Last Updated on September 1, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 705
So you’re going to teach Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. Whether it’s your first or hundredth time, this classic novel has been a mainstay of English classrooms for generations. While it has its challenging elements, teaching this text to your class will be rewarding for you and your students. Through sophisticated storytelling, it will give them exposure to the mechanisms of 19th-century upper-middle-class English culture, which they’re likely to find in some ways bizarre and in others strikingly familiar. This guide highlights the text’s most salient aspects to keep in mind before you begin teaching.
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Facts at a Glance
- Publication Date: 1813
- Recommended Grade Level: 9 and up
- Approximate Word Count: 121,900
- Author: Jane Austen
- Country of Origin: England
- Genre: Novel
- Literary Period: English Regency
- Conflict: Person vs. Society
- Literary Devices: Irony, Satire, Realism
- Narration: Third-Person
- Setting: Turn-of-the-19th-Century English Countryside
- Tone: Witty
Texts that Go Well with Pride and Prejudice
Bridget Jones’s Diary, by Helen Fielding. This clever repurposing of Pride and Prejudice provides an engaging way for readers to draw connections between Austen’s world and more recent times. (The novel was written and set in the 1990s.) Note that Bridget is sexually active and prone to foul language, which could make the book inappropriate for some students.
Clueless is a comedy film released in 1995 which transposes the plot of Jane Austen’s Emma to a Beverly Hills high school. It is now considered a cult classic, and the transference of Regency society to a familiar context can illuminate for students parallels between the restrictive world of Austen’s characters and their own.
Emma, by Jane Austen. Pride and Prejudice is the most popular of Austen’s novels, but Emma is held in higher esteem by many literary scholars. In it, Austen creates a heroine with fundamental flaws and slyly makes readers complicit in her misdeeds.
Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley. Of all the famous English novels of the 19th century, Pride and Prejudice and Frankenstein are arguably the two that have had the broadest cultural impact and the most enduring popularity. They share little in common—one is a witty comedy of manners, the other a Gothic horror story—but the fact that they were both written by women and published within five years of one another makes them an interesting study in contrasts. Giving students some biographical background about Shelley will help them understand that not all of England was as bound by convention as the segment of society Austen portrays.
Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë, was published in 1847 (under the male pseudonym of “Currer Bell”). Brontë hated Austen’s work, both for its perceived repression of strong emotion and for the effect it had on expectations for female writers of her time. Like Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre takes for its subject the romantic experience of a single female protagonist; however, Brontë avoids any possibility of satire and instead focuses on portraying a rich emotional experience—much darker than any of Austen’s.
Longbourn, by Jo Baker. A common criticism of Pride and Prejudice is that it shows no interest in the concerns of people outside of the English upper-middle class. Longbourn, published in 2013, aims to rectify that shortcoming. It tells the story of the Bennets’ servants, in sometimes harrowing detail.
Persuasion was written by Jane Austen in 1817 and published after her death that same year. Its protagonist, Anne Eliot, is perhaps Austen’s most explicitly feminist creation: past her first “bloom,” Anne’s relationships with characters are defined by her intelligence and moral influence rather than any possible interest in her youth or beauty. Indeed, many of the novel’s characters and situations are subversive when compared to Austen’s previous works. It promotes the good qualities of a socially rising military class, in direct contrast to the pomposity of the gentry, and Anne, like Elizabeth Bennet, is allowed a second chance at a romance that seems to have passed her by. Finally, Persuasion shows Austen’s style of free indirect discourse at its most evolved point, essentially presenting Anne’s experiences as the novel’s truths rather than as something readers should interpret externally.