“If I were in doubt as to the wisdom of one of my actions, I should not consult Flaubert or Dostoevsky. The opinion of Balzac or Dickens would carry little weight with me; were Stendhal to rebuke me, it would only convince me that I had done right; even in the judgment of Tolstoy I should not put complete confidence. But I should be seriously upset…I should worry for weeks and weeks, if I incurred the disapproval of Jane Austen.”
In short: Expect nothing but the best from the great Jane Austen.
There could not have been a better introduction, and a staggering one at that, to Pride and Prejudice than the words of Lord David Cecil in his Leslie Stephen Lecture at Cambridge University, when he paid homage to the English writer and esteemed her beyond the ranks of peers and fellow word masters in his stirring speech. Another article I’ve read years back described the author’s prowess as “needing no Spell check; every word is perfectly formulated and the syntax is impeccable.”
Thanks to endorsements like these, I already have a hunch as to what to expect even before encountering the novel’s initial line, another candidly mind-blowing sentence: “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”
The unbelievable frankness of this woman leaves me simply stunned.
Now that I have reached the opposite pole and concluded the final chapter, I must say Lord Cecil’s words cannot come any closer to being wrong than do saints approach the fires of hell. When all else is said and done, my opinion stands as finding the novel every inch intriguing and just as flawless in its exposition.
Strange thing is, upon first acquainting yourself with a summary of its 61 chapters, the concept of “pride and prejudice” just wouldn’t be the first to enter your mind. The plot is a swirling cycle of life’s upbeats and downbeats revolving around four main romances, and perhaps you might wonder whether what you are about to read is indeed the renowned magnum opus or merely another piece of romantic fodder.
It has often been said that the ability of a novelist can be measured in the way he/she is able to maintain the central idea without fail while conjuring up various caricatures at the same time. In this test of literary multitasking, Jane Austen earns herself flying colors. It struck me how she effectively made the whole idea of “pride and prejudice” echo throughout every nook and cranny of the book, well-hidden within descriptions of characters and settings, skillfully inserted within witty dialogues, always leaving behind a discomforting feel of the predominance of its evil.
Though she was clearly talking of 18th-19th century Great Britain, one can’t help believing she created her masterpiece as a reminder for humanity for as long as society exists. In this world, in this time, there will always be clamor for equality.
Some of the most common ones we see today are aptly addressed: favoritism among children, preference for the high and mighty, falsely construed interpretations and one-sided judgments. Her staunch belief in egalitarianism should ring well into the depths of a world where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, where those with power and connections reserve the right to do magic tricks and where organisms with ultra-inflated egos thrive on the edge of reason.
Fortunately the heroine overcomes all adversities with her wit and charm, and as expected, gets her well-deserved happy ending. I hate to be so corny; but yes, love moves mountains. It tugs harder at the heartstrings than do pride and prejudice.
It conquers all.