One of My Best Friends: Pride and Prejudice

P&P

The name of my blog is Some of My Best Friends… As in, some of my best friends are books. Well, one of my best friends had a birthday last month. As a friend I did not make as big a deal about another year passing- especially since it was the big 2-0-0. Sure, the UK commemorated it on a stamp and people are throwing big parties, even festivals, but I thought we could celebrate in a more low-key way.

So, that was the plan… until people started bad-mouthing my friend. Evey classic author has his/her naysayers, it can only be expected. What surprised me were the attackers and their reasoning. Women who are considered feminist and well-read behaving as though they were hipsters and this classic was some indie band gone mainstream. One writer even asked whether Pride and Prejudice was really just an old fashioned version of Twilight. Twilight??

I realized there was a theme. The writers seemed to confuse Pride and Prejudice with the spin-offs. Unfortunately, there is a reason for that:

firth

Well, not exactly Colin Firth or even the (most wonderful) 1996 BBC miniseries. Rather the cult following it cultivated with the prequels and sequels of questionable merit, any number of advice books with quotes or characters’ traits as their basis, or retellings of the novel’s events. The romanticizing of a character and glorifying him more than one imagines Austen would have ever believed possible has created a trap. Of course, Darcy has always been a romantic character, but then you had Bridget Jones’ Diary and others take it to the next level of pop culture. When literature becomes pop culture it becomes a whole new creature which can detract from the original story.

Another issue some seem to have with Pride and Prejudice is the lack of tortured men like Rochester saddled with his crazy attic wife in Jane Eyre or the brooding Heathcliff of Wuthering Heights. It is true Austen’s men are more stoic and hide their emotions, but does that make them less romantic or worthy? Both kinds of storytelling speak to the era they were written in and to say one is right and one is wrong seems to limit literature in a way I find surprising.

The only reason I can seem to find for blurring Pride and Prejudice with all the spin-offs is perhaps these critics have not read it for many years. If that is the case, I implore these people spend time with my friend and give the story a read with an open mind and try to enjoy Austen’s sharp wit and satirical eye.

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