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Pride and Prejudice: A Classic Novel with Many Adaptations
Pride and Prejudice is one of the most beloved novels in English literature, written by Jane Austen in the early 19th century. It tells the story of Elizabeth Bennet, a spirited and intelligent young woman, who meets Mr. Darcy, a wealthy and proud gentleman, and their journey from mutual dislike to mutual love. Along the way, they encounter various obstacles, such as social class, family interference, personal pride, and prejudice.
The novel has been adapted into many movies and TV shows, each with its own interpretation and style. Some of them are faithful to the original text, while others are modern or parody versions. In this article, we will explore the themes, adaptations, and quotes of Pride and Prejudice, and why it is still relevant and enjoyable today.
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What is Pride and Prejudice about?
Pride and Prejudice is set in rural England at the turn of the 19th century, and it follows the Bennet family, which includes five very different sisters. The eldest, Jane, is sweet-tempered and modest. She is her sister Elizabeths confidant and friend. Elizabeth, the heroine of the novel, is intelligent and high-spirited. She shares her fathers distaste for the conventional views of society as to the importance of wealth and rank. The third daughter, Mary, is plain, bookish, and pompous, while Lydia and Kitty, the two youngest, are flighty and immature.
Mr. Bennet is the family patriarch. He is fond of his two eldest daughtersespecially his favourite, Elizabethbut takes a passive interest in the younger ones, ultimately failing to curb their childish instincts. An intelligent but eccentric and sarcastic man, he does not care for societys conventions and mocks his wifes obsession with finding suitable husbands for their daughters.
As several scholars have noted, however, Mrs. Bennet is rightfully concerned. Because of an entail, the modest family estate is to be inherited by William Collins, Mr. Bennets nephew, who is the next male in line. Indeed, as Austen scholar Mary Evans noted, If Mrs. Bennett is slightly crazy, then perhaps she is so because she perceives more clearly than her husband the possible fate of her five daughters if they do not marry. Unfortunately, Mrs. Bennets fervour and indelicacy often work against her interests.
The main plot of the novel revolves around the relationship between Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy, a rich aristocratic landowner who rents a nearby estate called Netherfield Park. They first meet at a ball where Darcy snubs Elizabeth by refusing to dance with her. Elizabeth forms a negative impression of him as arrogant and rude. Darcy, on the other hand, gradually becomes attracted to Elizabeths charm and wit.
However, their path to love is not smooth. They have to overcome their own pride and prejudice as well as external obstacles such as Darcys meddling friend Charles Bingley; Elizabeths deceitful suitor George Wickham; Darcys haughty aunt Lady Catherine de Bourgh; Elizabeths scandalous sister Lydia; and the social gap between them.
Why is Pride and Prejudice so popular?
Pride and Prejudice has been widely praised for its realism, humour, satire, romance, characterisation, dialogue, and style. It is considered one of the best examples of the novel of manners, a genre that depicts the social customs and values of a particular class or group. As literary critic Lionel Trilling observed, Pride and Prejudice is not a novel of ideas, but a novel of the moral life, a novel in which moral issues are raised and resolved in terms of character and the relations between characters.
The novel also appeals to many readers because of its universal themes and timeless characters. The love story between Elizabeth and Darcy is one of the most famous and admired in literature, as they overcome their initial misunderstandings and prejudices to find true happiness. Their witty banter, mutual respect, and personal growth make them an ideal couple. As Austen herself wrote in a letter to her sister Cassandra, I must confess that I think her [Elizabeth] as delightful a creature as ever appeared in print, & how I shall be able to tolerate those who do not like her at least, I do not know.
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The other characters in the novel are also memorable and realistic, each with their own flaws and virtues. Some of them are comic, such as Mr. Collins, the pompous and obsequious clergyman who proposes to Elizabeth; Mrs. Bennet, the foolish and noisy mother who embarrasses her family; and Mr. Bennet, the sarcastic and indifferent father who neglects his duties. Some of them are sympathetic, such as Jane, the gentle and kind sister who suffers from Bingleys indecision; Mr. Bingley, the amiable and generous friend who falls in love with Jane; and Charlotte Lucas, the sensible and pragmatic friend who marries Mr. Collins for security. Some of them are villainous, such as Wickham, the charming but deceitful soldier who elopes with Lydia; Lady Catherine, the arrogant and domineering noblewoman who tries to prevent Elizabeth from marrying Darcy; and Miss Bingley, the snobbish and spiteful sister who envies Elizabeths attraction to Darcy.
