Pride And Prejudice: The Issues Raised In A Novel

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Pride and Prejudice is the masterpiece of the English writer Jane Austen, which background is the life of the English middle-class at the beginning of the 19th century. The English classic has been adapted to the cinema four times, and the most established version was released in 2005 under the direction of Joe Wright. “By contrast, the adaptation directed by Joe Wright released in 2005 and starring Keira Knightley as a youthful Elizabeth is the most alluringly romantic treatment the novel has received.” (Wiltshire, 2013)

The plot of Pride and Prejudice revolves around Bennet’s family, formed by a married couple and their five daughters (Jane, Elizabeth, Mary, Kitty and Lydia). The second daughter, Elizabeth Bennet, is the protagonist of the storyline, a beautiful and young woman who is loved by Mr Darcy, the other protagonist of the story. With this in mind, this essay argues the similarities and differences between one extract of the written Pride and Prejudice and one film version of the book focusing on the respective scene. Following these considerations, there are important features to be taken into account, like the personalities and the social status of the characters or the places in which the action took place.

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To understand what happened in the scene of the Netherfield Ball, it must be understood what happened before that. It is important to remember that in England, at that time in history, the women’s only social role was to be a mother and wife, and she had no chance of professional ambitions. According to society, women were of little value: when the patriarch died, the inheritance had to pass to the sons, and if there were none, the fortune passed to the man closest to the family. For that reason at least one of the daughters of Mr Bennet needed to get married.

The plot of the novel begins with the arrival of two young single and lucky people in the region (Mr Bingley and Mr Darcy). The mother of the girls saw this arrival as an opportunity to solve the family’s problems. Mr Bingley falls in love with Jane Bennet, the eldest daughter, while his friend Mr Darcy falls prey to the charms of Elizabeth. At first, Elizabeth considered Mr Darcy an arrogant man and repudiated him. This relationship is therefore dominated by prejudice, attraction, passion and anger.

As Professor Kathryn Sutherland said about Jane Austen: “Most of our activities are happening in a kind of hallway public-private space and they’re always subject to gossip, to conversation … and these are the things that she herself is particularly interested in exploring in the novels.” (Sutherland, 2014) What Jane Austen did was use the dance or balls to experiment with the relationships between young men and women. In that way, if someone dances with another a certain number of times, it meant that you were interested. It should also be pointed out that in the dance there wasn’t so much physical contact, due to it was highly stylised dances.

In the Netherfield Ball, Elizabeth danced first with Mr Collins, her cousin and later with Mr Collins was a clergyman who pretended to marry Elizabeth because of money matters. When Elizabeth danced with Mr Darcy, they did not talk much, and there was tension in the scene. Afterwards, Mr Collins tried to introduce himself to Mr Darcy but he humiliated himself because there were so many social differences between them. Regarding the character of Jane, she was with Mr Bingley during the whole ball. At a point of the ball, Mrs Bennet said, “And my Jane marrying this young man must throw her sisters in the way of other rich men.” (Pride and Prejudice, 2005) Mr Darcy heard this and this the reason why later he will try to avoid Jane’s marriage with Mr Bingley. After that, Elizabeth was speaking with Charlotte Lucas “Clearly my family are having a competition to see who can expose themselves to the most ridicule.” (Pride and Prejudice, 2005) But she was calm because Mr Bingley did not notice. At the end of the ball, it could be seen how tired Bennet’s family was because they stayed all night in the ball.

This scene is really important in both the book and the film. In the book, an episode is dedicated to the ball while in the film the scene lasts about 10 minutes. The film follows numerous details and conversations of the chapter of the book. However, there is an insignificant difference, and it is that in the book Mr Bingley’s sister told Elizabeth in the ball that Mr Darcy was a loyal person and in the film, Elizabeth realised that when Mr Darcy wrote her a letter. But apart from that, the film is faithful to the book. The personalities of the characters are well-reflected.

Jane Austen used the irony to criticise the society, governed by economic ambitions and interest-motivated relationships. In fact, it is no coincidence that the first sentence with which the plot of the book begins is: ‘It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.’ (Austen, 1813) Marriages are seen as simple commercial agreements and with this quote, Austen presents and denounces the property law, that is, the family organization based on the notion of a lineage. Another relevant aspect is the character of Elizabeth because unlike women of her generation, she does not seek a promising marriage. The young Elizabeth is greatly admired by her father, but at the same time deeply criticized by her mother.

To conclude this matter, it should be mentioned that Austen became famous because of the introduction of the conversation and the interior space in her novels. “Austen’s novels appeared to deliver a world her readers recognized as undistorted by art yet unbetrayed by the brutality of real life.” (Sutherland, 2010) Moreover, she combined those developments in the novel with the activities of everyday life. The novel is a work that tackles from a critical point of view the society of that time, questioning key aspects such as the law of property and the role of women. 


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