Saturday, October 15, 2011

Pride and Prejudice

is my favorite novel. Some of you are rolling your eyes right now, because it's so stereotypical -- a female English major whose favorite novel is Pride and Prejudice? Get out. Shocking. But hang out for a sec, guys. It's not for the reasons you might think.

Lots of people, both men and women, have the idea that Pride and Prejudice is a love story between two perfect characters. I've seen... oh, I reckon at least a half-dozen ranty posts and articles from men criticizing women for liking P&P, lamenting the existence of Fitzwilliam Darcy, the supposedly ideal man. I've also heard countless women talking in (understandably) swoony voices about the (rightly) famous BBC adaptation and Colin Firth's utterly delicious portrayal of one of the most well-known characters in all literature, or the newer adaptation with the equally delicious Matthew MacFadyen...

OK, sorry. I know I lost a few of you there.

The point is, the rather sexy movie/TV serial adaptations are not the book. The book is not even a romance. It's scarcely a love story -- it's really not about "love" as much as marriage, in a society where love was often considered a bonus to that institution, not a prerequisite. You want the bottom line? Pride and Prejudice is a (sometimes gentle, sometimes quite biting) satire of Regency society and relationships, with an especially sharp eye cast toward marriage and particularly men's roles in making marriage successful or otherwise. In plain English: it's about marriage and men, good and bad.

You know the old saw about Austen "writing what she knew"? I don't buy it.

More to come on the marriages and the men of P&P, what we can learn from it, and why men ought to read it.

1 comment:

Radagast said...

I've read it several times (although I prefer Persuasion and Mansfield Park), but tell me more about why I've done the right thing. :)

The book can certainly be read as a romance (can't it?), and I think such a reading is valid, although Austen's books are much more than mere romances, and the romance element isn't what attracts me.

I'm still buying the old saw, until you show me it's rusty. The novel is about women as much as men, it seems to me (there are at least a dozen female characters). And it seems to be about the basis for marriage more than about marriage as an actuality. For example, I think it is significant to the story that Lady Catherine de Bourgh "married down," but we're told very little about what her marriage was like, since the story opens with her as a widow.

But that's all just saying I await further posts with interest.