Today I finished the first of the 100 best books list, Pride and Prejudice. Overall, I really liked it. I appreciated how the text took me somewhere else, very different from my day-to-day 2013 existence. With fantasy and sci-fi, it’s so otherworldly that I don’t get the same experience. Because Pride and Prejudice was set in the same universe (and hemisphere) I live in now, it was like looking through a window to another era, with different practices and expectations.
What struck me most was just how different that time was. The propriety and decorum required in every interaction eclipses anything of the sort that I’ve experienced thus far. The rigid social order and expectations must have been stifling. I’m not sure why anyone would view and treat women, poor-people, or minorities as anything less than equal. Yet, this was very much the case in the text. Women at the time were marginalized to the point that a wealthy husband was their only viable means of survival. And the class differences at this time in England were most pronounced, one did not simply marry into the upper class.
I liked how Elizabeth Bennet proved that there are benefits to being different and interesting. That speaking one’s mind and not cowering before titled individuals will (in time) lead to mutual respect. Towards the end of the book when Mr. Darcy was talking with Miss Bennet, he said that she was noteworthy because she didn’t simper and pleasantly smile like all the other young women at the ball. She used her wry wit and didn’t readily apologize for any wounded pride. I don’t plan on getting married. But I can’t even imagine dating or marrying someone that wasn’t smart and interesting.
Of course Pride and Prejudice was very well written. I learned many new words like ‘disapprobation’ and the proper use of ‘alacrity’ and ‘avarice.’ While I was reading the book, I found myself speaking properly as well. It was a shock finishing Pride and Prejudice and immediately moving on to 1984, which is next in line. But so far, I can see why these books are on the top 100 list.