Illustration of Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy with neutral expressions on their faces

Pride and Prejudice

by Jane Austen

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Bloom, Harold, ed. Modern Critical Interpretations: Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice.” New York: Chelsea House, 1987. Contains nine essays treating such topics as manners and propriety, love, intelligence, and society. Includes a chronology and bibliography.

Brown, Julia Prewitt. Jane Austen’s Novels: Social Change and Literary Form. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1979. A response to critics who claim that Austen does not write about important issues because she writes about domestic life. Choosing a spouse points to life’s complexity, which intelligent characters know; the foolish choose badly, dooming themselves and future generations.

Gillie, Christopher. A Preface to Jane Austen. London: Longman, 1974. An invaluable guide that includes useful background material and brief discussions of Austen’s novels. A reference section contains notes on people and places of importance, maps, and explanations of numerous words used in the works. Amply illustrated. Annotated bibliography.

Halperin, John, ed. Jane Austen: Bicentenary Essays. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1975. A collection of essays on various aspects of Austen’s work. An excellent chapter by Robert B. Heilman explains how the title Pride and Prejucide defines the theme and the structure of the novel. In another essay, Karl Kroeber suggests some reasons for the work’s lasting popularity.

Halperin, John. The Life of Jane Austen. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1984. A thorough and highly readable critical biography, written with the stated purpose of making Jane Austen “come alive.” Argues that neither Elizabeth Bennet nor any other character in the novels should be taken as representing so complex a person as Austen. Has perhaps the best summary available of the theories about the genesis of Pride and Prejudice. The book also includes a family tree, copious notes, and numerous illustrations.

Honan, Park. Jane Austen: Her Life. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1987. A detailed biography that depicts Austen’s life and work and provides a portrait of England and the age. The chapter on Pride and Prejudice focuses on the novel’s reflection of a changing society in which economics, social class, and character all affect individual happiness.

Howe, Florence, ed. Tradition and the Talents of Women. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1991. Feminist criticism of various writers. An essay by Jen Ferguson Carr notes that although both Mrs. Bennet and Elizabeth are excluded from power in a male-dominated society, only the daughter is intelligent enough to use language to “dissociate herself from her devalued position.”

Kirkham, Margaret. Jane Austen, Feminism, and Fiction. Brighton, Sussex, England: Harvester Press, 1983. Although Elizabeth Bennet is the most appealing of Austen’s heroines, the novelist herself had misgivings about Pride and Prejudice, probably because its light-hearted ending depends upon Elizabeth’s losing her integrity. Concludes with a helpful summary of the critical tradition.

McMaster, Juliet, ed. Jane Austen’s Achievement. New York: Barnes & Noble, 1976. A collection of six papers delivered at the Jane Austen Bicentennial Conference at the University of Alberta. Lloyd W. Brown’s chapter “The Business of Marrying and Mothering” and A. Walton Litz’s “‘A Development of Self’: Character and Personality in Jane Austen’s Fiction” both deal with Pride and Prejudice.

Mansell, Darrel. The Novels of Jane Austen: An Interpretation. New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1973. An interesting interpretation that insists Austen is less interested in imitating reality than in depicting the psychological progress of Elizabeth and Darcy. The chapter on Pride and Prejudice provides an excellent analysis of Austen’s use of irony.

Moler, Kenneth L. “Pride and Prejudice”: A Study in Artistic Economy. Boston: Twayne, 1989. Intended as a student’s companion to the novel, a useful book for the first-time reader of Jane Austen. Includes a historical context and critical reception of the novel. Also examines the themes of moral blindness and self-knowledge, art, and nature, as well as Austen’s use of symbolism, language, and literary allusion.

Smith, LeRoy W. Jane Austen and the Drama of Woman. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1983. In Pride and Prejudice, Austen shows the ideal marriage as depending upon overcoming the institution’s “threat to selfhood.” Unlike most women of her period, Elizabeth Bennet insists both on choosing her own husband and on retaining her intellectual and emotional independence.

Sulloway, Alison G. Jane Austen and the Province of Womanhood. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1989. Pointing out that in nineteenth century society men had “rights” and women had “duties,” this author examines the various areas in which women function in Austen’s novels, including the “Ballroom,” the “Drawing Room,” and the “Garden.” Sulloway’s approach is original and perceptive.

Yaeger, Patricia, and Beth Kowaleski-Wallace, eds. Refiguring the Father: New Feminist Readings of Patriarchy. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1989. A collection of essays on various writers. In “The Humiliation of Elizabeth Bennet,” Susan Fraiman argues that when Elizabeth Bennet marries Darcy, she is exchanging a passive, permissive father for a father figure who, as a strong-willed male of lofty social status, may give her ease but will certainly take away her independence.

Bibliography and Further Reading

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Brower, Reuben A. "Light and Bright and Sparkling: Irony and Fiction in Pride and Prejudice." In his The Fields of Light. Oxford University Press, 1958.

Dabundo, Laura. "Jane Austen." In Concise Dictionary of British Literary Biography Volume 3: Writers of the Romantic Period, 1789-1832. Gale, 1992.

Gray, Donald J. "Preface." In Jane Austen: Pride and Prejudice, An Authoritative Text, Backgrounds, Reviews and Essays in Criticism, edited by Donald J. Gray. Norton, 1966.

Heilman, Robert B. "E pluribus unum: Parts and Whole in Pride and Prejudice." In Jane Austen: Bicentenary Essays, edited by John Halperin. Cambridge University Press, 1975.

