“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”
The very first statement, which starts the novel “Pride and Prejudice”, sets forth the major themes of the novel. Opening with an introduction to the Bennets, the first chapter shows an anxious Mrs. Bennet, who wants her daughters hitched and their new neighbour Mr. Bingley seems right for that purpose. When Mr. Bingley organises a ball, everyone in the neighbourhood is invited. There, the meeting takes place between Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy, the protagonists of this story. The story proceeds as the misunderstanding between our protagonists grows and they break away only to understand each other better.
Beyond the obvious love brewing between various characters, the novel discusses other themes like class difference, need of money, marriage, the status of women, parenting and self – reflection. Unlike the Chivalric romances, Jane Austen portrays reality in her novel. The novelist shows how women of that age weren’t allowed to work and were expected to learn everything (knitting, embroidery, housekeeping, music and such) to be considered accomplished women. And when our female protagonist stands up for women, she is criticised. Elizabeth challenges the established beliefs of that age and gives out the message that women needn’t be perfect to be accomplished.
“I never saw such a woman. I never saw capacity, taste, and application, and elegance, as you described, united.”
The novel also shows how women were dependent on marriage for financial support and they should also possess some money for a successful marriage. Instead of showing a fantasy where love solves everything, the plot showcases the importance of money in life but this doesn’t necessarily mean money defines happiness. The influence of class difference was strongly felt by the way Darcy and the Bingley sisters treated others like the Bennets. This is one of the important factors in the love story of Darcy and Elizabeth and Bingley and Jane.
One of the best things about the novel is that we can vividly see how the characters evolve. The character development in both Elizabeth and Darcy is what brings together. There comes a situation when both have to step back from each other before they can grow closer. This brief interval helps them to understand themselves and face their inner flaws. The attributes in the title are clearly associated with the protagonists. Darcy was self conceited and Elizabeth was prejudiced.
Jane Austen had written some of the finest lines in English in this novel. The lines make us think and what makes them more attractive is that it appeals to people of all ages and all nations.
“Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves, vanity to what we have others think of us.”
“And yours,” he replied with a smile, “is wilfully to misunderstand them.”
These lines have the most impact when one reads the story. Adding, Jane Austen is also the best at description. Her descriptions of landscapes, settings and others transports us to that age.
This book also helps to reflect on ourselves. We are all proud and we are all prejudiced at least sometimes. All it takes is us admitting them and trying to work on it. This novel is relatable even in the 21st century.