“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”
So begins one of the more memorable works of literature in our society, none other than Pride and Prejudice, by the esteemed and eloquent Jane Austen. In addition to providing a rich, romantic read, the book is lush with human personality and the divining forces therein. It is also a wonderful example of the typical romantic practices of the time, such as the more refined courting instead of dating, and use of parents, relatives, and gossipers as a sort of dating service.
History of the Novel
Pride and Prejudice was originally intended to be released under the working title First Impressions, but after a refusal of publishing in 1797, Austen reworked the manuscript until it was finally printed in 1813 under its current title. It was translated to French later that same year, and by 1817, three editions of the book had been published. The novel did not reach the United States until 1832. While initially quite popular and maintaining said popularity throughout time, the novel did come under some initial scrutiny. One such reviewer was none other than the fellow authoress Charlotte Brontë, who found the work disappointing. Since the novel’s publication, multiple screen and stage adaptations have been made of it, including the 1940 film starring Greer Garson and a 1959 Broadway musical entitled First Impressions.
The romance that blooms between Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy is arguably one of the most well-known in history. It begins with the characters initially desiring no interaction whatsoever from one another – Elizabeth is displeased with her initial assessment of Darcy, and he likewise. Darcy had slighted Elizabeth during their first meeting, over a matter of his own pride. However, over time, he is smitten by her spirited nature, and struggles to court her in his own, aloof manner. Her opinion of him is only worsened, especially by his interference with the romance blooming between Elizabeth’s sister, Jane, and Darcy’s friend Bingley. When Darcy initially confesses his feelings to Elizabeth, she quickly rebukes and chastises him for his superior attitude and his unwanted meddling.
Shocked by this revelation of how he is perceived, Darcy writes her a letter explaining his actions, asks forgiveness, and sets about redefining himself through new actions. While he does not overtly pursue her, he does set about to please her, such as persuading George Wickham to marry Elizabeth’s sister Lydia, whom Wickham had run off with, sparing the Bennett family much unwanted gossip and social slight. Through this action, and other such changes, Elizabeth is made to reevaluate her opinion of Darcy, and is surprised when she discovers herself to have fallen in love with the noble character revealed within him.
Darcy eventually asks Elizabeth, a second time, to marry him. The difference with this encounter is that Elizabeth happily accepts.
Other Romances in the Novel
As typical of an Austenian novel, there are multiple romances that take place throughout the course of the book, the most notable of them occurring among the Bennett sisters. Jane Bennett is in love with Charles Bingley, close friend of Mr. Darcy. George Wickham, Mr. Darcy’s enemy and mutually attracted to Elizabeth at one point, runs off with and eventually marries Lydia Bennett. William Collins, who initially proposed to Elizabeth, ends up marrying Elizabeth’s best friend, Charlotte Lucas.
For more information on the novel, characters, or time period, please peruse the links listed below.
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