Book Review: Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen

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Secretum Meum Mihi Press

BOOK REVIEW: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

reviewed by Beverly Mantyh

Summer — time to kick back, pour a tall glass of ice tea and grab a good book. A hard working woman deserves a novel that will make her laugh! Forget that Pride and Prejudice is on so many required reading lists; it’s the perfect summer novel. Austen entertains with witty insights while exploring themes for summer reflection.

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” When two eligible bachelors are introduced to their sleepy rural neighborhood, the Bennett family anticipates romance. The five Bennet daughters are seeking true love, Mrs. Bennet is searching for men with fortunes, and Mr. Bennet is looking for amusement.

One introduction leads to another and Jane, the eldest Bennet, has captured the eye of bachelor number one, Mr. Bingley. The second eldest Bennet, Elizabeth, has a run in with Bingley’s more eligible (richer) friend, Mr. Darcy. He offends Elizabeth by remarking, “She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me; and I am in no humour at present to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men.”

Elizabeth is not your fainting, hothouse variety of heroine. She “remained with no very cordial feeling toward him. She told the story, however with great spirit among her friends.” Boy offends girl; girl ridicules boy; the exposé of romantic pride begins.

Austen saves Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy, and Jane and Mr. Bingley from the fate of garage sale paperbacks. She uses the Bennet sisters’ romances to examine the age old theme of pride vs. humility. Elizabeth relies too heavily upon first impressions, confusing social intelligence with true virtue. Darcy rests upon his social position and considers himself above proper politeness. Jane and Mr. Bingley are also almost thwarted in romance when fear of rejection and social embarrassment keep them stuck in passive pride. Both couples must act in humility and vulnerability before their relationships can deepen.

The minor characters also contribute to Austen’s tale of the pitfalls of pride. Mr. Collins’ shameless groveling for position and security exaggerates the hilarity of his marriage proposal to Elizabeth. The overbearing Lady Catherine, puffed up with connections and wealth, counterbalances the zealous maternal ambitions of Mrs. Bennet. But all Austen’s characters are allowed to grow in humility and understanding. Even Elizabeth’s wayward younger sister, “became, by proper attention and management, less irritable, less ignorant, and less insipid.”

Discussion Questions:

1. Austen portrays false pride in a couple of different guises. Elizabeth judges rashly and acts without thinking. Jane, on the other hand, draws into herself. She withholds herself from others and expects to be cajoled and drawn out. In both cases, pride is the cause of injury to relationships. Does your own false pride manifest itself in action or passivity?

2. Elizabeth and Jane are supportive, encouraging and very considerate of one another. Who is the Jane in my life? Do I work to create and maintain supportive friendships with a God given sister or a chosen sister? What can I do this summer to enrich my friendships?

3. Elizabeth had to give up her preconceptions and swallow her pride before she could see the real Mr. Darcy. During their long walk at Longbourn, Darcy began to linger upon regret for past actions. Elizabeth replied, “Think only of the past as its remembrance gives you pleasure.” Straight from the Gospels, the forgiveness and grace of this attitude is one we could all embrace. To forgive and forget is to set someone free, like God sets us free in the confessional. Is there someone in your life to whom you could pass along the grace of a fresh start?

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