Can modern parallels be drawn with Jane Austen’s best work, Pride and Prejudice?
Jane Austen is regarded as one of the best authors to have penned romance. Many adaptations of her literary work have been made as period dramas and movies to more modern blending of the storylines. Even today, there’s a release date in July 2022 of one of her novels, Persuasion, starring Dakota Johnson.
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This shows the influence of her classics even in today’s times and also on pop-culture. Arguably as influential as Shakespeare’s works if not more. But why is it so? Why is it that her works published in the 19th century still resonate with us? Is it only the swoon-worthy romance? Is it our curiosity with historical lifestyles, the ones that are depicted in a pleasing light and with light-humor as opposed to the oppressiveness that existed, which we read about in schools?
Well let’s try to shed light on this enigma by going over Austen’s most famous work!
Pride and Prejudice
Mr. Darcy is the ultimate ‘man of dreams’. It doesn’t hurt that he earns a whopping 10,000 pounds a year! But our main protagonist is no less of a catch! Elizabeth Bennet is a woman sure of herself. Hardly intimidated by anyone or any circumstance, irrespective of a person’s social standing in the hierarchy that existed in Victorian-era England.
But what is it about this story that completely engrossed us?
I think it is the honest quality of Austen’s work. She never shied away from portraying the real intentions of her characters. Yes, at the time, money and stature determined a good match, these were preferred over the character of a person. The story shows this over and over again with our main couple and with Elizabeth’s sister, Jane’s entanglement with the wealthy friend of Mr. Darcy, Mr. Bingley.
A mother of five daughters is shown unapologetically on a mission to hunt down these amiable suitors for her daughters. This ‘uncultured’ behavior is a source of satire and humor in the novel. But it also serves as a social commentary on the ideals of the society at that time. Can she be blamed for that? In a world where the inheritance was to go to the closest male kin and not to her daughters and where women could do virtually nothing to earn money for themselves? Nothing at least that was considered ‘proper’ and ‘respectable’.
I think it’s the winning story of romance despite all these odds. Unrealistic, it may seem but then there lies the magic in books. The characters are prejudiced against each other because of the other’s rank in society, which we still do to this day. They have pride that blinds them to each other’s good qualities. Isn’t it precisely what we are guilty of doing today? Judging? Forming opinions and assumptions about each other based on social status, appearance, race and ethnicity?
Pride and Prejudice triumphs over at least one aspect of society, which is, social class disparity, and unites the two lovers. There lies the answer, I think, of our reverence to this story because it is a fight against all odds. Two people coming together because of their love and respect for each other. About them overcoming their character flaws and prejudices and seeing what really matters in the end. A good character.
Of course, the subtle romance between the two characters, and Mr. Darcy’s adorable social awkwardness and Elizabeth’s fiery attitude only help make the novel that much more endearing. These two tropes have been used and are used even today, in countless romantic-comedies!
Jane Austen’s other works, such as Emma and Sense and Sensibility are also social commentaries with romance as the front setting. So, I would recommend you to give them a read to enjoy both, a witty romance and a subtle satire. And go ahead and see if you can draw parallels with the modern world as well!