When I first put that book in the poll, I hoped that another book would get chosen, but my rationale for including it in the first poll I made was that if it got selected, at least I would get it out of the way early on in my Unread Books Challenge. In that way, I am rather like Elizabeth Bennett--my first prejudices against the book were proven unfounded, and now I know that the book deserves all the attention it has garnered over the years.
I had tried to read Pride and Prejudice about five years ago but gave up after the first 60 pages because I couldn't get into the language usage, the fact that everyone "cried" in the book (nearly all the beginning quotations are marked with a "cried he" or "cried she" phrase), and the number of characters introduced all at once without a great differentiation among the voices of the characters. I found that if I didn't pay attention as I read, I lost the storyline altogether.
This time around, I pushed past the opening chapters, and, having seen the movie, I was able to keep up with the character introductions. I found myself losing the language barrier and getting attached to the characters and their story. Even though the story has its archaicisms (e.g., the Bennett family is in an uproar because their youngest daughter ran away with a man and didn't immediately marry him), the story is remarkably progressive for having been written over a century ago. For instance, when two characters are discussing marriage, one says this:
...it is better to know as little as possible of the defects of the person with whom you are to pass your life. (24)
The entire conversation is comical and makes some good points about marriage and its supposed blissful existence. That a woman would understand that marriage may not be the "be all to the end all" in an era where marriage was treated as the highest accomplishment a woman could achieve is progressive, to say the least.
Another good aspect of the book is that it is full of honesty. The characters are (in some respect) hopelessly flawed, and I appreciate that Jane Austen wrote her characters imperfectly, which she, as the narrator, acknowledges in writing:
There is, I believe, in every disposition a tendency to some particular evil, a natural defect, which not even the best education can overcome. (58)
But we are none of us consistent. (82)
The book is also full of little insights that had me underlining quite a bit as I read. I can't put all the underlined portions in this post, or you'd be reading a good portion of the book, but here are some of my favorites (this is by no means a comprehensive list of my favorite quotations from the book):
Nothing is more deceitful... than the appearance of humility. It is often only carelessness of opinion, and sometimes an indirect boast. (48)
The power of doing any thing with quickness is always much prized by the possessor, and often without any attention to the imperfection of the performance. (49)
Her impatience ... was as well rewarded as impatience generally is. (146)
It is such a spur to one's genius, such an opening for wit, to have a dislike of that kind. One may be continually abusive without saying any thing just; but one cannot be always laughing at a man without now and then stumbling on something witty. (221)
I think most avid readers have a book (or two) that, as we read it, we had to re-evaluate our thoughts about the book. What book was your Pride and Prejudice?