Jane Austen – Pride And Prejudice

In my review of Sense And Sensibility, the first published novel by Jane Austen, I criticized the fact that Austen seemed to avoid dialogue and when she used it it was of mediocre quality. In her second novel, Pride And Prejudice (1813), she takes down the flaws of her first novel in a powerful way. It is still a romance in which relationships and possible engagements form the core of the story, in which women have the center stage and the men play important but secondary roles. Austen had made some considerable changes of which many are for the better.

Most compelling and enjoyable about Pride And Prejudice, at least for the first half, are the dialogues. They are sharp and witty and Austen dares to go a long way. Many constraints that were put in the behavior of the characters of Sense And Sensibility are gone. In fact, both of these vices are rather gone. Like the title it are pride and prejudice which determine the course of the first part of the story and several character speak with great subtlety to express their true feelings.

Another strong point of Pride And Prejudice are the characters, foremost the main character with her four sisters and her parents. They are all a little bit unusual. One could say they have extreme characteristics and it is almost a pity that Austen doesn’t give them all a sufficient greater part. The main character however is the best of them, so Austen’s choice for her is the best. She is a real heroine: she is headstrong, independent and smart. Most of all she dares, which is somewhat unusual in the constrained society she lives in. Besides the central family most of the side characters remain somewhat shallow. Of those only two male characters are well developed and again they have the most extreme characteristics that make them most worthwhile to use. So Austen makes the best choices although she loses a bit on the less important characters.

The story itself starts somewhat dull but quickly develops into an entertaining piece with many twists which reaches it peak halfway. It is at that point that the story turns inward. A dramatic development takes the energy out of the main character who becomes more of a onlooker as she has no central part anymore in the events. She has no position anymore to act like she did before and becomes rather timid. With that the strong dialogue is also gone and Austen simply plays out the intended conclusion of the different story threads. It is rather the opposite of Sense And Sensibility which had most of it surprises and sparks in the final part, while there is little of that in Pride And Prejudice.

Austen shows vast improvement with Pride And Prejudice. Not only in her storytelling but also in her dialogue. She does not manage to maintain that level however  and the second part of the novel is rather average. All in all it is a good read as it avoids too overly romantic mesmerizing, making it more accessible and entertaining novel, with many interesting characters.

 

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