§ Feminine subtlety
Without falling into crass prejudices, we may observe that women are very often more sensitive to a whole range of human emotions and details than men are; to be more precise, women are aware things in a way in which men generally cannot readily comprehend without a rationalization of some kind. Rather than being a weakness as many a narrow-minded individual would suggest, it implies a different set of strengths; these are utilized by Jane Austen in the writing of a novel that is timeless in its essence, even if dressed in the garments corresponding to a certain time period.
Following from that same thought, we may describe Pride and Prejudice as a very feminine novel. And although some would think that such a remark conceals a derogatory intent, it is only an observation of nature. The ways in which situations are developed and, perhaps even more importantly, the way in which they are treated as perceptions of the main character, display that dangerous, double-edged intuition that swings the nuanced feminine sensitivity towards love-or-hate valuations.
It should also be mentioned that Jane Austen is not just any woman writer, but a very smart one who does not need the mention of her particular sex to be raised into the pantheon which she so rightfully inhabits. To place her in a list of ‘woman writers’ per se is more of an insult to someone of her stature, for she needs no special treatment (no ‘affirmative action’) in order to be recognised as one of the greatest.
In order to not spoil the story, and because this is not the point of this commentary, we will not provide a sketch of the story. However, a few bits of information will not be out of place to give context to the comments themselves. The story places at its center Elizabeth Bennet, a young lady of uncommon sagacity and a somewhat melancholic predisposition. The relative point of reference character of the story is a certain Mr. Darcy, a taciturn individual more prone to maintaining a prideful distance from those around him.
A class or two in social strata separate them, not only through wealth but also in that the latter is part of the nobility, adding to the complexity of their interaction. Moreover, where the one is flexible the other in inflexible; where one is prudent and respectful, the other is unmoved by the sensibilities of the general public. Their first encounters leave an impact of dissimilar character, though equal magnitude, on each others’ minds. The story’s underlying knot comes about smoothly, as each individual is drawn towards each other through the arousal of challenging emotions that run a course contrary to their inner norm.
From the outside, and in the usual appreciation of the story, it may seem obvious to relate the title of the book to the attitudes with which one associates Mr. Darcy. Less often mentioned, because not as obvious, is the fact that the pride and prejudice of Ms. Bennet towards Mr. Darcy is, in fact, at least as grave as his. A more nuanced diplomat, the witty and aloof Elizabeth Bennet often escapes our judgement, despite her suffering from the same malady as her male counterpart.
And it is because we see far less of his thought process than hers, except as a revelation towards the end of the story, that we may find, as a logical conclusion, that Jane Austen’s truest intention lay in making an example of the masterfully buried, emotional transformation of Ms. Bennet, rather than that of Mr. Darcy.
Having finished reading the book, one might observe that upon their meeting early on in the story, Mr. Darcy began a process caused by his meeting of ‘Eliza’ resulting in a severe self-evaluation and effort to improve on the deficiencies she made known to him in the most unapologetic manner. Our main character, on the other hand, becomes deeply ensconced in her determination to place blame and disdain upon the shoulders of an individual whom she knows only in passing and by the references of others. It is only upon the gradual discovery of his noble actions that she learns that he is not who she thought.
§ A timeless parable
To the attentive and sensible reader, it should also be apparent that the moral of the story is an unstated call to learn about people through our own personal knowing of them through time and within context, and not merely to form images based on first impressions and rumors. The idea becomes more obvious in light of the parallel unraveling of the Wickham knot, whose initial reception as a charming man leads everyone to confuse the all-round agreeable demeanor that he artfully projects with character and moral worth.
Essentially, this is the story of two exceptional individuals coming together in a gradual discovery of their imperfection, and their eventual triumph in not only surrendering to self-honesty, but in rising up to the challenge of meaningful learning. This is not, however, a tale of social class merging or mobility, as simpler and more ideologically-inclined minds of the intellectually bankrupt leftist camp often suggest. Instead, we may see through the difficulty, that the story emphasizes the value of prudence and decisiveness in action, rather than glorifies exceptionalism or maverick daring per se.
To come back to our first and perhaps most important point: Pride and Prejudice is most valuable where it is most subtle; for it is in these underlying and overarching concepts, which Jane Austen made only aurally perceivable, as it were, that we find the richer gems under layers of wit and more transient matters. There is much that is not said, much that is only implied, but it is by the echoes that resonate in one’s soul, beyond any direct link with the story, that the masterful author drives her deepest rapier-thrust.