My rating: 5 stars
It was an immense pleasure to finally read Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen in the original language more than a decade after first falling in love with it thanks to the Portuguese translation. The convincing characters and the engaging plot may be my old friends, but turning the pages of this wonderful classic felt like making a brand-new discovery.
Mrs Bennet was eager to marry her five daughters – Jane, Elizabeth, Mary, Catherine and Lydia. So, it was with great satisfaction that she learnt that a single young man, Mr Bingley, who had a large fortune, was to live at the neighbouring Netherfield. Although Mr Bennet told her that he did not wish to pay Bingley a visit, he had always intended to go to his new home and, in fact, he was one of the first to do so. Elizabeth was Mr Bennet’s favourite daughter, reason why he was convinced that she would be the one to catch Mr Bingley’s attention. He was wrong, though.
Mr Bingley attended a ball where he danced more than once with Jane. He thought that she was the most beautiful woman there. And Jane admire him also, since he was handsome, lively and had good manners. Bingley was there with his sisters and his friend Mr Darcy, who, despite being a handsome man, was deemed horrid and arrogant. He refused to dance with anyone whom he didn’t already know and was overheard saying that Elizabeth’s looks were merely tolerable.
Sometime after, Jane was invited to dine at Netherfield by Mr Bingley’s sisters. Her mother had a plan. She didn’t let Jane take the carriage so she would have to stay there for longer, since it was bound to rain. The morning after the dinner, Jane was so poorly that she had to remain there for days. Concerned and anxious, Elizabeth walked to Netherfield to see how her sister was doing.
There she became further acquainted with Mr Darcy. She considered him to be exceedingly disagreeable. But was she making a fair judgment about him? Although she believed herself to be a great reader of characters, she couldn’t perceive his true feelings for her. She was unaware that he had started to admire her playfulness and the expression of her eyes.
The Bennet sisters had further acquaintances to make. When Elizabeth and Jane returned home, they learnt that they were going to have a guest – Mr Collins, the distant cousin who was to inherit their estate. They also met Mr Wickham, a member of the regiment. Lizzy’s curiosity was aroused as soon as she realised that he knew Mr Darcy. She was eager to know more about their connection, though she considered him to be unpleasant.
All characters have their own distinguishable features. Jane always tries to see the best in people to the point of naivety. Elizabeth is witty, intelligent, but too fast at making judgements about other people. Sometimes she is totally right, while others she is not, as she doesn’t know all the facts about certain situations. Mr Darcy is proud, reserved and struggles to make new acquaintances. Elizabeth and Darcy are both endearing despite their flaws, and their interactions are amusing. I love how the main characters are not without fault.
The writing style is engaging and effortlessly funny. Although the words are precise and meaningful, they seem to have been chosen straightaway, without a moment of hesitation. The dialogues are also wonderfully written. They convey the dispositions of the characters very entertainingly. Moreover, the feelings of the characters are exceedingly tangible at the most relevant moments of the story.
Meaty topics are addressed with lightness. Mr Bennet’s property was entailed, meaning that there was a restriction to its inheritance – in this case, the heirs had to be male. Also, for various characters, including Mr Darcy, social status was of critical importance.
“And Darcy had never been so bewitched by any woman as he was by her. He really believed, that were it not for the inferiority of her connections, he would be in some danger.”
Marriage is also a main theme. Some women believed that they needed to marry just in order to have a more stable life. Elizabeth, on the other hand, considered that affection was important in a marriage and that the couple had to understand each other’s personalities. The significance of marriage for the story is present as early as in the opening line, which is one of my favourites.
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”
Getting reacquainted with one of my favourite classics was a source of joy. Jane Austen had the power to turn seemingly unimpressive premises into appealing and delightful stories.