Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is often considered one of the greatest novels of all time; the story of proud William Darcy and the prejudices of Elizabeth Bennet. From Lizzie’s perspective their spirited courtship plays out on the page; in this witty comedy of manners, upbringing, morality, education, and marriage in early 19th century society.
Most of you would already know this story; you’ve probably seen an adaptation or two in your time. For me, I was never interested in reading this book, I knew what it was about but I never knew what to expect. This is the novel that just will not die; 200 years later since this was published the book still sits very often in the top ten in a lot of bookstores and other literary lists. It’s been adapted multiple times as well as been retold many times. The novel has also inspired a range of other books including books by Georgette Heyer, Agatha Christie and Helen Fielding.
First of all I want to look at Jane Austen’s attempt to play with the traditional quest format to offer us this rather clever novel. Let’s look at the novel from a traditional storytelling point of view. The potential princes in this novel; Darcy was considered clever and cold, Mr Wickham was too hot, then there was Mr Collins, the one that could save the ‘castle’ who should be just right, but he was not warm but tepid and boring. The pattern is reshaped and slowly the princess’ heart has been won, even if she doesn’t know it straight away. Then Austen needs to make the suitor eligible to win over the heroine; so she sends him on a quest to win Lizzie’s heart. Then like all quest stories, the story ends abruptly, with a marriage and a happy ending. This ancient pattern only provided the basic story structure for Jane Austen to weave her story into.