Thoughts on Pride & Prejudice, Bad Parenting & What Happens When You Reread A Book
I've been reading/re-reading some classics lately: TRUE GRIT, PRIDE & PREJUDICE, ROBINSON CRUSOE, REBECCA.
Perhaps I should warn you up front I'm NOT a huge Jane Austen fan. (Team Bronte all the way!)
The first time I read Pride & Prejudice was in 8th grade. I loved it. I was delighted with the new-to-me discovery that 19th century English people were smartasses, too!
Still delighted with that.
The second time I read it (a few decades later), I was appalled by all the stupid customs and social conventions people had to put up with in those days. Not coincidentally, I was appalled by all the stupid customs and social conventions I had to put up with at that time of my life.
The third time I read it (a few weeks ago), what struck me most forcefully was the theme of Adult Children Overcoming The Bad Parenting To Which They Were Subjected. That's really what the book is about as far as I'm concerned. Not romance, not true love, not smothering social conventions. (Still love the smartasses.) I'm not the first person to recognize that theme in P&P and elsewhere in Austen's works.
Perhaps that theme jumped out at me this time around because the novel I most recently finished writing features a 25-year-old protagonist with Truly Terrible Parents. Novel #6, which is nearing the finish line for its first draft (72K+ words!), could not be more different from Novel #5. The folks that protagonist calls parents were awesome from her point of view. Now I'm not saying they were eaten by a rhinoceros, but from the novelist's plotting point of view, Boring Virtuous Awesome Parents have usually got to go. Exit stage left, with or without the rhino. Bad Parents are much more interesting to read about--I'm looking at you, Mr. and Mrs. Bennet. Plus, Bad Parents provide the protagonist with all sorts of obstacles to be overcome--a must for a good novel.
Will I read P&P a 4th time in another few decades? I don't know... There are a lot of books to read (and reread) in the world. I may have gotten all I can out of that one. There are, of course, many other themes and ideas people latch upon in P&P--I'm just highlighting here the three that clobbered me over the head.
But this is why I've always reread the books I like. Many, many times for the books I love. As I change, the books change and I always get something new and interesting out of them. On to the next one!