Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used synonymously. A person may be proud without being vain. Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves, vanity to what we would have others think of us.Seldom have I showered such praise on any book in my entire life as I have on this novel by Jane Austen. I've read the classic version thrice and watched two movies based on the same quite a number of times each. That's the kind of love I have for Pride and Prejudice.
Pride and Prejudice is one of the most popular pieces of literature ever written. Published way back in 1813, it is basically a satire on the societal manners and superficial courtesies prevalent in the English society of early 19th century. If my three reads are anything to go by, it also reveals the undue importance assigned to fortune and inheritance in deciding one's future happiness. The fact that nothing's changed - every such aspect as well as many more are still seen in today's society at an even aggravated scale - makes the novel as fitting a commentary on today's society as on its original target. And therein lies its pull on the readers.
The story, which is very well known, unfolds through the eyes of Elizabeth Bennet, a twenty year old intelligent and lively girl with an exquisitely beautiful and equally benevolent elder sister Jane, and three younger sisters - one of them insipid, another headstrong and frivolous, and the third her shadow, all three equally silly. The girls have an excitable, narrow minded mother who likes to think of herself as a victim of frequent nervous attacks. Her sole aim as shown in the narrative is to marry off all her daughters to rich men and show off their good fortunes in all of their society, far and wide. Their father is an indifferent, cynical sort of man who derives pleasure out of purposefully irritating his wife and though he loves his daughters, fails to fulfill his paternal duties towards them as such. A host of other characters related to the family have been depicted, each in itself a study in character and temperament.
A little into the story enters Mr. Darcy, the fabled male protagonist of this book. He is an interesting character, as handsome as they come, quick to judge people, a social recluse, yet very kind in his dealings with people he knows. Though Elizabeth and Darcy don't like each other much on their first encounter, they are somehow brought together by fate pretty often throughout the narrative, thus being forced to get to know each others' characters in greater depth. As the events unravel, it makes for a tale full of interesting happenings, each shedding light on a different nuance of human temperament, giving us gems of Jane Austen's sarcasm and satire at the inconsistencies within the gentry of 19th century England.
The title of the book is believed to have been taken from a passage in Fanny Burney's popular novel Cecilia. In a way the title signifies how pride in Darcy's character and prejudice in Elizabeth's perceptions of people alienate them to each other's better qualities, and how, in overcoming their pride and prejudice, they come together towards the end.
Does sound like a typical love story when I put it that way, doesn't it? But it isn't just meant for the romance junkies, as would appear at first glance. It is one great piece of classic literature. Widely believed to be Austen's best work, overshadowing her other popular works like Sense and Sensibility and Emma, this novel exhibits uninhibited satire with a free indirect style of narration and such good humor at times, it would be a misery not to have read this book once in your lifetime. A definite 4 on a scale of 5.
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.Do let me know what you think!
P.S. You can download the e-book, in a format of your choice, from here.