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The timeless charm of Pride & Prejudice

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Pride and Prejudice has blown out yet another candle on its fine birthday cake. Media are buzzing with pictures of Colin Firth’s sideburns and the war for the most quirky heading playing with the legendary now first line of the novel is officially on.

That’s how the world celebrates the 200th birthday of Jane Austen’s most adored classic. Is it enough of a classic, though, to remain valid in the world where the empire-line dress is half-thigh length and a single man in a possession of a good fortune is in want of everything but a wife?

Austen’s ‘beloved baby’ is like those Matryoshka dolls: there isn’t just one story but, to our delight, various subplots are packed inside. So apart from the ‘they hate each other then fall in love’ Lizzie and Darcy’s romance, there’s also the ‘they like each other, there’s a misunderstanding and they break up only to kiss and make up, and get back together’ Jane and Mr Bingley, the ‘don’t want to be left out on the shelf’ union of Charlotte and Collins, the hot-headed affair of Lydia and Wickham and the passion-proof marriage of the Bennet sisters’ parents. All sprinkled with a witty description of the frailties of the 19th century society. But mainly Darcy.

Some damned sinners claim it’s boring and has nothing to do with the real world. Well, if you’re in for thrill pick King, for more action reach for Fifty Shades. Pride and Prejudice is the perfect love story and if anyone has a problem with that they should leave the classics section right now. It’s the prodigy of its kind. We might no longer go to balls, knit the night away or ringlet our heads up but essentially we want to be loved and happy, just like anyone else ten, fifty and hundreds of years ago; just like Lizzie did.

Austen loved her Lizzie and so do we but is it possible for us, 200 years later, to identify with a bonneted embodiment of good manners and social etiquette?

Yes, because unlike many girls in the novel Lizzie is no needy scatterbrain. She is a strong witty character who won’t take any crap. She wasn’t there just waiting for her prince charming to show up to then move to a castle and live happily ever after; she was living her life as a funny, observant young woman, very independent for her times. She was kind and stood up for what she believed in but she was not black-or-white perfect and she made silly mistakes.

As cheesy as it sounds she represents universal values and many of us could walk a mile or two in her little shoes. And she got her Prince Charming. Although we hate to admit it because, as Cosmopolitan kindly reminds us on a monthly basis, our lives revolve around career, sex and money, we do want the butterflies and fireworks too. Which brings us to the next question: is Mr Darcy the Mr Right of the 21st century?

Yes. He might be over 200 years old but he’s an established model of what a man should be like. The Prince was good enough when we were about seven years old, the Beast was fun until he got transformed into that foppish blonde boy, Shrek didn’t quite match the prerequisites in the looks department and I won’t even mention all these vampires, dominators and other modern flashes in the pan. It is universally acknowledged that all a girl wants is a dark mysterious man, a sort of a bad boy but just a little, so that she can change him; who is good deep inside and who will treat her like a princess. Won’t hurt if he’s rich and handsome, and owns a big mansion.

There’s a reason Pride and Prejudice still holds a place in the first row of the best and most popular books of all time. It all boils down to very simple truths about life, which don’t change regardless of everything else changing. We want to believe romance is not dead and we want our very own Mr Darcy. Maybe without the sideburns.

In the meantime, here's Colin Firth:




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