Bingley was also mentioned as a good-looking man in this novel, and ditto Mr Wickham – who was even said to be much handsomer than Mr Darcy himself. Thus, I believe, readers did not particularly swoon over Mr Darcy just because he was handsome.
Personally, one thing I like most about Mr Darcy was his solid conviction in loving Elizabeth. Mr Darcy’s feelings for Elizabeth was firm, and ever since he realized that he was attracted to her, never once did he back away or feel doubtful about his decision, no matter what he had to endure. Mr Darcy was also willing to improve his disposition in the hopes of being a more gentle man for Elizabeth. He was willing to sacrifice for the sake of Elizabeth, such as when he volunteered to help Lydia and Mr Wickham, although he was not in good terms with the latter at all. Last but not least, Mr Darcy was not repelled from marrying Elizabeth, even though the marriage would mean having familial ties with Mr Wickham.
Charlotte Lucas, on being practical in a marriage:
“Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance. If the disposition of the parties are ever so well known to each other, or ever so similar beforehand, it does not advance their felicity in the least. They always continue to grow sufficiently unlike afterwards to have their share of vexation; and it is better to know as little as possible of the defects of the person with whom you are to pass your life.” (page 25)
Mr Darcy, on Caroline Bingley commenting on his upcoming marriage when his attraction for Elizabeth was still in the early stage:
“A lady’s imagination is very rapid; it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony in a moment.” (page 30)
Elizabeth being pessimistic:
“There are few people whom I really love, and still fewer of whom I think well. The more I see of the world, the more am I dissatisfied with it; and every day confirms my belief of the inconsistency of all human characters, and of the little dependence that can be placed on the appearance of either merit or sense.” (page 156)
Good-natured Jane, on Mr Wickham:
“...to expose the former faults of any person, without knowing what their present feelings were, seemed unjustifiable.” (page 330)
Mr Bennet imparting his wisdom to Elizabeth prior to her marriage:
“...you could be neither happy nor respectable, unless you truly esteemed your husband, unless you looked up to him as a superior.” (page 429)
I've read Pride And Prejudice when I was 16. Reading your review makes me believe that I need to reread this novel again. Dah byk juga citer dia yang I tak ingat. Hehehe.ReplyDelete
Yes you should! It's an evergreen love story after all 😍😍😍😍😍Delete