Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Pride and Prejudice -- Jane Austen

It is every mother’s dream to see her children married. When her brood consists of daughters, that dream tops the list. Every time someone gets married, the mother wishes it was her daughter’s wedding instead. And just imagine the pride and happiness of the mother when her daughter(s) get married into a well to do, rich and cultured family. Jane explored this issue very subtly and humorously and, I can safely add, accurately, in her book ‘Pride and Prejudice’. Seems that marriage was a hot topic back in the 20s too and mothers then too were obsessed with the big M word.

 A well to do English couple have 5 daughters. The mother is obsessed with only one thing, which is her daughters’ marriage. The father was a little easy on this though, which no doubt irked the mother. When a new neighbour (read: eligible bachelor) moves in, he instantly becomes the talk of the town. Mrs. Bennett tries every possible tactic in the book to make sure that one of her daughters gets married to him. So, did other mothers with young daughters. The story revolves around how the sisters meet their suitors, the problems they face due to their pride and preconceived prejudices and how they eventually get married. Different people in the story get married for different reasons. Some marry for money, some for status, others for lust etc. But the major part of the story revolves around the two elder Bennett sisters. How they look at love, marriage, courtship, relationships with different people involved due to the union and how they marry for the only reason that’s worth marrying for, i.e. love. They face tricky situations, got hurt due to either their own wrong judgement or due to someone’s dirty mind-games, they stumble, and they got up and eventually did the right thing. The kind of marriage each person had due to their choices and reasons, makes it an interesting read.

The story brims with funny situations. To jot down a few, the unsuccessful attempts made by different male characters to impress the ladies was really amusing, the language and  vocabulary used by Jane in these scenes kept me in splits; the way Mrs. Bennett was happy that her young daughter was finally married to someone, irrespective of the fact that the son-in law was almost worthless and that her daughter had actually eloped with him to get married; the eloped daughter shamelessly demanding appreciation for her actions;  the way mothers neurotically discussed marriage and showed off their in-laws  was another amusing part, although that hasn’t changed much till now (I guess).  Sure, a lot has changed since the 20s in terms of technology et al, but when it comes to marriage many similarities can be drawn. I noticed that even way back, men in uniform were admired, adored, drooled upon, sought out after :P , how at a certain age everyone literally obsesses over marriage (mostly mums and all those dreamy girls), how superiority/position/class matters more than anything when it comes to settling marriages.

It’s a book which explores love in a fun and humorous way. It transcends the idea of loving someone who’s like a ‘knight in shining armour’ or ‘a beautiful damsel in distress’. It says that love can be found and can flourish in the most unlikely places. Jane celebrates the idea of love and marriage in the truest manner through the two eldest Bennett sisters.  Jane was one of the first authors in her time who outlined the psyche of the human minds and society with such accuracy. Her satirical rants are something to look out for. It was written almost 2 centuries back and people can still relate to it. That’s the beauty of this classic. It has stood through time and cultures.
I loved how I could actually enjoy a story that revolved around something I dread, Marriage! Throughout  the story I was smiling, laughing and having fun. When I first heard about, as a kid, I assumed I would never be able to enjoy this book. It sounded like heavy stuff to me. How wrong was I. This book is a complete joy-ride. Wish I had picked it up earlier, but as they say, better late than never. And if you haven’t read it till now, you know what to do. And do it ASAP.

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