Pride and Prejudice is a romantic novel by Jane Austen, first published in 1813. The story charts the emotional development of the protagonist, Elizabeth Bennet, who learns the error of making hasty judgments and comes to appreciate the difference between the superficial and the essential. The comedy of the writing lies in the depiction of manners, education, marriage, and money during the British Regency period.
Mr. Bennet of the Longbourn estate has five daughters, but his property is entailed, meaning that none of the girls can inherit it. His wife has no fortune, so it is imperative that at least one of the girls marry well in order to support the others upon his death. Jane Austen’s opening line, “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife”, is a sentence filled with irony and playfulness. The novel revolves around the importance of marrying for love, not simply for money, despite the social pressures to make a good (i.e., wealthy) match.
Pride and Prejudice has long fascinated readers, consistently appearing near the top of lists of “most-loved books” among both literary scholars and the general public. It has become one of the most popular novels in English literature, with over 20 million copies sold, and paved the way for many archetypes that abound in modern literature. For more than a century, amateur and professional dramatic adaptations, print continuations and sequels, and film and TV versions of Pride and Prejudice have reimagined the original novel’s memorable characters and themes to reach mass audiences. The 2005 film, Pride & Prejudice, starring Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen is the most recent Hollywood adaptation of the book.
About the Author
Fiona Stafford is the author of The Last of the Race: The Growth of a Myth from Milton to Darwin (Clarendon Press, 1994), Starting Lines in Scottish, Irish and English Poetry: From Burns to Heaney (OUP, 2000) and the editor of Lodore in the Complete Works of Mary Shelley. She is the editor of Austen’s Emma in Penguin Classics.
Top customer reviews
After reading the first few chapters (The chapters are very short) of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” I wondered how anyone could be interested in such pompous, egotistical, aloof and self serving characters?
After reading on I said, “Wow! How could I be so interested in such characters?”
Getting toward the middle of the book, I was hoping that it would never end.
By the end of the book, I fully realized what a magnificent piece of writing I had just read.
“Pride and Prejudice” is one of the best sociological studies about early nineteen century British loyalty and society I have ever read – where title, rank, fortune, and good looks are in many ways the requirements of an approved marriage, much, much more than love. In fact, this wonderful book might not be as relevant today as two hundred years ago, but there are still many traces of such societies throughout the world, today. It was not all that long ago in America, where marrying outside of your religion, or ethnicity, was looked down upon.
The book is full of wonderful characters, but Elizabeth (Lizzy) Bennet is, in my opinion, the star. Her character is so wonderfully and fully realized that at times I felt her jumping off the page and directly into my life.
Liza, a fellow member and friend on Goodreads, informed me that she had read the book twice and still was not sure if the ending was ‘sad’ or ‘funny.’ To me, it was funny and exceptionally rewarding but sad to think that a lady’s livelihood depended more on the wealth and rank of your partner than love.
Quite an amazing book.