I was a twelve years old girl, holding in my hands a novel which had been in print for almost 200 years: the novel that first showed me what it feels like to love reading. Of course, I had read books before, and I had been lucky enough to like almost all of them, but none had succeeded in teaching me a lesson as this one had. Never before had I been introduced to a notion that would guide my actions and thoughts.
Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen was the perfect book for me, because it embraced the frivolous problems one encountered at that young age, such as interacting with society and understanding one’s place in it. Indeed, many themes found in it were outdated, and did not apply to me, just as they no longer apply to today’s world. Nonetheless, one central idea left the pages of the book , entering my mind. Like a small seed, it flourished, constantly fed by the water of my thoughts.
Pride was the concept that until I had read the novel was simply an unexplored term that flew past me many times, like a bird that examined new territories to which it was bound to return eventually; more importantly, it was the concept that would create a bridge to happiness for many years to come. As a child, I had heard about it, but most of the time it seemed be tied to a negative connotation which made it appear dangerous to posses.
However, it didn’t take me long to realize the reason Mr. Darcy was such a compelling character was the fact that he was proud; not only that, but he embraced his sense of self respect, which created an aura of dignity around him. His attitude turned the light switch of my understanding on, and his words gave the notion new dimensions. It was as if I had just seen the sunrise for the very first time, and my mind was too busy admiring the beauty that was hidden underneath the scenery of words to fully grasp their implication.
Yet, in the following years, I came to completely understand self respect, and how it can affect one’s life. A pure pride, which comes as a result of one’s achievements is always welcomed, and cannot be condemned as long as it emerges from an honest mind. It connects work to happiness in a way nothing else is capable of doing. It is one of the only things that can illumine a tired face with a smile after a day of labour. However, like a precious diamond, when it is worn without reason, and too often, it becomes an ugly rock, void of meaning or substance.
The simplicity of the story allows its lessons to shine, and reinforces its main characters as examples. In a world where society places social status above everything, Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy are shown as they begin to understand which values have been forced on them and which they should keep. They come to understand that one cannot accurately assess another person based on first impressions, and that social class should not be grounds on which people are appreciated, as it is something acquired through birth, and not through personal effort. Thus, Mr. Darcy apprehends that he had made a mistake in believing that Elizabeth was beneath him and rejects the false sense of pride derived from that opinion.
Pride and Prejudice is a beautiful novel, which has left a deep print in the sand of my mind, at a time when the oceans of formation were under a storm. Hungry waves of knowledge and opinion hit the shore of my thoughts, molding and transforming it as if with hands. Reading the novel was a very strong wave, whose mark still reminds me that “…where there is a real superiority of mind, pride will always be under good regulation.” It is this realization that has helped me understand the true nature of this word, and allowed me to keep it as a diamond in my mind.