The Themes of Pride and Prejudice
Love and Marriage
One of the main themes of Pride and Prejudice is love and marriage, which are closely related but not always compatible. Austen explores the different aspects and motivations of marriage in her time, such as affection, compatibility, convenience, security, duty, or ambition. She also shows the consequences of marrying for the wrong reasons, such as unhappiness, resentment, or scandal.
The novel begins with the famous line: It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife. This statement reflects the social pressure and expectation for young women to marry well in order to secure their future. However, Austen also challenges this notion by presenting different models of marriage that are based on more than just money or status.
For example, Elizabeth and Darcys marriage is based on mutual love, respect, and understanding. They both learn from their mistakes and change their views on each other. They also overcome the obstacles of their pride and prejudice as well as their social differences. Their marriage is a happy one because they are well-matched in intellect, character, and temperament.
On the other hand, Lydia and Wickhams marriage is based on lust, impulse, and deception. They elope without any regard for their reputation or family. They also have no respect or affection for each other. Wickham only marries Lydia because Darcy pays him to do so. Their marriage is an unhappy one because they are ill-matched in morals, values, and interests.
Reputation and Class
Another theme of Pride and Prejudice is reputation and class, which are important factors that influence the characters actions and decisions. Austen depicts the rigid hierarchy and norms of the Georgian society, where people are judged by their birth, wealth, manners, connections, and behaviour.
Reputation is especially crucial for women, who depend on their reputation for their marriage prospects and social status. A womans reputation can be easily ruined by a scandal or an imprudent action. For example, Lydias elopement with Wickham puts her familys reputation at risk. If she had not been married by Darcys intervention, she would have been disgraced and shunned by society. Her sisters would have also suffered from the loss of their reputation and their chances of marriage. Class is also a significant barrier that separates the characters and affects their relationships. The novel shows the contrast between the upper class and the middle class, as well as the different degrees of wealth and status within each class. For example, Darcy and Bingley are both rich gentlemen, but Darcy is more distinguished and influential than Bingley because of his ancient lineage and his large estate. Elizabeth and Jane are both gentlewomen, but they are inferior to Darcy and Bingley because of their modest income and their low connections. The novel also exposes the prejudice and snobbery that exist among the different classes. Some characters, such as Lady Catherine, Miss Bingley, and Mr. Collins, look down on others who are below them in rank or wealth. They believe that they have the right to dictate or interfere with their lives. They also oppose any marriage that crosses the class boundaries, such as Darcys marriage to Elizabeth or Bingleys marriage to Jane. They think that such marriages are improper and degrading. However, Austen also challenges the notion that class determines ones worth or character. She shows that there are good and bad people in every class, and that ones manners, morals, and personality are more important than ones birth or fortune. She also shows that love can transcend the barriers of class, as long as the lovers are willing to overcome their pride and prejudice. Pride and Prejudice
The title of the novel suggests the main theme of pride and prejudice, which are the two flaws that hinder the characters from achieving happiness and understanding. Pride is defined as a high or inordinate opinion of ones own dignity, importance, merit, or superiority, while prejudice is defined as an unfavorable opinion or feeling formed beforehand or without knowledge, thought, or reason. Both pride and prejudice can lead to arrogance, vanity, ignorance, or injustice.
The most obvious examples of pride and prejudice are Elizabeth and Darcy, who represent these qualities respectively. Elizabeth is proud of her intelligence, wit, and independence. She does not care for the opinions of others who judge her by her appearance or her family. She also trusts her own judgment and refuses to change her mind easily. However, her pride also makes her blind to her own faults and prejudices. She is quick to judge others based on her first impressions or hearsay. She also rejects Darcys first proposal without giving him a chance to explain himself.
Darcy is prejudiced against those who are below him in rank or wealth. He thinks that he is superior to them because of his birth and fortune. He also does not bother to conceal his contempt or indifference for them. He snubs Elizabeth at their first meeting because he thinks that she is not handsome enough for him. He also tries to separate Bingley from Jane because he thinks that she is not worthy of him. He also insults Elizabeths family and background in his first proposal.
However, both Elizabeth and Darcy learn from their mistakes and change their attitudes throughout the novel. Elizabeth realizes that she has been too proud and prejudiced to see Darcys true character and feelings. She admits that she was wrong about him and Wickham, and that she has been unfair to him. She also appreciates his generosity and kindness towards her family.
