Welcome to my very first #ClassicalCommentary where I plan to discuss literary classics I’ve read with some modern day commentary.
In all honesty, I have not read a lot of literary classics. Not in school, or even as an adult. However, of late, I have resolved to fix this. My first literary classics collection that I’m currently acquiring is the Penguin Drop Caps series. From that collection I’ve chosen my first novel for my classical commentary – Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.
Pride and Prejudice : Jane Austen
Pride and Prejudice is set in the 1800’s in the small town of Meryton. The Bennett family is comfortably well off, but seeing that Mr. Bennett has five daughters and no son, one of his daughters will need to marry well in order to support the others upon his death.
Honestly, this would have been an easy fix if this was 2018. His will could have been easily adjusted, as it is completely normal to will ones estate to their daughters. Worst case scenario, the wife would inherit the estate and pass it on to her daughters upon her death.
Seeing this was set in the 1800’s, the property would be inherited by a cousin (Mr. Collins) instead, as Mr Bennett has no son (male heir) to ensure the property’s ownership would remain in the family.
Mrs. Bennett as a result is obsessed with marrying her daughters off.
Jane 22, is an extremely beautiful woman who is sweet, kind, loving and tends to see the world through rose colored glasses. Elizabeth 20, is the books protagonist and in my opinion the family’s hero! She is clever, witty, lively and to a great degree sensible but she does however tend to make hasty judgments. Mary 19, thinks she is the smart one, but she is not very sensible. Kitty 17, is as empty headed as her mother. Lydia 16, is ill mannered, silly, rebellious and extremely ‘man crazy’.
While Jane and Elizabeth want to marry for love, their situation does not afford them that luxury. One of them must marry well, and love in marriages were of little importance in those days.
There are still families today who insist on their offspring marrying into families of certain financial means and social status. So while times have certain changed, in some circles, things remain the same.
Jane meets Mr. Bingley who is a wealthy man at a ball, and they soon fall in love. His sisters disapprove of this match, citing that he could do better. He leaves town and Jane is extremely heartbroken.
Elizabeth meets Mr. Darcy, one of the richest men in Derbyshire. Darcy finds himself attracted to Elizabeth despite her lack of wealth and connections. She does not fancy Darcy one bit. She finds him arrogant, rude and extremely snobby. He is the last man she would consider having any relationship with.
An offer of marriage was given to Elizabeth by clergyman Mr Collins, a cousin of Mr Bennett and heir to their estate. Elizabeth declines his offer of marriage to the fury of her mother and relief of her father. Mr. Collins however, is set on leaving with a wife, so he proposes to Elizabeth’s friend Charlotte who accepts.
Some relationships today are also doomed if family and friends don’t approve of the prospective partner. So I can completely relate to the Jane and Bingley situation. But can I just say for quick minute, how thirsty Mr. Collins is? The Pacific ocean doesn’t have enough water to quench his thirst. He was initially set on asking Jane for her hand in marriage, but when he hears she is taken, he then asks Elizabeth. When Elizabeth refuses, he wastes no time and asks Charlotte. Good grief man, you could have waited until your next visit.
Mrs. Bennett was understandably furious at Elizabeth’s refusal of Mr. Collins offer for marriage. Their union would have ensured the Longbourn estate remaining with them.
The real disappoint for me and Elizabeth was Charlotte’s acceptance of marriage to Mr. Collins. She is a sensible girl, but seeing she is older than the other girls, she accepts his offer so she can guarantee herself a comfortable life. It is obvious she sacrificed love, for opportunity – but did she have a choice really? If she had ‘Queen Bey’ to look up to, we know she would be singing a different tune – “to the left, to the left”.
A regiment of soldiers come to Meriton. Kitty and Lydia are excited at the prospect of new men in town. Elizabeth finds herself attracted to one of them, an officer, Mr Wickham. He tells her the story of how Mr. Darcy has disadvantaged him of a good life, and revenue that was promised to him. This confirms Elizabeth’s dislike toward Mr. Darcy.
Who can blame Elizabeth? Even today first impressions are considered very lasting. Then to have heard such a story, from a gentleman who has known him for years, speaks further to his character. How many of us have declined the idea of friendships and even relationships with individuals with whom we have heard negative stories about? I know I have.
The more time Darcy spends with Elizabeth, despite the circumstances of their meetings – he is attracted to her even more. He proposes to her and she declines angrily, citing that she could not marry a man who caused her sister Jane heartbreak, and who unjustly treated and deprived Mr. Wickham.
Yaaassss girlfriend! Speak your mind and your truth. You are a strong woman, let no one tell you different!
Later on Darcy gives Elizabeth a letter explaining everything about Wickham, Bingley, and Jane. He also apologizes for hurting her sister, as it was not his intention. Her opinions about Mr. Darcy starts to change.
Whoops! Here is a lesson about refraining from making hasty judgments. And while information may seem to be true, don’t forget to fact check. But hey, no one is perfect – we all make mistakes.
Months later the family receives word that Lydia has ran off with Mr. Wickham and eloped. Elizabeth confides in Darcy about the embarrassing revelation.
Shocker! The family’s wild child and destined screw up, actually SCREWS UP! *rolls eyes*
Elizabeth’s aunt and uncle Gardiner tried to locate Lydia in hopes of saving the family’s good name. It was discovered as suspected, Wickham had no intentions of marrying Lydia. Mr Gardiner however secured a deal that would persuade Wickham to marry Lydia. It is done.
Money and connections have been getting families out of trouble, and covering up their mishaps and misfortunes for centuries and it still happens today! Completely normal.
After some investigation on Elizabeth’s part, she discovers that it was truly Mr Darcy who secured the marriage, and at great expense. Her aunt also hinted she’s sure he had another reason for doing so.
Awwwwwww *sheds tear*
Bingley returns and proposes to Jane despite his previous reservations and she is over the moon.
And who said love doesn’t win?
Rumors about Elizabeth wanting to marry Darcy reaches the ears of his aunt Lady Catherine. She visits Elizabeth and not only insults her, but demands she promises to refuse Darcy’s proposal as her daughter is better suited for him. Elizabeth declines to make any such promise.
You GO GIRL! You will not be bullied. You tell Lady Catherine what time it is! *snaps fingers*
Darcy is heartened by Elizabeth’s refusal of his aunts request and he proposes to her again. She accepts, and assures her family that she is not marrying for money. Despite her initial dislike of Mr Darcy she has realized that she had made hasty judgement of him, and he is indeed a man of good heart, and great worth.
Am I the only one who thinks Darcy might have been a man ahead of his time? It takes a certain kind of man, even today, and especially in those days, to be with a strong woman like Elizabeth. Darcy could easily have his pick of any woman he desired, and Elizabeth could have settled with her first proposal.
I admire Darcy and Elizabeth for being able to recognize their own faults, in their own ways work to correct them, and in the end, find love.
Pride and Prejudice had numerous themes. It highlights and discusses the importance of upbringing, the important, complex and tricky business of marriage, and of course, the topic of wealth and social standing.
I enjoyed my window into England in the 1800’s and thoroughly enjoyed the novel.
What is your take on this literary classic?