Was it his Pride and her Prejudice? The Classic debate

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Jane Austen never ceased to amaze us. Being a woman haunted by patriarchal domination, she voiced her opinions through satires and sarcasm through the being of Elizabeth Bennet of Pride and Prejudice. The book when measured by ordinary eyes only appeals to the romantic notions of an individual. It is only when you afford to ponder over the tale in the idle hours of an afternoon, can you see the stark portrayal of her society. Jane Austen’s society treated women as mere drawing room embellishments who were present not for their intellectual prowess but their external beauty. In such a society, she penned down a character of immense understanding, intellect and intelligence of Elizabeth Bennet. This portrays the dauntless temper of the author’s mind in the portrayal of  the fact that in no way were women intellectually any less than men.

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Elizabeth Bennet was one of the five daughters of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet, whose belief in marriage and love was in constant contradiction with that of the prevalent mindset of the people of her age. The very belief in marrying a man of considerable wealth and fortune was not the prime ideal to enter into a nuptial bond. Rather she was always moved by the sacred bond of mutual love and respect which morally ought to accompany a marriage. The materialistic aspect of her society is only highlighted by the opening lines of the classic –

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of  a wife”

Therefore, meeting Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy at Meryton Ball was not of much consequence to her. Darcy was a man of aristocratic wealth and class and therefore remain prejudiced against the ones belonging to inferior stations. He was termed as proud and arrogant and much of the readers would initially dislike him for slighting the protagonist Elizabeth at their first meeting. Therefore, this is not a novel of love at first sight for Darcy and Elizabeth. His prejudiced bias towards the guests at the ball and rude remark about Elizabeth not being “handsome enough to tempt” him was reason enough for Elizabeth to harbour endless prejudice against him. She saw him as an arrogant aristocrat, proud of his high station and wealth and he saw her as a mere woman of low connections and little beauty. This is how the two main protagonists begin their misinterpretations about each other which only keeps increasing with Wickham’s arrival.

The five sisters

The five sisters

Wickham serves as the stereotyped antagonist who feeds Elizabeth’s existing prejudice with a web of circumvented lies about Darcy being insensitive and lacking all the emotions that ought to make a man. Therefore, the Elizabeth’s prides herself into believing her judgements to be true. However, little does she notice how Darcy’s inclinations toward her to grow with more affection, in spite of her arrogance towards him. This is how the novel proceeds building a tale of misunderstandings which is also accompanied by the different types of prejudices experienced by the other characters of the novel.

Darcy and Elizabeth

Darcy and Elizabeth

Darcy like the true Richardsonian hero resolves to aid Elizabeth’s sister Lizzy and that finally forms the last piece of the puzzle when Elizabeth finally sees the true nature of the man she had earlier considered as immoral and arrogant. Austen masterfully clears the air by revealing the actual subdued nature of the non – loquacious man in Darcy, which Elizabeth had mistaken to be his haughty self. And through a web of events it pans out into their marriage, which firmly establishes on love and respect.

Austen produced through Elizabeth the unconventional heroine who did not live by the rules ordained by the patriarchal society, she produced the thought process of that society through the beings of Mrs. Bennet and Catherine de Bourgh. She gave us a picture of the social etiquettes and activities prevalent at the time. But most importantly taught us to review our own judgements and imposed upon the importance of communication. She taught us that vices will indeed keep building when not checked. Not to mention she gave us the classical hero Darcy, perfect in every aspect of the man every woman desires to hold. She freed the notion of women having to only enact the roles of beauty and emphasized their capabilities of intellectual processing.

You can only read it to experience it, because unfortunately movies like Bride and Prejudice, or even the remake of the movie with Kiera Knightly as the protagonist – have not justice to the classic nature of this book. The only one worth watching is the BBC version with Colin Firth as Darcy and Jennifer Ehle as Darcy and Elizabeth. So this is a request to every single one out there who has not read this book, it is worth every word, so please do take the time out to read through. It is not merely a romantic novel, but talks about all the various emotional and worldly experiences we all encounter in every day of our lives.  And, you never know, you just might find yourself somewhere in the pages of the novel.