By Chet Yarbrough
By Jane Austin
Narrated by Flo Gibson
“Pride and Prejudice” is a cautionary tale about “love at first sight”.
“Pride and Prejudice” depicts human nature as accurately today as when published in 1813. Most relationships are based on shadows of human beings. There is a thin line between pride and self-assurance, prejudice and truth that are observed in a cave of human shadows. People are shadows to each other because no one can truly know another. The “other” (anyone but oneself) has their own life experience; their own interaction with life; their own perception of themselves, and their own prejudice. Experience in life is always personal. Human action and reaction is often similar but every intellectual and emotional experience is unique to the individual.
How often first impressions are mistaken; often colored by what someone says, and inevitably governed by prejudices of the observer. Interpretation of human actions and appearance is the slippery slope of misunderstanding. Interpretation of other’s actions and appearance distorts truth because every interpretation is prejudiced by personal experience.
Though “Pride and Prejudice” reveals a different time and context for relationships between men and women, it represents a fundamental truth of human nature. Every human being is trapped by the unique experiences of their own lives. Jane Austin chooses pride and prejudice as examples of how human beings interpret and often misunderstand each other. The mechanism of misunderstanding begins with seeing only exteriors of people when they first meet. Understanding another’s personhood is impossible because human prejudice is inherent in human growth. Experience in life is singular. How one reacts to their environment is unique to them and, in that singularity, prejudice is inevitable.
Jane Austin tells a simple story of a family with several daughters that measure their success by husbands they marry or parents they cling to. This is much less true in the 21st century but still carries some residual truth. If that were all this story is about, it would fall into the dustbin of romance novels.
Austin creates Elizabeth Bennet, a beautiful 23-year-old daughter that has virtues of independence, intellectual strength, and morality. Elizabeth assesses the qualities of men with an eye to marriage but like all observers of shadows, she is misled by appearance and gossip.
Mr. Darcy is a wealthy aristocrat that appears aloof, arrogant, and self-absorbed. He is rumored to have reneged on his father’s death-bed bequest to a family employee because of inordinate pride and prejudice. He projects the snooty stereotype of a moneyed class with haughty disdain for anyone that challenges his opinion.
What Jane Austin clearly outlines in “Pride and Prejudice” is the folly of Elizabeth’s own pride and prejudice; i.e. Austin exposes human nature’s reliance on shadow representations of real people; prejudices based on external appearance and whispered rumor. Austin reveals humankind’s pension for believing appearance and gossip is truth.
Marriage is an obvious subject of “Pride and Prejudice” but how one decides who to marry is the more interesting exploration. Truth of “being” is what one seeks when looking for a life partner. The irony is that one will never know the truth of one’s partner but the search is no less important than the finding.