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Pride and PrejudicePride and Prejudice
by Jane Austen
ISBN: 9780141439518
Publisher: Penguin Classics
Date of Publication: 2002 (Originally Published in 1813)

Reader’s Annotation:
Elizabeth Bennet struggles with balancing the needs of her family when a new neighbor moves near the Bennet’s family home.

Plot Summary:
Elizabeth Bennet is the second-oldest daughter of the Bennet household. Her older sister is named Jane and she has three younger sisters; Mary, Catherine “Kitty” and Lydia. Jane and Elizabeth are the more mature sisters, while Kitty and Lydia enjoy their immaturity. Mary is the quiet one, preferring to study instead.

Mr. Bennet, the father of the girls, has a dry-wit and enjoys irritating his wife. Mrs. Bennet is an excitable woman whose only focus is successfully marrying her daughters off to single eligible men. She often pushes potential relationships at the expense of her daughters’ humility, creating more trouble than success. Her reasons for her actions do lie in necessity. Mr. Bennet has no male heirs and the house will go to his nephew, Mr. Collins, when he dies. The girls will be left with nothing.

As the story begins, news of the Bennet’s new neighbor have reached the household. Mrs. Bennet is excited in that Mr. Bingley is wealthy and single. When the Bennet household meets Mr. Bingley, he becomes instantly smitten with Jane, and she with him. During this first encounter, the Bennet family meets a friend of Mr. Bingly, a wealthier young man by the name of Mr. Darcy. A quiet, proud man, Mr. Darcy insults Elizabeth in their first meeting, leading her to have a harsh opinion of his character. At the same time, a regiment of soldiers have settled in the area. Elizabeth befriends one of the soldiers who has a past connection with Mr. Darcy.

From these different meetings, miscommunication and misunderstanding begin to emerge and all parties involved find themselves to be in a fine mess of their own doing. But who is right and who is wrong? And what does it mean for the Bennet sisters?

Critical Evaluation:
Jane Austen’s classic about misunderstandings continues to be an influence on modern literature and modern popular culture. Many romantic comedies continue to use the format, most famously Bridget Jones Diary which was an adaption of Austen’s material. Austen’s ability to observe and comment on the absurdity of class situations and the needs of society provide for witty dialogue that readers will enjoy.

The story remains interesting in that it highlights how unsure the concepts of love can be for those experience the feelings for the first time. As the characters come from a time in which physical contact in improper situations can create scandal, the power of a mere handshake can create disjointed feelings within each party. Combine this confusion with the issues of social class (only being able to marry within your economic ranking) and wealth (seeking a marriage partner that will lead to a lifetime of welfare comfort), it’s no wonder that Darcy and Elizabeth were left in a confusing state for the majority of the novel.

The issue of marriage is an interesting one for modern readers in that it again mirrors our modern times. How much pressure is there for young girls to marry, even in this more feminist driven society. Female self-worth is deemed by beauty and the success of a relationship. The question of “Do you have a boyfriend” are asked to single girls and they are looked upon as hopeless if they fail to marry. While this has slowly changed throughout the decades since Austen’s time, there is still an emphasis on the value of a woman based on her ability to marry and reproduce. The important lesson of Austen’s novel is that Elizabeth still chooses to be with who she wants to be with. She has a choice and it leads her to happiness. And that’s an important lesson to remember, no matter what era you live in.

Information about the Author:
From Jane Austen’s Wikipedia Page, born in Hampshire, England in 1775, Austen left very little information about herself due to her desire for privacy after her death in 1817. Her sister Cassandra fulfilled her sister’s wishes and burned a majority of Austen’s letters.

From what has been ascertained about Austen’s life is that Austen was born in a large family to a father who was a rector. Austen began to write at an early age and eventually published her first full novel in 1911. Austen wrote six books, with some work unfinished. She died at the age of 41 due to illness that had lingered in her body for over a year.

Genre:
Romance, Classics

Curriculum Ties:
English Literature

Booktalking Ideas:
Has your mom ever done something to embarrass you?
How important is a first impression?
Reading Level/Interest Age:
14 and up

Challenging Issues:
There are no current challenges for this book. The American Library Association’s Guide to Library Materials Challenges is a great resource if the book is challenged in the future.

Why did I include this book in the title selections?
I’ve recently have become addicted to a YouTube series produced by Hank Green, John Green’s brother. The series is called The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. It’s a video blog about Lizzie Bennet and how she copes with her parents, her sisters Jane and Lydia, and the strange boy she’s just meet, William Darcy.

The series is a modern adaptation of a classic using a format rarely used for this type of storytelling. The series is compelling and fun. Fans of the show are looking towards the original material to compare and discovering the joy that is Jane Austen’s words.

YouTube: The Lizzie Bennet Diaries
Tumblr: The Lizzie Bennet Diaries

Reference:
Wikipedia. (n.d.). Jane Austen. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jane_Austen

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