“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”
As one of the most famous opening statements in English literary history, Austen opens our eyes to an English country society born on constraints and expectations. Women in refined upper classes are expected to marry and they have to do so whilst thinking of their families. Marrying well provides security and the chance to move within important social circles.
With a family of five daughters and an estate that is entailed against them, the Bennets of Longbourn have no choice but to conform to the restrictions society places on them. Elizabeth Bennet, our protagonist and the second of the five sisters, has deep beliefs on romance and what she wants from a prospective partner though she much prefers to witness the connection of others over herself. Very similar to her father in personality she prides herself on being sensible and removed from the flightiness and silliness that afflicts her mother and her younger siblings Mary, Kitty and Lydia. Her confidante is Jane, the oldest Bennet sister and arguably the daughter who is completely bound by society. Born of beauty, intelligence and grace it is she who must protect the family from financial ruin and eventually homelessness. Drawn from the relationship between Austen and her older sister Cassandra, they are the pillars that hold the family together.
After the arrival of new wealthy inhabitants to Netherfield House, all expectations of Jane and Elizabeth are heightened and it is this event that becomes the catalyst for the entire novel. Thrown into the culture of meeting future partners in assembly rooms and ballrooms, Elizabeth becomes acquainted with Mr Darcy, a very wealthy and handsome gentleman of whom in society, possesses pride and rank. They couldn’t be any more different, but thrown together under many unforeseen circumstances Elizabeth and Darcy learn that society cannot refrain the true depths of love and companionship
Entwined by wit, sarcasm, and intelligence, Pride and Prejudice is most importantly a story that teaches us about the danger of first impressions.
I first read this novel when I was about thirteen or fourteen and to date I have never read another classic - maybe apart from Persuasion - that contains so much strength and power.
My love for this book and its 1995 BBC adaptation holds no bounds and there is always something new to learn with every re-read. The plethora of different characters make it such an entertaining read and although I might find myself more infuriated with Lydia, Mr Collins and Caroline Bingley with every page, there is no denying that Austen has created a true classic that will continue to be loved by every generation across the globe.