On Pride and Prejudice

The Evolution of Envy

By Alesia Holliday

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.

–Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

What is not universally acknowledged is the doom, despair and dismay this can cause in the friends of the wife so wanted. Are we more prone to envy today than in Austen’s time, or should we read her work as gentle fiction with our rose-colored Prada sunglasses firmly in place?

Envy, a Modern Book Club Discussion:

[H]is friend Mr. Darcy soon drew the attention of the room by his fine, tall person, handsome features, noble mien–and the report which was in general circulation within five minutes after his entrance of his having ten thousand a year.

LIZ: See, this is a problem. It’s easy to be deliriously happy for your best friend when she bags the rich guy who looks like Winston Churchill in his declining years, or the gorgeous deadbeat who sprawls around her apartment mooching off of her. But when she falls in reciprocated love with a guy who’s got both looks AND money, it’s tougher.

JANE: That’s not true at all. Look at the example Jane Austen sets: the sisters are delighted for each other’s good fortune and miserable in empathy with each other’s setbacks, and even Charlotte, who got the “runner-up,” is happy for Elizabeth. If we can’t be unconditionally happy for our friends, especially when they find a life partner who represents all of the  …

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