200 years ago today, the incomparable Jane Austen died. The world is celebrating her legacy all year long. Today, author Elizabeth Eulberg (Prom and Prejudice) shares why Jane still resonates so much.
Like a fine wine or George Clooney, Pride & Prejudice keeps getting better with age. What is it about Austen's novel that makes it so timeless? I've always been a fan of Miss Austen and her work, but it wasn't until I set off to do a modern retelling that I truly realized how brilliant Pride & Prejudice is.
When doing a retelling you have to break the original book down to its core and then build it back up again with your own take on the characters and twists. I enjoyed immersing myself so much into her world that it wasn't until the eve of Prom & Prejudice's publication that I thought, "You idiot! Why would you tackle one of the most beloved novels of all time?" I'm not the first (or even the hundredth) person to do a retelling of Pride & Prejudice, but the groundwork that Miss Austen laid for novelists is at the core of why I believe her novel is still so beloved two hundred years after its publication.
Love: As the Beatles once said, "All You Need Is Love" and Pride & Prejudice has arguably one of the greatest love stories of all time. It's part of human nature to want to be loved. To find that one person who completes you as a person. But back the early 1800s England, marriage most often was a business arrangement. Then comes Elizabeth Bennet who isn't willing to marry for the sake of a dowry. She wants love, and I don't think there's a single reader who isn't cheering for her.
Humor: While Pride & Prejudice is a romantic book, it's also very, very funny. The exchanges between Mr. and Mrs. Bennet are better than most sitcom banter. We've all had that one family member who just can't stop embarrassing you in public (I'm now wondering as I type if I'm my family's Lydia). And then there's Mr. Collins. Who hasn't been stuck in a conversation at a party with someone who just drones on and on (and on...)? It's these "been there" moments that also make the book extremely relatable, even though we live a very different life than in Austen's day.
Two words: Mr. Darcy - The stiff, humorless guy who turns out to have the biggest of hearts. I'll admit to being turned off by a guy within the first few minutes of a date and think, "give him another chance, he might be a Darcy." (Spoiler alert: he's not.) But Miss Austen has given women the greatest gift of hoping for someone like Darcy: someone loyal and kind. And good looking (Helloooooo Colin Firth!). He will forever be the standard to which all fictional suitors are based on. Oh, okay, real ones as well.
It's been a few years since I tackled this classic novel, and every time I talk about it or write about it, I'm once again astonished about the new insights that come from it. People will still be talking about Pride & Prejudice in two hundred years, and two hundred after that. It's the gift that keeps on giving. That is the greatest compliment any author could get. And Miss Austen is one of the best.
So on behalf of readers everywhere, happy 200th anniversary, Miss Austen! Thank you for writing such a brilliant, funny, charming book. Thank you creating such real characters, especially Mr. Darcy. Because it always, always comes back to Darcy.