On Pride and Prejudice

High-Class Problems

By Laura Caldwell

Okay, I’m just going to admit it. When the publishers of this book asked me to write an essay on Jane Aus-ten’s Pride and Prejudice, I nodded and murmured, “Hmm, interesting.” I pulled at an imaginary beard. I said I’d think about it. The tricky thing was, I’d never read Pride and Prejudice.

Sense and Sensibility, yes. And hey, I’d seen the Sense movie and Emma as well, but somehow Pride and Prejudice had escaped my Catholic high school curriculum and my Big Ten liberal arts education.

Nonetheless, I said yes to the project. A writer friend of mine recommended I read the CliffsNotes, claiming the book was too long. I did, and found them spare, to say the least. When I told my agent about the anthology, she said, “Oh, just get the movie.” So I rented the BBC version, which, at six hours long, didn’t seem particularly economical in terms of time.

I still didn’t know what in the hell I would write about, so I trotted off to the library and borrowed five treatises on Pride and Prejudice, two written before 1930. After slogging through over a thousand pages of theoretical musings on Elizabeth Bennet and her crew, I realized I could have read the damned book twice over by this time. And the fact was, I was intrigued.

So finally, at last, I went to my little neighborhood bookstore, and there it was, in a nice, trim paperback with a hot pink cover. Somehow I doubted the  …

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