To be quite honest, Pride and Prejudice was a novel that I did not enjoy. After a few hours of agonizing torture, of trudging through sophisticated language and dreary woes of the average 18th century women, I have conquered the unconquerable beast. I realize that I may sound very melodramatic, but I was not the type of person to enjoy these types of romantic novels where the heroine of the story constantly pestered the reader with lush sighings about the indignity of that society constantly presented to them. As much as I am up for listening to the complaints of the entitled, I, also, realized that I did not have the patience to pick apart ever single detail.
However, even with my dislike towards this dreadful novel, I have come to appreciate the depth and the relation it had towards the more softer sex. Admittedly, I had procrastinated a lot on this novel because on how boring it was ( and I am not going to lie. I cannot remember half the characters nor the places there ). Like an individual attempting to wade through mud, I trudged through this novel with a grudging resignation.
But to my delight, I found that the subtle inklings of feminism managed to find its way into the novel itself. Elizabeth, being a woman who was very outspoken and very set on her own opinions, was a woman who personified the notion of feminism. However, she had this balance between remaining within her boundaries and being herself. That made her slightly more bearable than the other heroines that I have seen in recent novels. She is a strong-willed woman who was not afraid to show her intelligence, especially to those who would speak against her and considering that she was from a time period where women were expected to act with poise and propriety made it that much more amazing. What made her stand out so much was the difference between her and the individuals that she surrounded herself with. I find that I am able to connect to her in some ways. I adore how people expected her to act a certain way, be a certain way, talk a certain way, but she did not conform to the norms of society and instead chose her own destiny. The future of a woman, in those times, were ultimately decided by the family and were based on who they married. It did not matter if they particularly liked whoever they were marrying, as long as they would be able to provide, then that is totally fine. In some ways, I understood Mrs. Bennet’s panic when it came to getting her daughters married because if they didn’t have a son, then the possibilities to rise up in social class is close to none. But what made Elizabeth so amazingly brave is her willingness to go against her mother and to deny marriage proposals from reputable young men, just for the sake of love.
From this standpoint, I find myself being somewhat conflicted. Because I adore Elizabeth for having the guts to try to pursue love, but at the same time, I thought that she was really disillusioned; for during that time, she needed to reach higher to have a more comfortable life. For me, the question is: Comfort over Self? Which one was most important?
However, I was not disappointed when Elizabeth chose herself because that was the exact same thing I would’ve done. Control over one’s destiny greatly outweighs comfort in my eyes.
In the novel, the funniest and creepiest part to me was when Elizabeth repeatedly rejected Mr. Collins’ marriage proposal. The desperation that the man had and the bewilderment that he must’ve felt was so amusing because it appeared that he could not even fathom why anyone would want to deny someone like him. He had power, he had wealth, and he had a high social ranking. What was not to like about him? Again and again, did Mr. Collins proposed and again and again, did Elizabeth reject. This was where it got slightly creepy for me. As I did some more research, I found that Mr. Collins did not respect Elizabeth as an individual or as a person. For him: “No” meant “yes” and “yes” meant “take me away”. But it was this disrespect and this refusal to not acknowledge her rejection that made me think that Collins was the embodiment of the patriarchy of that time. Privileged and self-assured in his status, that he had this convoluted notion that all the women would be dying to be his bride. Which obviously was not true.
These were one of the many shining examples that I had of the novel. But, I have my fair share of criticisms toward it as well. One of the main issues that I had with this novel was the amount of names that were in it. There were Catherines, Lydias, Elizabeths, and Charlottes. To me, it was so hard to keep track of each individual to the point where I confused some of them. There were times where I had to flip back to where the characters were originally introduced and find how they were connected back to the individual that was speaking. Yes, it was that difficult for me due to my lack of exposure towards English names. Another issue I had with names was with the places. I found myself being rather confused as to where everything was and who lived in each place.
But even with my initial vehemence, which dissolved into dislike, I found that I could grow to love this novel, just based on the societal implications that it presents towards our society. I grew to appreciate what this novel could teach other individuals and I appreciated the fact that Jane Austen had the courage to publish this novel. Once you get past the confusing names, the rather convoluted place names, and the difficult language, you’ll finally understand why this novel is still prevalent in our everyday society.