Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Do I really need to tell anyone about the plot of this famous classic? Is there a book lover alive who hasn’t heard about how middle-class Elizabeth Bennett meets rich Mr. Darcy, and how at first his pride and her prejudice create an instant dislike of each other? Is there anyone who hasn’t heard the famous first sentence, “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife”?

The larger question is, “Why do people still read and love Pride and Prejudice 200 years after its initial 1813 publication?” Perhaps it’s because there’s something for everyone in Austen’s novel. If you’re looking for humor, you will certainly find it in the characters of nervous Mrs. Bennett and pompous Mr. Collins. If it’s social commentary you’re after, then look no further than the character of Charlotte Lucas (one of my favorites), and Austen’s observations about the absolute necessity of marriage for genteel women. If it’s character development you crave, then Pride and Prejudice gives you Elizabeth Bennett, one of the most popular fictional characters ever created.

And of course, if you want a good love story, then Pride and Prejudice gives you the quintessential love story that introduced story and character elements that have become romantic clichés. You’ve got the spirited heroine and the brooding hero. They dislike each other at first, but gradually change their minds as they learn more about each other and themselves over the course of the novel. The hero undergoes the biggest change as he discovers the redemptive power of love.

What may be the most likely reason for Austen’s continued popularity and relevance is the realism of her novels. Austen was a great observer of people, and people haven’t changed in the last 200 years. Her characters are real people with real problems and failings. In her books we see ourselves.

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