It is a truth universally acknowledged that everyone at least once in their lifetime has come across a copy of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. It might be in your school library, or maybe you found a friend reading it on their way to college – or perhaps you had to read it as a part of your syllabus. It’s been over two centuries since Pride and Prejudice was published – and it still remains not only one of the most widely prescribed novels of academic curriculums, but also one of the reader’s favorites.
What comes to mind when we think about Pride and Prejudice? Is it just the story of a mother trying to get her daughters married into wealth? Or is it the story of Elizabeth’s resolution to marry for love and not for money that makes the novel stand out against many other of her time? In this article – I will try to answer why Pride and Prejudice is still one of the most popular novels ever written.
1. It is a novel about reading.
One of the biggest focuses of the novel is how reading can impact someone tremendously. The protagonist, Elizabeth, is a reader. She rejects a card game to abandon herself to reading – which is a very extraordinary thing to do in a society where women were not really encouraged to read. She stands out against Caroline Bingley, whose only intention in reading is to attract Mr. Darcy, as she ironically exclaims:
“I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of anything than of a book! When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.”
Note that she casts aside the book the moment Mr. Darcy is not looking. However, Elizabeth is not fake – and she does not go out of her way to prove she is a reader. Instead of engaging with Mr. Darcy when he wishes to converse with her about literature when they are at a ball, she says: “No—I cannot talk of books in a ball-room; my head is always full of something else.”
2. It’s the Ultimate Rom-Com.
Blending the elements of romance, sarcasm, and comedy – Jane Austen presents one of her most skillful works in writing Pride and Prejudice. The story, at its core, focuses on how both Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy have to let go of their own respective pride and prejudice in order to be together. The narrative is centered around a lot of misunderstandings that are probably the only obstacles in the union of the two – and by the end of the novel, we see both of the characters evolved emotionally as they unlearn and relearn their perspectives towards each other – and by extension, the world.
The novel is also fun – with Mr. Bennet’s realistic comments like:
“For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors, and laugh at them in our turn?”
“I have a high respect for your nerves. They are my old friends. I have heard you mention them with consideration for these twenty years at least.”
3. Memorable Quotes.
Pride and Prejudice has one of the most popular collections of quotes throughout the novel, right from the very opening lines, which is so cleverly structured:
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”
The dripping irony and sarcasm set the tone for the rest of the novel – and Austen does not disappoint.
Or this one:
“He is a gentleman, and I am a gentleman’s daughter. So far we are equal.”
Austen’s writing style is ornate – and only she could have employed the use of sarcasm without sounding too pretentious."It is a truth universally acknowledged that everyone at least once in their lifetime has come across a copy of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen." Click To Tweet
4. Well-Written Characters.
The brilliance of the novel is in the fact that the characters are relatable. We have met people like them in our lives as well – Mrs. Bennet being the archetypal over-enthusiastic Aunt whose only purpose in life is marriage, Mr. Bennet being the detached yet loving father to his daughters with a favorable attitude towards one of them, Lydia – a sixteen-year-old smitten with handsome army officers, Wickham with his playboy-ish charms and more of such relatable characters. You never feel for once that it is a new character- these are people we have met, known, and probably understood.
5. Harsh Realities.
While the fate of the Bennet Sisters being married into wealth seems amusing, the novel also talks about the fate of Elizabeth’s friend Charlotte whose position is not so great in the societal hierarchy. She makes a prudent choice in marrying Mr. Collins – to the disappointment of Elizabeth, whose romanticism deludes her to be unable to understand Charlotte’s situation. She is the daughter of a retired knight – and too educated to marry a working man beneath her social standing. At the same time, she is average-looking, so she fails to get matched with someone of the upper class. Her only choice is compromise, and we see this situation often in many marriages and matches, which makes this novel so real.
These are five major reasons for Pride and Prejudice for being such an evergreen novel. If you have not grabbed your copy of Pride and Prejudice yet – I highly suggest you do and have a taste of this beautiful, timeless classic.