Sunday, November 25, 2012

Pride and Prejudice: 100% Complete

I did it! Now I've finished two books; only 98 more to go! Lizzy and Mr. Darcy, and Jane and Mr. Bingley got happily married after all, so that was gratifying.
A few final reflection on Pride and Prejudice.  First of all, I thought it must be significant that Jane Austen named the oldest Bennet sister after herself.  Everything in this book was done in a very deliberate and purposeful way, so it seems unlikely that she just picked her own name for this character in a random way.  Did she see Jane Bennet as similar to herself?  Or did she wish to be more like Jane?  Or was Jane perhaps her favorite character?  I wish I knew the answer to this.
Secondly, I thought about the meaning of the title: Pride and Prejudice.  I always thought that, like another of Austen's famous books: Sense and Sensability, the pride referred to one character and the prejudice to another.  As Lizzy and Mr. Darcy are arguably the main characters, it seems reasonable that one of them suffers from pride and the other from prejudice.  But as I read the book, I couldn't figure out which was which.  I think you could make a case for Mr. Darcy's shortcoming being pride and Lizzy's being prejudice, and perhaps this is the obvious pairing, but I think it could also be argued that Mr. Darcy suffers equally from prejudice and Lizzy from pride.  So perhaps that is the beauty of the title after all.
Thirdly, when I started reading this book, my mom told me that when I was finished she wanted me to tell her what I thought Jane Austen's main point with this book was.  I thought about it a lot as I was reading the book, and I think there are two.  The first is that we have to stop focusing on what other people are doing wrong and look at our own faults first.  Lizzy especially spends quite a lot of time in the book judging other people, often rightly so, but it takes her a long time to see her own faults.  And, in fact, many of the faults that she accuses other people of, are faults which she has herself.  The second is that when people point out your shortcomings, you have to stop being defensive and actually listen.  The main difference between the "good" characters in the book (with the exception of Jane and Mr. Bingley who apparently have no faults) and the "bad" characters, is that the good characters take criticism to heart and are thus able to change and the bad characters don't.
So that wraps up book number two.  Next up? Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw.