"Pride and Prejudice" Remains Timeless and Delightful, More than 200 Years Later
Ah, Pride and Prejudice. A classic tale of rivals-to-lovers, it’s a hilarious romp through Regency England which includes everything from a matchmaking mother to a runaway teenage bride to a vengeful suitor.
It’s funny in a laugh-out-loud kind of way, incisive in a way that is common to Jane Austen, filled with social commentary that must have struck just as true in 1813 as it does 207 years later, in 2020.
In 2013, around the 200th anniversary of the novel’s publication, USA Today wrote about 10 reasons the novel is still resonant. The top item? “It’s the ultimate ‘happy ever after’ tale.”
The author of that article isn’t wrong. One of my favorite movie scenes is the final one of the 2005 film adaptation of the book; Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy are sitting together discussing how he should address her, and she tells him to only call her “Mrs. Darcy” when he is “incandescently happy.” He proceeds to call her Mrs. Darcy multiple times as the screen fades to black.
I was 12 when the movie came out, but I’d already read the book and fallen in love with the story — it is, in fact, one of the few classics that I actually enjoy reading, a true testament to Jane Austen’s writing, if there were still doubt in your mind that she was a master of the craft.
The final scene of the movie, then and now, makes me tear up every time (and not just because it means the story is over, and because clearly Austen will never pen a sequel). It’s a beautiful representation of “true love,” and lifted my young spirits with the hope that someday, someone would love me like Mr. Darcy loved Elizabeth Bennet.
But like I already said, Pride and Prejudice is also filled with social commentary. I hardly know where to begin talking about all the aspects of society it has something to say about — maybe how Mrs. Bennet is constantly harping on her daughters finding a husband, and as much as that’s played for laughs (and, really, annoyance), there’s something to be said for Austen spotlighting the real fear many women in her day likely lived with, of what will happen to me and mine once my husband dies?
The beauty of Austen’s novel is that it allows its readers to draw their own conclusions about everything. There are those who surely view Mr. Bennet as a villain in his own right, a man who let his wife run roughshod over the family and didn’t check her even as she arguably pushed her youngest daughter into the arms of a predator.
And there are those who likely view him as a humorous figure, a man put-upon by a wearisome wife, who’s tired and just wants some peace — please, just a little peace.
The truth is, one reason I think Pride and Prejudice has retained so much popularity throughout the years is simple: Austen is an incredible writer. Her storytelling is superb, and she fills her story with a delightful cast of characters; with hilarious, heart-rending, agonizing moments that remain crystallized in my memory even though I haven’t even read the book since early high school.
What she did was create a story that could be passed on for hundreds of years, recreated in dozens of modern, historic, and future settings (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, I’m looking at you) with increasingly diverse casts of characters who could be placed back into the framework of her imagination—and it still makes sense.
The story of the prideful person and the prejudiced person...that’s universal. That’s timeless. Their clash is inevitable. Their eventual reconciliation and fall into love with each other?
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