I decided to reread P&P in preparation for some retellings, and what should I say... This is my fourth time reading the novel and it offers even more than what my fond memory retains!
I had been told that P&P was a manual of love and marriage, but this time, the book shone as a demonstration of the importance of self-knowledge.
If one examines the marital satisfaction of our characters from each’s own perspective, we will realize that the level of content directly correlates with that of self-awareness.
For instance, Lizzy knew that she valued mind over stability, and Charlotte the vice versa, so each made her decision accordingly and was happy with her choice. Mr.Bennet, on the other hand, had thought he enjoyed his wife’s vivacity but evidently underestimated his own need for patience and silence, which became the stem of his frustration (and then he tried to blame her for it).
Unfortunately, there were also a few characters whose need did not coincide with that of anyone else in the novel.
Mary, for example, knew that she and Mr.Collins could have been spiritually harmonious, but practicality, rather than harmony, had been the latter’s criterion for domestic felicity. We do not know whether Mr.Collins would look back years later, lonely in a marriage in which his partner enjoyed nothing more than banishing him to the garden, and regret not prioritizing spirituality. Perhaps. Perhaps not.
During this rereading, I was again struck by Lizzy’s wit, Jane’s kindness, Darcy’s gentility and Bingley’s sincerity, each genuine but imperfect in a different way. These characters are themselves lovable, but are made even more vivid by Austen’s language, which simultaneously soothes and stimulates. When I was a child, I used to cup water with my hands and just stare at it, fascinated by the invisible yet tangible substance. As Austen’s language flitted in the young sun during my morning drives, I found myself a child once more.
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