Pride and Prejudice is the most popular of Austen’s novels and the most re-told. Therefore, when I first read it quite a few years ago I was determined to not like it! When I look back on my feelings of the book, I thought Elizabeth Bennet was selfish, rude and not at all a heroine for women to be proud of. Now that I have read the book a second time, I am rather ashamed.
I think the reason the plot has translated so well to all sorts of different fan fictions and adaptations is because it is a story that can be believed in the modern day. Elizabeth Bennet is the second eldest in a family of five sisters. She is a good natured, pretty young woman who knows her own mind and is not afraid to show it. On first meeting the rich and exceedingly proud Mr. Darcy, she takes an immediate dislike to him, but who would blame her after he insults her quite openly? This dislike is carried on through most of the book, even as Mr. Darcy’s feeling towards her change.
When Elizabeth meets Mr. Darcy again in different society and gradually becomes more acquainted with him, she is confused by his changed attitude towards herself and his more pleasing manner with other people. Wondering whether she was too soon to judge him, she is upset by the idea that she might have wronged him by spreading rumours rather than facts about him to her friends. It is a story that we see all the time in films, books and real life; two people from very different backgrounds and situations in life trying to overcome their prejudices.
The characters are also quite easily found in today’s world. There is the annoying, nosey, loud and obnoxious mother who is constantly mortifying Elizabeth and her gentle older sister Jane. There were many times while reading that I wanted to shout at the drama queen mother, ‘SHUT UP!’. Jane Austen does have a certain talent for creating the most irritating and horrible characters. In the youngest sister you can find the flirt of the book, Lydia. She is her mother’s daughter, chasing after officers and being generally selfish and unladylike. More likeable characters such as Jane and Mr. Bingley, who according to Elizabeth are absolutely made for each other, cannot so easily be found in real life, but an Austen novel would not be the same without a couple of sensible, kind characters.
I can see why Pride and Prejudice has captured the hearts of many generations of women and can fully understand why Mr. Darcy is such a heart throb. Elizabeth Bennet is a favourite character among many and I tell my younger self off for not realising it! I think she is the most realistic of all the Austen heroines I have yet read about, with just enough spirit to excite the reader without being unkind or selfish. I am quite sure we will be seeing many more portrayals of her and Mr. Darcy in the future and look forward to it!