“It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.”1
Oh, but Dumbledore, it can be happier to dwell.
There is something to be said for fantasy, not the Mirror of Erised sort (which always felt more like regret than desire) rather, the blank canvas for self-improvement sort of fantasy. I think this is why I enjoy reading so much, the beautiful escapism that is a good book. Yet, in every story there is the character you would like to be and the character you probably are. I would like to be Condor in the Divergent series, but I would probably be Abnegation; I would want to be Slytherin in Harry Potter, but I would probably be Gryffindor; I would like to be a Stark or Targaryen in A Song of Ice and Fire, but I would probably a Lannister and I would like to be Elizabeth Bennett in Pride and Prejudice, but I would probably be Mary Bennett. Fiction is master of reflection and desire.
Pride And Prejudice, the story of Mrs. Bennett’s attempts to marry off her five daughters is one of the best-loved and most enduring classics in English literature. Excitement fizzes through the Bennett household at Longbourn in Hertfordshire when young, eligible Mr. Charles Bingley rents the fine house nearby. He may have sisters, but he also has male friends, and one of these the haughty, and even wealthier, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy irks the vivacious Elizabeth Bennett, the second of the Bennet girls. She annoys him. Which is how we know they must one day marry. The romantic clash between the opinionated Elizabeth and Darcy is a splendid rendition of civilized sparring. As the characters dance a delicate quadrille of flirtation and intrigue, Jane Austen’s radiantly caustic wit and keen observation sparkle.2
I would estimate that throughout the first 60% of Pride and Prejudice I disliked Elizabeth Bennett. I found her judgemental (although not prejudice) and presumptuous, taking pleasure in her dislike of others. While predominantly correct in her assumptions Elizabeth is incorrect in her expression of them. For example, Mr Darcy is proud and cold; however, Elizabeth expresses this with mockery and disdain. This is never to the same embarrassing extent as the rest of her family, however, it is still of that vain. Yet, even with these imperfections Elizabeth Bennett is still an interesting and enjoyable character. In her dislike for Darcy, Elizabeth throws herself (in a very Austen era, reserved, non-Lydia Bennett sort of way) at Wickham, believing him when she should have questioned his actions. What girl has not trifled with unworthy men while annoyed with another? Elizabeth Bennett is a timeless representation of a young woman learning the effects of her actions. Once Elizabeth visits Pemberley I finally found her a character to be admired; she matures so rapidly, moving smoothly from misinterpretation to complete understanding of her situation.
Prior to reading I had watched the BBC 90s adaptation (which I would estimate I have watched around 200 times since I was 10) so I rather enjoyed having more of Darcy’s point of view, which is missed. Darcy and Elizabeth compliment and improve each other; they are each other’s benefit and good side, a perfect partnership. However, Pride and Prejudice is not just about the romance, it has secrecy, and intrigue and scandal, fascinating padding to a beautiful story and entirely better for it. You want the ignorant, rude and sneaky characters to get their comeuppance; Lydia marrying Wickham, what perfection that he should be stuck with her!
“[...] it is a comfort to think that whatever of that kind may befall you, you have an affectionate mother who will make the most of it.”3
Romance and good fortune aside, it was Mr Bennett who truly made this book such a marvellous read. He is not bitter about his lot in life; he accepted his fate and enjoys seeing the humour in it. He reminds me a lot of my own father; I believe Mr Bennett and my father would enjoy giggling in the corner over their silly daughters. Mr Bennett may have failed to sire a son, be responsible for three particularly silly daughters and have his estate is entailed to a fool, but he can laugh at himself and those that surround him, he does not dwell on the past, he hopes for a more fortuitous tomorrow.
“About a month ago I received this letter, and about a fortnight ago I answered it, for I thought it a case of some delicacy, and requiring early attention.”4
Reading Pride and Prejudice was a constant need to read more quips from Mr Bennett, watch Elizabeth and Darcy change each other, and see Wickham suffer. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed a book I thought I would find mundane; another hit from Miss Austen.