by Valentin, May 9 2022, in books

Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen, 1813)

I've read Pride and Prejudice from Jane Austen, and I've read it passionately.

The story is about the Bennet family, a family of 5 daughters, whose main goal as young ladies in their era is supposed to be finding a husband. While some of the youngest of the sisterhood seem to be brainwashed by the system, and only desire going to balls and social events in the prospect of finding a husband, the two eldest, and more especially Elizabeth, have more discernment. Although Elizabeth still complies with the establishment, she looks at it with critical look, and is determined not to marry some random guy she isn't interested in just because of money or status.

At a ball, Elizabeth meets Mr. Darcy, a handsome and rich man who would be a wonderful party on paper, but whose pride and disdain towards "inferior" people arouses nothing but detestation of his person. Also, some gossip about his relationships with some people make him even more ridden with disgrace. In the Bennets' town he's seen as the rich man that everybody hates.

The meat of the novel consists in exploring the nuances of the human psychology and how people are in fact more complicated than the assessment that a superficial inspection might yield, and how complicated it can be to truly discover someone (and oneself).

There are two things I liked very much in this novel.

The first one is the level of emotional details we get access to regarding the character of Elizabeth Bennet. This isn't a novel of adventure and action, but rather a character study. An examination of how the mind reacts to some social interactions and new information. Elizabeth passes by all the nuances of the emotional rainbow, with psychological twists and turns, and each step of the way provoked a great deal of empathy to me. The way she handles her emotional state, wise enough to let the time for things to sink in, yet to understand the need to sort them out and make sense of them, makes her a really strong psychological character. I thought the psychology of this book was fascinating, and that Elizabeth was endearing.

The second thing I liked is the other area in which Elizabeth is a strong character, which is her level of self-respect, her sheer non-compromising approach to finding a suitable partner for life (relatively to the historical era she lives in), and the way she's able to take a stand when she needs to. There is one particular moment near the end of the book, where she's under pressure from some character, but she doesn't even flinch. This was glorious to read. She's the hero of her own life.

Jane Austen's prose is particular. It's a kind of sophisticated prose, where nothing is told simply and plainly, but rather using convoluted constructions. For example, many facts are stated as double negatives, but this is the simplest yet. The worst sentences are so long, with so many pieces in puzzling order, that understanding them is like playing multidimensional chess. I found that to read such sentences, I needed to to go with it "intuitively", just letting my mind go with the flow and get the meaning of it implicitly and quickly. Switching to analysis mode fails by lack of mental memory. I wouldn't say that the novel suffers too much from this style; on the contrary, once I got the hang of it, it was rather amusing to read.

Great book.