3 Reasons Why Pride and Prejudice is Overrated

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

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Title: Pride and Prejudice
Author: Jane Austen
Genre: Classics, Fiction, Romance
Setting: Georgian era, Hertfordshire and Derbyshire, England
Pages: 279

Waterstones Summary: “When Elizabeth Bennet first meets eligible bachelor Fitzwilliam Darcy, she thinks him arrogant and conceited; he is indifferent to her good looks and lively mind. When she later discovers that Darcy has involved himself in the troubled relationship between his friend Bingley and her beloved sister Jane, she is determined to dislike him more than ever. In the sparkling comedy of manners that follows, Jane Austen shows the folly of judging by first impressions and superbly evokes the friendships, gossip and snobberies of provincial middle-class life.”

Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice has consistently featured in many lists as one of the greatest novels of all-time and is widely considered to be Austen’s best novel. Beloved in literary circles and by readers alike, its heroine, Elizabeth Bennet, is hailed as one of the best female characters in literature (my own list differs) and the prideful hero, Mr Darcy, is no short of admirers himself.

The romantic pairing of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy has led to the creation of many modern retellings such as the highly popular ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’, ‘Ayesha At Last’ and ‘Sofia Khan is Not Obliged’ – though the latter is more loosely based on ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’.

I first read Pride and Prejudice when I was 21. Though it had been frequently recommended to me for its magical and iconic romance, I couldn’t see myself swooning over Mr Darcy. I went into reading it with little to no expectations, and found myself terribly puzzled. Though I had read other classics before including Jane Austen’s ‘Emma’, I struggled to decipher what was being said or even happening. Thoroughly disappointed and confused, I gave it two stars. Language barriers and accessibility aside, Elizabeth and Darcy’s ‘romance’ genuinely baffled me, and I still felt a lingering irritation with Mr Darcy.

The 2005 film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, starring Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfayden, proved to be much more enjoyable than its book counterpart. It was one of those rare moments where the film outshines the book. Years later, reading positively glowing book reviews on Pride and Prejudice and with an altered expectation after watching the film adaptation, I decided to give Pride and Prejudice another go.

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The first half of Pride and Prejudice, focusing on the social niceties of the Georgian era, is amusingly riveting, and has spurred me to at least watch one Downton Abbey episode (one day, that is). But the more it focused on the ‘romance’ between Mr Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet, the more it began its tumbling downhill descent. Finally finishing, I gave it an additional star, amounting to a three-star ranking, mostly due to the glorious first half.

To end this long intro, here are the three reasons why Pride and Prejudice is overrated:

1. Elizabeth Bennet is Perfectly Boring

Not to be confused with Keira Knightley’s delightful performance as Elizabeth Bennet where she greatly enhanced the second Miss Bennet’s character with the welcome addition of Elizabeth being a bookworm (she’s not in the books!).

There is no denying that Elizabeth Bennet is revolutionary for her times – she turns down two marriage proposals in an era where being married was considered an accomplishment (though this expectation still persists to this day) and she turns up at Netherfield Park with a muddied dress and … and … yeah. Otherwise, Elizabeth isn’t particularly interesting, and the narrative falls head over heels over how lively and easy-going Elizabeth is, in fact, it sort of hammers it into our heads with it. Call it reeling from the effects of reverse psychology, but Elizabeth is elevated into such a high status that it is almost as if she has no flaws other than her prejudice towards Mr Darcy which could only be a natural consequence of their first meeting. Her lack of flaws make her a lacklustre character. Where other Austen heroines such as Emma Woodhouse and Catherine Morland have both strengths and flaws making them interesting, well-rounded and well-developed characters, Elizabeth seems to exist on 99% strength and 1% reasonable prejudice.  It doesn’t help that the remote storytelling ensures that we aren’t privy to more insights as to what Elizabeth is thinking or feeling. 

