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Westwood Horizon

The student news site of Westwood High School.

Westwood Horizon

The student news site of Westwood High School.

Westwood Horizon

Revisting the Classics: A Deep Dive into ‘Pride and Prejudice’

Over the course of the past few years, many books and TV shows set in the Regency England time period have quickly gained popularity, primarily due to the fact that many viewers and readers rapidly gained a strong  interest in the unique dynamics of Regency Era culture. Whether it be the stunning balls that hosted some of the most beautifully dressed and well-mannered eligible young women in town, the layers of gossip and scandal that coated society, or most importantly, the early beginnings of romanticism (an era of love and sentiment among young people at the time), the cultural traits of the Regency Era quickly lured in many of today’s youth. However, while modern day TV producers and authors take inspiration from what is often referred to as one of the most influential periods of elegance in European history, it’s almost impossible to fully recreate the events that have already occurred in the past. In fact, many themes and literary patterns that frequent modern day works have strong roots in the pieces that were written by true Regency Era authors. 

The arts and literature of the Regency Era is best known to begin the Romantic Movement, focusing entirely on themes of love, passion, and sentiment. A well-known literary work of art and a major titan of Classic Regency literature, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is a timeless classic, capturing the essence of the era that readers today love so much. The novel not only gives insight into the surface-level aspects of English culture at the time, but it also dives deeper into the social and economic circumstances that clouded society, especially from a young woman’s perspective. 

Heavily incorporating the idea of romantic love as the primary line of plot for her novels, Austen was also known to mix in a significant yet subtle amount of the dramatic genre known as the “comedy of manners.” Used in a satirical form that utilizes stock characters and their witty verbal sparring, the genre attempts to mock or reveal hidden aspects of society — chiefly in the context of social standing and how much it affected one in Regency Era England. While maintaining a strong sense of leisurely, relaxed entertainment for her readers, Austen used such literary devices like “comedy of manners”  as a platform to voice her opinions on a woman’s role in society. It is almost impossible to entirely understand the work of Austen or her role in literary realism (presenting everyday things truthfully) without understanding the ways in which this bright but remarkably frustrated and upset woman mocked her peers as well as those above her. 

Straying from utilizing stock characters that acted stereotypically or men that contributed to most of the action, Austen was known to give her female protagonists loud and strong thoughts, feelings, preferences, and judgment — just to show society that women, in fact, are very much in possession of these things in the first place. Through her emphasis on women’s subjectivity and through highlighting the internal affairs and experiences of her female protagonists, Austen’s influence and impact on female readers and writers of fiction has been immense. However, it is common to fall under the misconception that Austen was a fairly rebellious and outspoken young woman of her time. Although Austen was most certainly deemed to be the equivalent of a feminist in her time period, she did what most in similar stations have done throughout the ages: she strategically managed her talents and used it to her advantage to make her way in the world. 

Austen’s crafting of the main character of Pride and Prejudice, protagonist Elizabeth Bennet, as well as that of her romantic counterpart, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, fully sets the stage to break apart the common misconceptions that society at the time often succumbed to. Some of these fallacies include that the only valuable aspect of a woman — whether as a wife or daughter — was her grace, her elegance, her soft skills, but primarily, her beauty. This wholly disregarded a woman’s personality and potential to be verbal in society, which would allow for them to push for change in a positive way. Austen’s characterization, however, of both her strongest characters, resulted in Miss Bennet being rather expressive in her opinions and a practical young woman, possessing intelligence to the highest degree. Austen had created such an original and ingenious character where the main area in which Miss Bennet lacked was the only aspect of her that society even cared to acknowledge. While Miss Bennet was so mentally and emotionally gifted, she wasn’t considered as pretty as the rest of her four sisters. By allowing Miss Bennet to be her voice through her novel, Austen gave her main protagonist what she thought all women should be proud to possess. Miss Bennet was able to open the eyes of society to an entirely new dimension of what women could do. Her lack of what customary societal norms believed to be “good looks” only enhanced this. 

Tropes. In our world’s current literary scene, tropes are what have become the new hype for each and every leisure reader, when the same concept was formerly known to only authors in the form of classic rhetorical devices. When reading a contemporary novel for the first time, many readers may be able to aptly infer the plot — on a generalized level — due to their former knowledge of tropes. However, the way tropes — or what we believe them to be — are introduced and used in classic novels varies greatly from modern day tales.

 To take this very novel as an example, what many first believe after being introduced to Miss Bennet, is that her love interest must be a man who appreciated her for who she is. One who was ahead of his times, therefore appreciating her inner wit, her wisdom, and her cynical humor. One who didn’t care that she wasn’t as “pretty” as the rest of her sisters — a man who saw her inner beauty and respected her for who she was. On the stark contrary, Austen had decided that while it was very much a priority for her to bring these particular social issues to life, it was also equally as critical to one, stay true to reality, and two, make the novel all the more entertaining and interesting to read. And from these very threads of thought was the character of Mr. Darcy born; a rich gentleman from the city and seated at a significantly higher position in society, Mr. Darcy was primarily introduced as a harsh and uptight critic of all those underneath him in social status. He was disgusted by social displays of wealth and the shallowness of people’s characters, though the way in which he expressed it was a bit targeted towards those he found not up to par in being as socially intelligent and mature. One of the victims of his judgmental gaze happened to be the young Miss Bennet, whom he publicly criticized for not being as physically attractive as the rest of the ton. Proving to be an equally strong and robust character with a loud enough personality to rival only Miss Bennet’s, Austen’s crafty characterization set the stage for a love story for the ages. 

As the story progressed, Mr. Darcy started to find himself and his principles being challenged solely by this feisty young woman with nothing to do but share her opinions on every little thing he did and stand up to him. As Darcy’s way of thinking about Miss Bennet changed, and she started to claim a place in his heart without knowing it, Austen beautifully describes the way Miss Bennet began to look lovelier and lovelier to Darcy as he fell even more in love with her, acutely portraying such a raw and unique love story where the man fell for the inner beauty of the woman before her outer physical appearance followed. By the end of the novel, Darcy admits to Elizabeth Bennet that her frank, opinionated nature had changed who he was as a person, further highlighting Austen’s insistence that a woman is so much more than just her face. Pride and Prejudice is a simply beautiful novel, telling the tale of two young people of such strong mental and emotional states, who came together against all odds to create something even better and bigger than the both of them. 

The ultimate enemies to lovers, Pride and Prejudice is a must read for not only all time-piece novel lovers but for everyone out there who is passionate about books. The classics are where we’ve evolved from, and they’re what we constantly refer back to, knowingly and unknowingly. Told from a beautifully crafted perspective, Austen reinforces the eloquence of the time through the deep and meaningful conversations that all of her characters, especially her two lovers, share. Undoubtedly Austen’s most famous work, and for good reason, Pride and Prejudice is the perfect balance of featuring reality while diving as deep as possible into the romantic notions of society, all while gifting us with a whole new glance into society during the Regency Era of England. 

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About the Contributor
Aarya Kale
Aarya Kale, Reporter
Class of 2026 Hey! Besides being a passionate writer and photographer, I also happen to have a liking for all things cheese :) If I don’t happen to be eating some, I’m probably off reading a nice book or hanging out with my friends!

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    DianeDec 24, 2023 at 7:07 am

    Distributor lost their authority to persuade me as soon as they said that Elizabeth’s other sisters were prettier than her. Obviously they have only done a superficial reading to make such an error concerning the description of each of the sisters