Monday, February 13, 2017

Classics #4

I read this book for the Back to the Classics Challenge 2017.

Pride and Prejudice- Jane Austen (1813)

Delightful. The romantic comedy with a witty bite is told from the point of view of Elizabeth Bennet, the smart sister. Lizzy is her own person, for sure: she punctures the pompous manner of Mr. Collins; she triumphantly rejects the haughty Mr. Darcy; she is beguiled by a wily man and forced into introspection; she is mortified by her mother’s silliness; she stands up to Lady de Burgh’s insolence.  Her older sister Jane is the pretty one, angelic in her optimism and tolerance. The two youngest sisters, Kitty and Lydia, are giddy and boy-crazy. The middle sister, Mary, a great reader, talks like a book. Lizzy’s father is an indolent husband and father, happiest when not hassled and sarcastic when amused by the foibles of others. Her mother is an idiot, a wonderful comic character. Elizabeth’s love interest is first Mr. Wickham and then Mr. Darcy. The cast of secondary characters is large, but delineated with much skill. Such is the clarity of Austen’s writing that we readers never lose track of the ways characters are connected to each other. Austen passes blunt judgements on her characters’ follies and empty-headed worship of money, class, position, property, and public opinion, all of which can be lost quickly through lack of sense or luck. Austen examines the undermining effects on social life of both willful deception and sitting on home truths in the misplaced hopes that the impudent will somehow reform themselves. Interestingly, she also has us readers think about how first impressions are often as strong as they are wrong. It is mind-boggling that this ground-breaking realistic novel was written by an author who was working with influences such as gothic romances (Frances Burney), picaresque novels (Henry Fielding) and adventure novels (Walter Scott). Hers is an artistic achievement – indeed, a marvel - on the level of Lady Murasaki’s The Tale of Genji, as Austen could not look to worthwhile models of witty novels of domestic manners, set in narrow social worlds. Any reader that likes Anthony Trollope’s romcoms with a little heft will like Pride and Prejudice. But I think Austen's bluntness in describing characters puts her in the 18th century satirical style with Fielding and Smollet.

1 comment:

  1. LOL, I definitely love enthusiastic reviewers like you, and fans of JA more than JA herself. It's not that I don't like this book, -which I've read twice-, it's that I don't seem to get her humor so much. (I still like her books, though)