Jane Austen is one of the most notable writers of the 19th Century. She has given us many great novels such as Sense & Sensibility, Mansfield Park, Emma, Persuasion, and above all, Pride and Prejudice. It is this last novel that has been a true classic and Hollywood dream. Since 1938 there have been at least 14 (if not more) adaptations whether it be a film, TV mini series, or television presentation. What is Hollywood’s obsession with adapting this story so many times over? What is it about the story that keeps readers coming back for more?
For those who have never read the book, “Austen’s most celebrated novel tells the story of Elizabeth Bennet, a bright, lively young woman with four sisters, and a mother determined to marry them to wealthy men. At a party near the Bennets’ home in the English countryside, Elizabeth meets the wealthy, proud Fitzwilliam Darcy. Elizabeth initially finds Darcy haughty and intolerable, but circumstances continue to unite the pair. Mr. Darcy finds himself captivated by Elizabeth’s wit and candor, while her reservations about his character slowly vanish. The story is as much a social critique as it is a love story, and the prose crackles with Austen’s wry wit.”
In January 2013, USA Today gave us 10 reasons why P&P is so popular: it’s the ultimate “happily ever after”, it’s fun, it’s a rom com, it has sex/lies/runaway teens, marriage for love and money, miserable weird families, rich people who don’t appear to work—they just eat, drink, and act merry, first impressions are often wrong, and there is lots of hypocrisy. Social standing, relationships, and impressions are still referred to in our society. Then you have the characteristics pride (hubristic) and prejudice that again, exist as much today as it did in 1813. Of course, there’s Mr. Darcy too.
The most well-known movie versions are Bridget Jones’s Diary, P&P with Keira Knightly (2005), and P&P with Colin Firth (1995). The latest adaptation of Austen’s classic is the film Austenland. In this film, lovers of the book get to go to a place where they get to “live the life” of their favorite book and characters. This is a completely different spin on P&P and from the looks of the cast and writing, it could be a very successful film. In the end, I’m sure we have not seen the last of Miss Bennet or Mr. Darcy.