Nicole's Reviews > Pride and Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
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Jun 08, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: favorites, british, love-story, feminist

It's odd and wonderful how the same book reads when read and different times in ones life.

I have always been a staunch defender of this book against those who would categorize it as chick lit. The satire, the vaguely socialist message that no one should be treated differently according to their wealth and status. The love story is well written and nuanced, obviously standing the test of time.

Something has changed for me in the reading of PnP, however. Maybe it's because I'm about to have a daughter of my own and I've spent a lot of time contemplating what it's gonna be like parenting a teenager. So many mothers of older children have told me how their teenagers treat them like they're dumb, hopelessly out of tune with the ways of the world. Isn't this just how Elizabeth sees and treats her mother? Isn't Elizabeth still a young adult herself, not one and twenty? Mrs Bennet is portrayed as vapid, shrill, ignorant and hideously embarrassing to Elizabeth herself, yet it isn't it Mrs Bennet who is most aware of what will happen to her daughters if they don't do well by themselves in marriage? Her husband, the smart and sympathetically played Mr Bennet, is truly the one who seems out of touch with his daughters fates if they don't find a well to do match. Neither does Elizabeth seem inclined to give her younger sisters any slack. They are silly, stupid, and without any redeeming features...isn't it just like an older sister to see her younger sisters that way?

With this in mind, my entire perception of PnP shifted. The subjectivity of the narrator seems glaringly obvious and calls into question the very sharpness and satire that makes this book great. Is Lizzie. and therefore Austen a sly and brilliant social commentator, or simply superior, lacking in compassion towards those not as bright as she?

It's hard to evaluate. So much has changed, from the status of women to the access we all have to information and education. Yet this reading gave me more sympathy for Mrs Bennet, the younger Bennet sisters, and indeed all the other characters who are portrayed as narrow-minded and foolish in their way--which, by my count, greatly outnumber those with understanding and intelligence. To me, this seems so much like a smart person in their early twenties just coming into their own in any time period.

With this reading, I saw PnP as being almost young adult literature. The themes of differentiating from ones parents and family, of first love and realizing that your convictions aren't always the right one, of figuring out how you fit into society at large and growing apart from your childhood friends (a shout out to the wonderful Charlotte Lucas)--all of theses fit into YA literature, and all are encompassed in PnP. I'm interested in how I'm going to read this book in another 5 to 10 years. We'll see.
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