For those who have known me and my love of books for a long time, there’s a burning question, perhaps an angry one: Why is Pride and Prejudice now number three on my top ten list after nearly a decade at number 1? Rest assured that my affection for Pride and Prejudice has not diminished; in fact, it’s probably grown over the years.
Here are a few reasons why:
- If I were to teach a class on dialogue, Pride and Prejudice would be my text of choice. What Jane Austen does with dialogue is stunning. We are entertained and amused by the conversation. We learn about characters and their personalities as they speak. We learn about plot through these interpersonal exchanges. Yet not once while reading Pride and Prejudge have I ever stopped and thought, “People don’t talk like that,” which is the ultimate test of dialogue. The dialogue is believable.
- Pride and Prejudice is the closes thing to a perfect novel humanly possible. Length, dialogue, setting, character, etc. they’re all perfect. There are very few changes that could improve the story. The only point of improvement I would suggest is that Jane Austen should have put more of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy’s engagement scene in dialogue. Austen’s dialogue is superb, but at this one critical point she fell to telling rather than showing. The way the 2005 film captures this scene, using dialogue, highlights this one failure. Beyond this one mistake, the book is practically perfect.
- Pride and Prejudice is transcendent. It was written in the 1800s, but it could have been written yesterday. I expect that people will feel much the same way in another two hundred years because the human romantic experience doesn’t change that much. We are all still living with our own pride and prejudices, while compromise and growth are essential parts of romance.
- Pride and Prejudice makes the reader feel happy, which stands is stark contrast to many other romances like Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Anna Karinena, Gone with the Wind or even the more recent The Time Traveler’s Wife. Pride and Prejudice is romance without tragedy. This is a complex story that leaves readers feeling good.
- I identify with Mr. Darcy. If you’re into the whole Myers Briggs personality test, I’m an INTJ (Introvert, iNtuitive, Thinking, Judging), a type that includes 2% of the population. Famous INTJs include C.S. Lewis, Ayn Rand, and Jane Austen. Fictional characters, supposedly, include Gandalf, Severus Snape, and Fitzwilliam Darcy. All that being said, Elizabeth is great, but I understand Darcy, flaws and all.
So why is Pride and Prejudice only at number three on my list? The answer is simple. Atlas Shrugged, and The Count of Monte Cristo are simply more epic works. Take length alone: Atlas Shrugged is 561,002 words, The Count of Monte Cristo is 389,180, and Pride and Prejudice is 160,993. For what it is, Pride and Prejudice is near perfect, but to put it on the same playing field as the other two works would be disingenuous. However, if you want one final proof of my affinity for Pride and Prejudice, let me simply point to the name of my first born child, Eliza, and the middle name of my second born child, Austen.