“I’m Not a Janeite”

It's a classic, but not everyone has to love Pride and Prejudice


photo by Meg Rees

Betul Tuncer, Assignments Editor

Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is a world classic, a literary masterpiece, and a feminist landmark. And yes, I’ll admit that for Jane Austen to publish a book about the daily lives of young ladies in their quest for husbands in a misogynistic world in early 19th century England is a great accomplishment. By writing the book, she went against social norms and proved that females could prosper in the literary world.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a strong feminist icon, but this book just isn’t my cup of tea — I prefer passion fruit, and this was more of an Earl Grey.

Yes, throughout the book, many of the characters experience fascinating character developments; however, the book is so character-driven that I was half asleep while reading it. The plot felt non-existent, and I couldn’t tell if the story even had a climax. The little plot and action that it does have made me think I was reading a manuscript of a soap opera.

As someone who has seen her fair share of Turkish soap operas, K-dramas, and telenovelas, I know the basic storylines by memory. A rich, arrogant man falls in love with a poor, sassy, educated woman who would very much like to see him die in a ditch. By the end of the story, the man shows a sliver of empathy and emotion, making the woman sad for her prior prejudice towards him and they become a lovey-dovey couple that goes for walks by the beach.

The only difference between those shows and Pride and Prejudice is the fact that there never is a final kissing scene and that Mr. Darcy confesses his love in a very monotone way, basically saying, “Your family disgusts me, but I can’t seem to stop myself from loving you…”

Ok, I’ll let the passionless love story slide, because I’m not one to swoon over romance novels.

But one thing that I really couldn’t stand about Pride and Prejudice is the fact that the characters live in their own extravagant world. They are almost oblivious to the struggles of others and spend their time at lavish balls and gossiping about money and other people. I get that Austen also lived in a similar high-society bubble, which is why all of her stories take place in a similar setting. I just couldn’t get over how boring the setting was, but I guess if you like the Wexford bubble you’ll probably like Pride and Prejudice.  

On the day of our AP English test on the book, students in many of my classes talked about their opinions on it and how they were dreading the test. Almost all of them stated either how much they loved the book or how much they didn’t read it.

So of course, I chimed in saying that, “Pride and Prejudice is just an over-glorified soap opera. I didn’t enjoy it whatsoever.”

To my shock, I was met with harsh responses.  “How dare you not like such a masterpiece!” No one I talked to had anything bad to say about it. 

What makes me even more annoyed is the fact that back in the beginning of the school year, when we read Crime and Punishment, everyone said they hated that book and how a book about Russian politics shouldn’t be a classic. But frankly I enjoyed that novel way more than Pride and Prejudice.

And after the backlash I got from everyone who said they loved the Austen book, it made me realize that everyone either really loves a classic or really hates it. It seems to me that we as a society have conditioned ourselves into thinking that just because a book is recognized for its literary achievements that it has to be amazing. I get that people didn’t like Crime and Punishment because it was long, confusing and psychologically disturbing, and I also get that people loved Pride and Prejudice because it is relatively short, British, and if not exactly romantic, then at least centered on the theme of love. 

Ultimately, I shouldn’t have to like a book about arrogant elites that dance in petticoats and ball gowns just because it’s a classic.