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Elizabeth Bennet, after accepting Mr Darcy’s second proposal, launches on a reverse pick-me rebuke of Caroline Bingley. What is a ‘pick-me?’ A pick-me is a woman who begs for acceptance of the opposite sex by vilifying their own sex for going against the traditional gender confinements and expectations. In essence, Caroline Bingley does beg for acceptance from Mr Darcy, but Elizabeth Bennet’s indirect tirade of shade towards Caroline Bingley and how she, herself, is “different” because she didn’t strive for Mr Darcy’s acceptance is somewhat of a pat on the back for her “I’m not like other girls” self … which isn’t really any better than being a pick-me, but more or less a not so distant variation.

2. The Mythical Love Story of Mr Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet

So, I guess Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy sparked the enemies to lovers trope whilst forgetting to add even the remotest trace of chemistry. To rehash the love story of Mr Darcy and Elizabeth in the simplest of terms from Elizabeth’s POV:

  • Hot, rich and single Mr Darcy at a party refuses to dance with single, plain but lively-eyed Elizabeth Bennet.
  • “You mortified my pride! I hate you!”
  • “We meet again, and I’m beginning to hate you more!”
  • “Oh, wait… Pemberley though… damn.”
  • “Oh, okay, reports of a flourishing review of Mr Darcy’s character…”
  • *Still barely talking to each other*
  • “Ah, you saved my sister from total shame. For me. Okay, that must mean that I love you now. Also, Pemberley. So… marriage it is then.”

… How?! How can two characters who barely talk to each other find themselves in love with each other? How are readers supposed to gauge chemistry from almost non-existent conversation? Let nobody who enjoyed Pride and Prejudice ever criticise arranged marriages ever again because, let me tell you, our first-generation parents spoke more to each other before getting married than Elizabeth and Mr Darcy spoke to each other over the course of many months. This lack of conversation does not go unmissed by Elizabeth Bennet herself as she grows frustrated towards Mr Darcy towards the end of Pride and Prejudice for this very reason. Its saving grace is that Elizabeth and Mr Darcy decide together, after Elizabeth accepts Mr Darcy’s marriage proposal, that they’ll spend some time getting to know each other before tying the knot. Well… there’s nothing like an engagement to prompt you to get to know each other. I- I am bamboozled.

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Seriously, there is more palpable chemistry between our all-time favourite toxic couple – Heathcliff and Catherine. Even Fanny Price has more chemistry with nature than Elizabeth has with Mr Darcy.

Which leads me to…

3. Jane Bennet and Charles Bingley Should Have Been the Main Love Story

Jane Bennet and Charles Bingley have noticeable chemistry from the very start and make a whole bucket-load of sense. Their love story is far more appealing, and both Jane and Charles as individual characters are wonderfully lovely. I found myself more drawn towards Jane and Charles as a pair, nervously waiting to find out more, and anxious for Jane herself as she increasingly becomes reclusive and withdrawn. This pairing is far truer to life as there are quite a few Jane and Charles to be found in reality. Not only do Charles Bingley and Jane Bennet have clear chemistry, their romantic arc far outshines Elizabeth’s and Darcy’s, and we can see that they clearly get on whereas Elizabeth and Mr Darcy’s love story is bred on the idea of each other much more so than on any visible chemistry.

On the flipside, I very much liked Mr Darcy during this rereading and felt oddly protective over him.

Add to Goodreads // Purchase from: Waterstones (UK) / Book Depository (Worldwide)/ Barnes and Nobles (US) / Foyle’s (UK)


What are your thoughts on Pride and Prejudice? Are you a fan of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy as a couple? What is your unpopular Jane Austen opinion? Who is your favourite Jane Austen heroine? Let me know in the comments!

