Pride and Prejudice is a romance novel by Jane Austen, first published in 1813. The story charts the emotional development of the protagonist, Elizabeth Bennet, who learns the error of making hasty judgments and comes to appreciate the difference between the superficial and the essential. The comedy of the writing lies in the depiction of manners, education, marriage, and money during the British Regency period.
Mr. Bennet of the Longbourn estate has five daughters, but his property is entailed, meaning that none of the girls can inherit it. His wife has no fortune, so it is imperative that at least one of the girls marry well in order to support the others on his death. Jane Austen’s opening line, “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife” is a sentence filled with irony and playfulness. The novel revolves around the importance of marrying for love, not simply for money, despite the social pressures to make a good (i.e. wealthy) match.
Pride and Prejudice retains the fascination of modern readers, consistently appearing near the top of lists of “most-loved books” among both literary scholars and the general public. It has become one of the most popular novels in English literature, with over 20 million copies sold, and paved the way for many archetypes that abound in modern literature. Continuing interest in the book has resulted in a number of dramatic adaptations and an abundance of novels and stories imitating Austen’s memorable characters or themes. The 2005 film, Pride and Prejudice, starring Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen is the most recent Hollywood adaption of the book.
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