Pride and Prejudice and Female Friendship
by Alice Xu
From being one of the most commonly read novels to having a wide variety of adaptations, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice continues to have a strong influence on not just literature, but the world. With her keen insight into human behavior and ability to translate that onto paper, who could not find her works timeless?
I first learned about Austen through my friend, who recommended the 2005 film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. I was enamored by every aspect of it—the breathtaking rural setting, the memorable characters, and the biting social commentary. Throughout Austen’s novel and all of its adaptations I have watched and read since then, I have noticed that feminism remains a dominant theme.
As with many of her novels, Austen explores the dynamics and importance of female friendship. In Pride and Prejudice, we witness the deeply-rooted affection between Lizzy and Jane despite their opposing personalities. Once the Bennet family receives the letter regarding Bingley’s sudden departure from Hertfordshire, Lizzy questions her initial opinion of him while Jane tries to brush the incident off, to which the former consoles, “‘My dear Jane! …you are too good. Your sweetness and disinterestedness are really angelic… I feel as if I had never done you justice, or loved you as you deserve.’” Similarly, Lizzy’s friendship with Charlotte becomes strained when Charlotte decides to marry Collins, an action that does not bode well with her best friend’s romantic notions. Nevertheless, when the two meet again at the Parsonage, they quickly move on from the dispute and renew their friendship, “rejoicing at the sight of each other.” With the appeal of friendship, there was no point in brooding over the past.
While the connection between Lizzy and Lydia doesn’t receive much coverage in the novel, it does in the famous web series, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, directed by Hank Green and Bernie Su, which preserves the importance of female solidarity. In the beginning, Lizzie (in reference to the web series’ spelling), harshly judges her sister, Lydia, but as the web series progresses, realizes how wrong she had been following the modernized version of the scandal. As Sarah Todd writes in her article, “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries and the Reclamation of Lydia Bennet,” “…the real love story of the series isn’t between Jane and Bing or Lizzie and Darcy. The Lizzie Bennet Diaries has been about sisterly love all along.”
What Austen has taught us through the female relationships she explores in Pride and Prejudice, and Hank Green and Bernie in The Lizzie Bennet Diaries—compassion and solidary—remains important. In a society that attempts to pit women against each other, learning from the relationships Austen explores would benefit us.