Darcy realizes that he has been too proud and prejudiced to see Elizabeths merits and beauty. He admits that he has been rude and arrogant to her and her family. He also tries to improve his manners and behaviour towards others. He also helps Lydia and Wickham out of his love for Elizabeth.
By overcoming their pride and prejudice, Elizabeth and Darcy are able to reconcile their differences and confess their love for each other. They also gain a better understanding of themselves and others. Their marriage is a symbol of harmony and balance between pride and prejudice, as well as between love and reason.
The Movie and TV Adaptations of Pride and Prejudice
Pride and Prejudice has been adapted into many movies and TV shows, each with its own interpretation and style. Some of them are faithful to the original text, while others are modern or parody versions. Here are some of the most popular and notable adaptations of Pride and Prejudice:
The 1940 MGM Version
This is the first sound film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, starring Greer Garson as Elizabeth Bennet and Laurence Olivier as Mr. Darcy. It is a lavish production with elaborate costumes and sets, but it also makes some significant changes to the plot and the characters. For example, it sets the story in the Victorian era instead of the Regency era, it omits some characters such as Kitty and Mary, it adds some scenes such as a ball at Netherfield and a duel between Darcy and Wickham, and it alters some personalities such as making Lady Catherine a benevolent matchmaker instead of an antagonist.
Despite these deviations, the film is still considered a classic and a romantic comedy. It captures the spirit and the humour of the novel, and it showcases the chemistry and the charm of the lead actors. It also won an Academy Award for Best Art Direction.
The 1995 BBC Version
This is the most acclaimed and faithful adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, starring Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet and Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy. It is a six-episode miniseries that covers the entire novel in detail, with accurate costumes, locations, dialogue, and music. It also features some memorable scenes that are not in the novel, such as Darcys wet shirt scene after swimming in a lake.
The miniseries is widely praised for its realism, elegance, and depth. It brings the novel to life with superb acting, directing, writing, and production. It also introduces a new generation of fans to Austens work, especially with Firths portrayal of Darcy as a brooding and handsome hero.
The 2005 Focus Features Version
This is the most recent and modern adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, starring Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Bennet and Matthew Macfadyen as Mr. Darcy. It is a two-hour film that condenses the novel into a shorter and faster-paced story, with some changes to the plot, the characters, and the tone. For example, it emphasizes the emotional and sensual aspects of the romance, it adds some scenes such as Elizabeths visit to Pemberleys sculpture gallery and Darcys proposal in the rain, and it alters some personalities such as making Elizabeth more rebellious and outspoken.
The film is well-received for its cinematography, music, and acting. It creates a beautiful and romantic atmosphere with stunning visuals, soundtracks, and performances. It also appeals to a wider audience with its contemporary approach to Austens work.
The Modern and Parody Versions
There are also some adaptations of Pride and Prejudice that are set in the present day or that parody the original story. Some of them are: - Bridget Joness Diary (2001): This is a romantic comedy film based on a novel of the same name by Helen Fielding. It stars Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones, a single woman in her thirties who keeps a diary of her love life and struggles. She meets Mark Darcy, played by Colin Firth, who is a successful lawyer and the son of her parents friends. The film follows the plot and the characters of Pride and Prejudice, but with a modern twist and a lot of humour. - The Lizzie Bennet Diaries (2012-2013): This is a web series that adapts Pride and Prejudice into a vlog format. It stars Ashley Clements as Lizzie Bennet, a graduate student who documents her life and opinions on her YouTube channel. She meets William Darcy, played by Daniel Vincent Gordh, who is a wealthy and reserved businessman. The series updates the story and the characters to the 21st century, with social media, diversity, and feminism. - Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016): This is a horror comedy film based on a novel of the same name by Seth Grahame-Smith. It stars Lily James as Elizabeth Bennet, a skilled zombie hunter who lives in an alternate version of Regency England where a zombie plague has infected the country. She meets Mr. Darcy, played by Sam Riley, who is also a zombie hunter and an expert in martial arts. The film mixes the plot and the characters of Pride and Prejudice with elements of zombie fiction and action. The Quotes from Pride and Prejudice
Pride and Prejudice is full of memorable quotes that express the wit, wisdom, and romance of Austens writing. Here are some of the most famous and favourite quotes from Pride and Prejudice:
The Famous Opening Line
The novel begins with one of the most iconic sentences in literature: It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife. This sentence sets the to