More Reasons Why Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice Isn’t Just For Girls Who Want A Boyfriend

pride-and-prejudice-three-covers-2Unsurprisingly, my husband finds Mr. Darcy just as charming as I do. Pride and Prejudice is the second Jane Austen novel my husband has read. The first was Sense and Sensibility, which he reviewed in May.

Below, my husband gives us three more reasons why Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice isn’t, as a ridiculous article from the Huffington Post asserted on the 200th anniversary of the work, for “girl[s] who just want[] boyfriend[s].”

From Mr. A.M.B.:

The world doesn’t need another general review of Pride & Prejudice, so, as I did before, I’ll discuss the book in terms of what I think it has to offer readers who aren’t inclined to read it. Three points jump out at me.

First, as I mentioned in my review of Sense & Sensibility, Austen has a knack for creating “vivid, tangible, and fascinating characters,” and for “put into words the ineffable parts of life,” and the same is on display in Pride & Prejudice.

It’s cliché to quote Whitman on personal contradictions (i.e., “I contain multitudes.”), so I’ll instead use a quote first used to describe George Orwell and then Christopher Hitchens: “contradictions are what make writers interesting. Consistency is for cooking.”

What makes Elizabeth and Darcy interesting isn’t just watching the courtship of two headstrong characters each with “a real superiority of mind,” but also observing their internal contradictions and the way in which their personalities and beliefs change. When Darcy complains that, “In a country neighbourhood you move in a very confined and unvarying society,” Elizabeth retorts, “But people themselves alter so much, that there is something new to be observed in them for ever.” Such is true of Elizabeth and Darcy: there is something new to be observed in them in each scene.

Indeed, though Elizabeth started the book with the apparent determination to hold grudges and resentment for as long as possible, by the end of the book, Elizabeth’s philosophy truly is — as she advises Darcy as he laments their prior insults and miscommunications — to let the past go where necessary.

Second, as in Sense & Sensibility, Austen’s quill is as sharp as an arrow, and her ability to use the English language to amuse and entertain the reader is unparalleled. Consider when Mr. Bennett responds to Mr. Collins’ obnoxious and insincere advice with an update: “I must trouble you once more for congratulations. Elizabeth will soon be the wife of Mr. Darcy. Console Lady Catherine as well as you can. But, if I were you, I would stand by the nephew. He has more to give.” In just a few short sentences, Mr. Bennett — whose wit is on display throughout the book, at times loving, at times hostile — reduces Mr. Collins to the social-climbing sycophant everyone knows him to be.

Third, which is probably an obvious point to bibliophiles, there’s more to the book than to the movies. The 1995 BBC adaptation is, to me, the most faithful — not that I have a problem with an adaptation trying something new, per the “disappearance” problem discussed on this blog — but even in six hours it’s hard to truly convey the nuances of the characters, their interaction, and the development of their relationship. I must confess that, until reading the book, I never quite understood the charm of Mr. Darcy. Sure, he’s wealthy and intelligent, and his actions regarding Wickham and Lydia were chivalrous and caring, but in the movies he still comes across largely as a proud jerk who usually gets his way without much effort, rather than someone truly devoted to Elizabeth.

The book, however, subtly reveals more about him, like this scene:

More than once did Elizabeth in her ramble within the Park unexpectedly meet Mr. Darcy. She felt all the perverseness of the mischance that should bring him where no one else was brought; and to prevent its ever happening again, took care to inform him at first that it was a favourite haunt of hers. How it could occur a second time, therefore, was very odd! Yet it did, and even a third. It seemed like wilful ill-nature, or a voluntary penance, for on these occasions it was not merely a few formal enquiries and an awkward pause and then away, but he actually thought it necessary to turn back and walk with her.

Only the reader recognizes why Elizabeth’s informing Darcy that it was “a favourite haunt of hers” made it more likely, not less, for her to encounter Darcy there.

You see, Dear Reader, I have a bit of experience in this department. Back when I was a freshman in college, my room happened to be positioned so that I could see out my window everyone coming back to our dorm from a distance of over 100 feet. Even today, AMB does not quite accept why she ran into me so frequently when she was returning to our dorm (usually with a pile of library books in her arms), but I understand all too well just how much time Darcy must have spent with his eye on the Park.

The book thus has much to offer a variety of readers beyond “girls who just want a boyfriend.” (Frankly, I’m not sure what such girls would learn from it — that, if you are interested in someone, you should thoroughly insult them?) It’s no more a book just for silly girls than The Princess Bride is a movie just for silly girls; a stereotype is never a good reason to avoid a great book or movie.

35 thoughts on “More Reasons Why Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice Isn’t Just For Girls Who Want A Boyfriend

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  8. Jaclyn

    This is a great review! I love seeing the “guy’s perspective” on my beloved Jane – and Mr. A.M.B. definitely has some different takes on things, which is nice and thought-provoking. Please keep these reviews coming – we demand more Mr. A.M.B.!

