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The International Writers Magazine: Reviews

Pride and Prejudice (BBC 1995)
Director: Simon Langton
Starring: Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle

Emma King

I’m not a big lover of studying history. Text books and never ending documentaries provoke little interest for me. But I do find it fascinating that a book, film or TV series can convey a whole world beyond my own imagination and understanding. To be able to experience the past as if you were there, living in those times with those people, is a wonderful gift. And out of all the historical fiction out there, my favourite has to be the 1995 BBC’s six hour adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

A tale of forbidden love due to class, status and one man’s pride, Pride and Prejudice tells the story of Elizabeth Bennett (Jennifer Ehle), a strong and sensible minded adult who is treated like a puppet in her cupid mother’s wishes to marry off all her five daughters. Despite marriage offers from her creepy but established cousin, Mr Collins, Miss Bennett finds herself falling for the arrogantly wealthy Mr Darcy (Colin Firth).

Set in the 19th century with beautiful cinematic landscapes and a series of traditional balls, Pride and Prejudice is a marvel to watch. It creates a world that no modern teenagers could ever imagine, captivating its audience with witty humour, grand mansions and quaint speech and gowns.

As Lizzie Bennett tries to hide her secret love for Mr Darcy from her friends, family and even herself, her sister Jane openly falls for Mr Darcy’s closest friend Mr Bingley. Comedy is created through this matching as Mrs Bennett pushes desperate to a new level, proving that embarrassing parents is not a new convention.

In this sense, young people of today can relate to the story itself, identifying with the need to impress those around them and the trials of succumbing to peer pressure versus doing what’s best for oneself. So despite the historic period, the elegant clothing, diffident servants and different living standards, modern viewers could certainly connect to the plot, if not the setting.

As Lizzie battles her affections for the proud Mr Darcy, deciding his uptight manner most disagreeable, she learns of his meddling actions against Mr Bingley’s affections for her sister Jane. Mr Darcy, believing the Bennett’s to be below his and Bingley’s status, ensures Miss Jane Bennett’s arrival in London to be kept secret from his old friend. However, Mr Darcy soon is revealed as a hypocrite when he proposes to Lizzie, stating that despite his own judgment and the inferiority of her birth, he ‘most ardently’ loves her.

Lizzie, in a rage against his meddlings, and the belief that he wielded a good man, Mr Wickham, out of his fortune, declines his hand, choosing to stand by her sister and sensible morals. Perhaps Lizzie here is showing the first glimpses of the modern day woman, putting her own beliefs and values before that of her mother’s.

As the story moves from the older sisters to the younger girls of the family, the focus moves to flirty Lydia Bennett, the slut of her time. The shame of her wildest antic with Mr Wickham, proves very unpopular with her older sister, who feels the family name has been tarnished and believes her hope of romance is forever dashed. This aspect of the story conjures ideas of sibling rivalry and the bitchiness of the female world, showing women then weren’t far different from females today.

After revelations that Mr Wickham is the bad party, not Mr Darcy, Lizzie begins to re-evaluate her feelings, thinking she may have made a mistake. These affections are confirmed for Lizzie when Mr Darcy fixes the situation with Jane and Bingley, and forces his enemy Mr Wickham to marry Lydia, making a decent woman of her. Lizzie, despite her early indications of independent womanhood, marries Mr Darcy, fulfilling a typical fairytale ending; captivating the hearts of Colin Firth fans across Britain.

Pride and Prejudice may be historical fiction but it relates very closely to modern truths. With themes of sibling rivalry, female bitchiness, peer pressure, family values and ones own beliefs, Jane Austen’s story is one of beauty, charm and delightful comic banter, which the BBC adaptation offers with lavish views, magnificent settings and a loveable cast. I can’t think of a better way to spend my Sunday afternoons.
© Emma King November 2007
emmathewriter at

Chick Literati
Emma King

I looked over the books I own; stack upon stack of over predictable, classically cheesy and a somewhat pathetic collection of chick-lit novels. I love chick-lit - I am an addict

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