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Pride and Prejudice
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Jane Austen's romantic masterpiece, Pride and Prejudice, is an absolute joy to read and study for teens who are open to the pleasures of 19th-century prose and manners. The plot and characters are engaging for teens, and the book is worth revisiting at any age. Several film adaptations of Pride and Prejudice are also well worth seeing, including the 2005 movie starring Keira Knightley and the superb 1995 BBC series featuring Colin Firth as Darcy and Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth. However, young people will get maximum enjoyment from this story if they read the novel first.
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What's the story?
The five single Bennet girls of Longbourne have somewhat dubious prospects for marriage, because their father, though a gentleman, has no male heir and his estate is "entailed" away to his next male relation. So, Mrs. Bennet is extremely eager to find rich husbands for her daughters. When the Bennets become acquainted with a new neighbor, the wealthy Mr. Bingley, and his proud friend Mr. Darcy, first impressions lead to some hard feelings as well as romantic ones. Bingley becomes quickly attached to one of the girls, whereas Darcy leaves the Bennets and their friends cold. First impressions are not always what they seem, however, and the Bennet girls, particularly Elizabeth and Jane, learn where pride and trust are justified, and where they are not, as the romantic story unfolds.
Is it any good?
Austen gives you brave and good heroes and heroines, despicable villains, a decent dose of comic relief, a great and complex plot, and plenty of suspense of the mostly restrained, emotional variety. Austen's clever observations and dialogue contribute to her brilliance in developing fully formed characters, despite the polite manners throughout. Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy are two of the most romantic and memorable characters in the whole of English literature, and their story never fails to entertain.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about gender roles in Pride and Prejudice. What are Elizabeth and her sisters allowed to do or not do in terms of their occupations and social behavior? How is a young woman's life different from a young man's in the world of the novel?
One of the themes Austen explores at length in Pride and Prejudice and in other novels is the compatibility and feelings that make a happy marriage. In the context of the book, what marriages are successful and which are not? What does Austen see as requirements for happiness in married life?
Jane Austen's novels are often compared and contrasted with the Brontes' darker, more gothic romances. How are the novels by these female novelists different, and how are they similar?
Why is Pride and Prejudice considered a classic of English literature?
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