Perhaps I read Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen because everyone I know assumes I already read it. I seem like the kind of girl who would get wrapped up in and fawn over a Jane Austen novel. Assumptions were correct, I am that kind of girl. What surprised me most is how many mixed feelings the characters in this novel gave me.
Is Austen poking fun at the ridiculousness of how obsessed the women of her time (and even now) were with finding a husband? If Austen is being sarcastic, then I find her very funny and agree. However, even the presumably most sensible character in the book, Elizabeth, is still obsessed with finding a husband – even when she prides herself on not being as silly as her mother and sisters.
As someone who identifies as a feminist, it irritates me to the core how much all the Bennet sisters think about finding husbands. And yet, I still find myself reading alongside them thinking “yeah, Charles is being such a jerk right now!” For this reason, I really have to give Pride and Prejudice four stars. Austen has perfectly articulated the contradiction of being a feminist but also a girl with a crush. My original inclination was to call the book archaic and offensive. However, as I came to the conclusion that many readers will find that they are half the time poking fun at Mrs. Bennet and half the time wondering when Mr. Darcy is going to re-enter the novel and save the day.
I swooned when Mr. Darcy said, “My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you” while cringing at his apprehension about falling for Elizabeth. What’s a girl to do?
In her book Bad Feminist, Roxane Gay wrote, “I would rather be a bad feminist than no feminist at all.” While I don’t think I’m a “bad feminist” for liking this book, I think Gay’s sentiment definitely encourages me to keep fighting the good fight for women and keep loving whatever it is that I love. Mr. Darcy included.
All in all, yes, read this book. Be comfortable with all your mixed feelings and appreciate that Austen is presenting the world as complicated and contradictory as it truly is.
I got a copy from my library, but there are a bunch of different prints and versions which can be found in any bookstore. I will probably also be purchasing something Pride and Prejudice themed from an Etsy shop soon.