Jenkins, Elizabeth. Jane Austen: A Biography. Gollancz, 1948.

Mudrick, Marvin. "Irony as Discrimination: Pride and Prejudice." In his Jane Austen: Irony as Defense and Discovery. Princeton University Press, 1952.

Review of Pride and Prejudice. In British Critic, February, 1813, pp. 189-90. Reprinted in Jane Austen: The Critical Heritage, edited and compiled by B. C. Southam, Routledge, 1968.

Review of Pride and Prejudice. In Critical Review, March, 1813, pp. 318-24. Reprinted in Jane Austen: The Critical Heritage, edited and compiled by B. C. Southam, Routledge, 1968.

Southam, B. C., ed. Jane Austen: Critical Heritage. Routledge, 1968.

Wright, Andrew H. Jane Austen’s Novels: A Study in Structure. London, 1954.

Further Reading
Brown, Julia Prewit. Jane Austen's Novels: Social Change and Literary Form. Harvard University Press, 1979. Brown discusses how Austen uses contrasts between characters, themes, and narrative devices to give structure to her novel.

Butler, Marilyn. Jane Austen and the War of Ideas. Oxford University Press, 1975, reprinted with new introduction, 1987. Butler argues that despite the tendency of many readers and critics, Austen's novels are not "progressive" novels, but rather novels that reinforce a conservative, orthodox thinking in tune with her era.

Gilbert, Sandra and Susan Gubar. The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination. Yale University Press, 1979. Gilbert and Gubar explore the struggles of nineteenth-century women writers endured while publishing their works and how society reacted to the ideas and perspectives of women authors.

Grey, J. David, managing editor, A. Walton Litz and Brian Southam, consulting editors. The Jane Austen Companion. Macmillan, 1986. The Jane Austen Companion was published under the auspices of the Jane Austen Society and includes much scholarly information, including a chronology of Austen's life and works, her family tree, critical appraisals of her novel, and a Dictionary of Jane Austen's Life and Works, a concordance of important people and events in her fiction and her world.

Kroeber, Karl. "Pride and Prejudice: Fiction's Lasting Novelty." In Jane Austen: Bicentenary Essays, edited by John Halperin. Cambridge University Press, 1975. In this essay Kroeber looks at the phenomenon of Austen's continuing popularity despite the ways in which she goes against prevailing modern literary tastes.

Liddell, Robert. "Pride and Prejudice." In The Novels of Jane Austen. Longmans, 1963, pp. 34-55. In his collection, Liddell studies various aspects of Pride and Prejudice, including its history, social background, and irony.

Poovey, Mary. The Proper Lady and the Woman Writer: Ideology as Style in the Works of Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary Shelley, and Jane Austen. University of Chicago Press, 1984. Poovey writes about the role of women writers in society during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

Roberts, Warren. Jane Austen and the French Revolution. St. Martin's, 1979. In this study, Roberts traces the impact that the French Revolution had on Austen's own life (her brothers served in the Royal Navy in the struggle against Napoleon Bonaparte) and on the type of fiction she wrote.

Smith, LeRoy W. "Pride and Prejudice: No Improper Pride." In his Jane Austen and the Drama of Woman. Macmillan, 1983, pp. 87-110. This essay concentrates on the social, moral, economic, and sexual dilemmas Elizabeth must face as a middle-class woman in nineteenth-century society.

Williams, Michael. Jane Austen: Six Novels and their Methods. St. Martin's, 1986. Williams discusses six Austen novels, including Pride and Prejudice, and concentrates on the methods Austen uses to construct her stories.

Media Adaptations

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  • The most famous film version of Pride and Prejudice is the black and white Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer production released in 1940. Directed by Robert Z. Leonard, the film featured Greer Garson as Elizabeth Bennet and Laurence Olivier as Fitzwilliam Darcy and won the Academy Award for best art direction because of its lavish sets. It is currently available as a videocassette from MGM/UA Home Entertainment.
  • In 1985, the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) and director Cyril Coke adapted Pride and Prejudice for television as a mini-series. It starred Elizabeth Garvie and David Rintoul as Elizabeth and Darcy and was later released on video by CBS/Fox Video.
  • In 1995, another BBC television adaptation of Pride and Prejudice was released, starring Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet and Colin Firth as Fitzwilliam Darcy. In the United States it aired on Arts & Entertainment Television (A&E) and the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and is available from A&E Home Video and PBS Home Video.
  • Other adaptations of Pride and Prejudice include the sound recordings Pride and Prejudice, narrated by Flo Gibson, Recorded Books, 1980 (an unabridged version of the novel); Pride and Prejudice, abridged by Frances Welch, read by Celia Johnson, ALS Audio Language Studies, 1981 (a "read-along" transcript); Pride and Prejudice, read by Jane Lapotaire, Durkin Hayes, 1992; Pride and Prejudice: Selections, narrated by Sheila Allen, Francia DiMase, and Roger Rees, Time Warner Audiobooks, 1994; and Pride and Prejudice, abridged by Elizabeth Bradbury, BDD Audio, 1994 (a BBC Radio production).

For Further Reference

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Cecil, Lord David. A Portrait of Jane Austen. London: Constable and Co. Ltd., 1978. Well-illustrated, this biography should be enjoyable to readers of all ages.

Hardwick, Michael. A Guide to Jane Austen. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1973. Hardwick provides a character index, plot summaries, and other useful information for all of Austen's novels.

Honan, Park. Jane Austen: Her Life. New York: Ballantine Books, 1987. This is the most recent biography of Jane Austen.

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Historical and Social Context