It’s always such a pleasure to visit dear old friends, to be instantly on the same wavelength. That’s Pride and Prejudice – which still manages to surprise me positively each time I read it. It is a page-turner; it is superlative.
I’m concentrating on a couple of issues only, so this is not a comprehensive review.
Discussions. In the previous novel (chronologically), Sense and Sensibility, the discussions were mostly subdued, pokerfaced (by Elinor to hide her knowlegde and to shield Marianne or he mother, for example), or just dull (about children and nothing else for a particular mother). Conversely, to me, Pride and Prejudice is filled with witty dialogue, even flirting. The best ones involve Miss Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy. This is definitely a source if not the origin of the screwball-era rapid-fire dialogue, although delivered with the florid eloquence of the day: use ten words or a hundred instead of one. The sensual clash is still there. Dirty me?
The Letter, aka The Clarification and Reasoning Regarding the Cases of Misters Bingley and Wickham. I have a short book about writing a book by starting from middle and working you way outwards to both directions. The thesis is that the theme is in the middle. In Pride and Prejudice, in the middle, all cards are on the table; Mr Darcy lays all his love on Miss Bennet, who rejects it, leading to the Mr Darcy handing her a letter next day explaining things. Before the Letter, after the initial cold shoulder by the prideful Mr Darcy, Elizabeth Bennet has been growing to hate him more. It all comes into the open violently. After the Letter, however, Elizabeth begins to question her prejudice and her feelings start to change. A lot.
Thus, the theme is understanding and communication.
Notably, soon after the initial sulking performance in the first ball, Mr Darcy starts to like Elizabeth Bennet. Also a lot. Observe the increasing loving glances at Elizabeth. (And visualize Colin Firth.) He basically spends a majority of the book in penance. Finally, like Orpheus for Eurydice, he enters the netherworld to save Lydia whose fate is better then Eurydice’s, at least in the short term.
Lydia. The Catalyst and Teen Archetype. In Chapter 39 Lydia sounds like its Highschool U.S.A., circa 1983: “My aunt Phillips wants you so to get husbands (boyfriends), you can’t think.”
Mothers. Mrs Bennet & Lady Catherine de Bourgh: you can’t live with them, you can’t kill them.
Ending. To me, chapter 59 is the last chapter in Pride and Prejudice; the chapters 60 & 61 are an epilogue. Just observe the close bond between Mr Bennet and the future Mrs. Darcy, allowing him this teasing comment to his favourite daughter at the end of the chapter 59:
“I admire all my three sons-in-law highly,” said he [Mr Bennet]. “Wickham, perhaps, is my favourite; but I think I shall like your husband quite as well as Jane’s.”