Sophia Ismaa

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10 Comments

      1. Haha yes agreed. There are some books and tales that we are all so familiar with, even if by TV or cinema, that we don’t see them through the narrow lens they were first written in.
        Or sometimes the ‘myth’ surrounds a character so much that we look at them in a biased manner. For instance, Miss Faversham in Gt Exp always seems to bring to mind an elderly women but Dickens says she was barely 40 haha

        Like

  1. I completely agree with your points!

    I read Pride and Prejudice a few months ago as a challenge to see if I would enjoy the timeless classic.

    Yes, it was an interesting (but difficult) read but I felt like the story was, as you mentioned it, overrated.

    I found Elizabeth boring only because she spends most of the book only fretting about her other sisters’ problems and hating Mr Darcy, not that I would blame her he was a jerk to begin with.

    I felt like the story was an older version of the teen fiction books that my friends and I occasionally read where it’s like ‘Good girl fell in love with the bad boy,
    He hated everyone
    She loved everyone
    He was popular
    She was invisible
    But what happenes when the good girl has to dance with the bad boy?
    Will it be a match made in heaven or a disaster?’

    And that’s how you sum up Pride and Prejudice if it was a modern Teen-fic book.

    I think for your second point, the only counter argument could be that she did have a certain attraction to Mr Darcy but she only ever acknowledged it when she saw that he had a heart (which if you think about it, it’s fair enough)

    I did read that it was Austen’s aim to write a novel where marriage was not a some what reward for her main characters… but if I’m being honest that’s what it ended up being.

    I apologise for the huge comment but… yeah I got nothing, I just like nerding out 😂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. First, it’s so great to see you challenging yourself by reading books you don’t ordinarily read, I think for me that helped in realising what genres I enjoy reading, so I don’t actually miss out on books that I would have otherwise enjoyed had I not been biased!

      Yes, she’s definitely right to be prejudiced towards him at first, I don’t know why she was made to be felt bad on this, who’s going to like someone who’s calling you tolerable like you’re an edible plant on a stranded island! 🤣 You’re right that she wasn’t given much to do, we don’t get to see her character as much which is frustrating. I just have to wonder if people like her because we’ve been told to like her, would they still enjoy her character if they didn’t know anything at all about her character? It’s not that she’s a terrible character, she’s just not very well-developed compared to other Austen heroines like Emma, Catherine, Marianne and Elinor.

      Yep, I think Pride and Prejudice probably kickstarted they whole haters to lovers, good girl bad boy trope, it just wasn’t done well! I can enjoy it when its done well like in A Walk to Remember or Jesper and Wylan in Six of Crows.

      It is mentioned that Mr Darcy was actually the most good looking man in that whole room, so it would be a physical attraction that every woman felt really.

      LOOOOOL. If you don’t give a crap about marriage, marriage will find you. Don’t look for love, love will find you.

      Don’t apologise, it’s so nice to nerd out together, that’s why we review books! 😂😂😂😂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes!!!
        Ah, marriage, that one thing that every Middle Eastern, African or Asian kid can look forward to at one point in their life *note the sarcasm*

        I bet my Grandma will get so sick of us her grandkids not getting married she’ll turn to me and my sister and just decide when we’re getting married.

        Mr Darcy was… your typical bad boy kinda guy. Personally, I didn’t really think Darcy and Liz suited eachother that much and there story was like reading a teen fiction book but with old language but you know, ‘It’s a timeless classic! Respect the classics!’ Kinda thing… lol

        I feel like, when I first read the book, she was this strong female character but as I continued to read she became an obssesive teenage girl and fell in love with Mr Darcy (aka the bad boy) and she went all mushy and apologetic which made her less of a strong female character.

        I don’t know, it was a good book to read but it could have been a lot stronger and Elizabeth could have used a backbone here and there.

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  2. “Oh wait… Pemberley though…”

    See I saw the 94 miniseries and the Knightley movie before reading the book and that’s always what I thought! Elizabeth was like jeez, well I don’t like him but life is tough and we never have to see each other in a house that size 😉

    Pride and Prejudice is entertaining but it’s my least favorite Jane Austen book so I totally agree with your points!

    Liked by 1 person

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