    1. Hi Jaclyn! I’m glad you enjoyed my husband’s review of Pride and Prejudice! I’ve convinced him to read Elizabeth Gaskell, too (I love North and South). So, assuming his trial schedule doesn’t get in the way, there will definitely be more Mr. A.M.B. posts! 🙂

  9. Great review, and such a cute story about “accidentally” running into you – love it! 😉 I’m not a huge Jane Austen fan, but I definitely think her books are worth reading, and I do enjoy the relationship between Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth. No insta-love there! It feels realistic to me, the way their romance develops, and I think Jane Austen has a very good eye for observing peoples’ interactions.

    1. Thanks for stopping by! There definitely isn’t any insta-love in Pride and Prejudice. It’s interesting that the relationship between Darcy and Elizabeth feels realistic to modern readers even after 200 years.

  10. I love how Austen gives you information that the main character does not have..we know Darcy likes her..and the cleverness of that scene is that Elizabeth believes he hates her so when she ‘warns’ away he assumes instead she is encouraging him to drop by randomly..an arrogant assumption from Darcy who is used to women fawning over him..a foolish one from Elizabeth who is stubborn in her mindset that even when the signs are RED and flashing before her eyes..so very human to make that mistake!

    1. So true! I love the move adaptations, but the books are so much better. The details are great, and the subtlety of Austen’s humor is hard to replicate on screen. It’s too bad that some people think these novels are only for “silly girls.”

  11. “A stereotype is never a good reason to avoid a great book or movie.” LOVE THIS! I should take this advice more often as well, because I can be quite prejudiced by something I have never seen or read before.

    And also, the part where your husband discussed making judgements based on film adaptations instead of the novel, this is something I have really come to agree with since I read Jane Eyre two weeks ago. My best friend, who only watched the 2011 film and has never read the book, HATED the story and the characters and she was so shocked when I told her how much I absolutely adored the novel. But fortunately I have convinced her to read it for herself because, like your husband said, there are plenty of instances that only the reader is privy to and that can’t be translated accurately on screen. Great post!

    1. Yes, neither of the Jane Eyre film adaptations I’ve seen (1996 and 2011) did justice to the book. I liked both movies, but the book is better. I suppose that’s almost always the case! I hope your friend will give Jane Eyre a chance. It’s a wonderful book. Have you read Charlotte Bronte’s Villette? I read that one a few months ago as part of a read-along with Beth (at Too Fond) and Jaclyn (at Covered in Flour). I really enjoyed it. Thanks for stopping by!

      1. I have only watched the 2011 film and the 2006 miniseries (which I really like). I have not yet read Villette but I hope I will someday! The only other Bronte sister novel I have read is Wuthering Heights, and I wasn’t a huge fan, but I am going to be rereading it with another blogger friend in January.

        1. I’ve never seen the 2006 miniseries! Thanks for the recommendation! I’m looking forward to reading your thoughts on Wuthering Heights when you re-read it. I probably should revisit it, too.

  12. What a fun review – love the personal touch and the reminiscence! And well pointed out that contradictions and inconsistencies keep characters interesting and probably why Austen inspires such passion in her following. Hmmm… perhaps this is true in real life as well…

    1. Thanks for stopping by! Jane Austen was an expert at creating interesting characters. It’s a shame that some people dismiss her work as being for “silly girls.”

  13. Lovely review. I finally read Pride and Prejudice this year, after much encouragement. I found the wit and underlying premises timeless. Incidentally, have you read The Princess Bride by William Goldman? I didn’t love the movie until I’d read the book.

    1. I’m glad to hear that you enjoyed Pride and Prejudice! It’s a shame that so many people dismiss it as a book for “silly girls.” I haven’t read Goldman’s The Princess Bride–and neither has my husband–but we do like the movie. I’m definitely interested in reading the book.

          1. Well, since I’ve only read the one Austen book so far, I haven’t ventured into that fan fiction land other than browsing. Quirk Classics has this Pride and Prejudice and Zombies book which I oddly look at with both horror and interest. I read the Quirk Classic Meowmorphosis, based on Kafka’s cockroach tale and howled with laughter. Probably you shouldn’t ask me for recommendations. 🙂

            1. Meowmorphosis sounds like fun! We’re cat-lovers around here. I haven’t read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. I’ve read a couple of zombie books recently, but that’s unusual for me.

  14. I really like when Mr. A.M.B. posts a review. The perspective is refreshing. I don’t agree with the quote,”Consistency is for cooking.” Creativity and surprise is in trying old things in new ways, even in cooking. Just saying… since the quote author is far more literary than I. I like to cook and experiment too. I find it really charming that you spotted Amal coming and going on campus.

    1. I’m glad you like his reviews, Donna! I’m so happy he finally started reading Jane Austen. I agree that creativity/experimentation is an important element of cooking; maybe consistency is more important for baking? Whenever I’m “creative” with bread, for example, it doesn’t end up rising! 😉

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