"Art makes life, makes interest, makes importance"

July 17, 2011

"Pride and Prejudice" by Jane Austen (Book Review)

Where Emma is perhaps Jane Austen's most mature and wise novel, Pride and Prejudice is full of youthful sprightliness. It is carefree and witty and justifiably Austen's most popular creation. We follow the courtships of Elizabeth Bennet and her four sisters. The focus is on Lizzie's locking horns with Mr Darcy. Darcy is a proud and ancient landowner and he treats Elizabeth at first with the blind prejudice based on his status. But she can’t be impressed by such prejudices that are not based on the intrinsic value of human beings. Her sharp tongue and ironic repartees help her in the war of words which finally leads to mutual attraction. She also overcomes her own prejudice, which was based on a wrong first impression.

Pride and Prejudice is a book full of sunshine. Like everything Jane Austen wrote, it is very eighteenth century. The novel is infused with the optimism of the Enlightenment, with the rationalism of Locke and Hume. For the arch-romantic Charlotte Bronte it was all too neat, too well-ordered. But if you like the music of Joseph Haydn, you will also love Jane Austen's books. Just like Haydn, Austen is optimistic and bright, but there is a deeper thought hidden below the surface.

Being an earlier work, Pride and Prejudice is not perfect. Where all events in Emma are so natural that the book almost could have been a biography, in Pride and Prejudice novelistic coincidence still plays a role, for example when Elizabeth takes a holiday tour that by chance brings her to the area where Darcy has his castle. She visits that castle and of course, whom else does she meet but Mr Darcy – etc., etc. But the novel is so much fun that we gladly overlook such small defects.
Pride and Prejudice on Gutenberg. Librivox recording of the novel. I read the Penguin edition of Pride and Prejudice.