When I (and pretty much everyone else, I imagine) think "Jane Austen," Pride and Prejudice is the book that automatically comes to mind. It is a well-loved, humorous novel that has more film adaptations and inspired more books than most other books of literature.
My first, delightful encounter with Elizabeth Bennett and Fitzwilliam Darcy occurred when I was around age 13. My mum let me borrow her copy of the book and so began a love affair with the works of Jane Austen.
Re-reading the book recently brought to mind some other great lessons (if you will) from this cherished piece of writing: I was reminded not to judge people too harshly on first acquaintance. (Case and point Elizabeth and Darcy!) Because you never know who is having a bad day or who is just shy and not-so-good with new groups of unknowns.
It's also worth noting that you shouldn't always believe gossip (Wickham!); shouldn't let your younger sisters get too chummy with half a regiment of soldiers (again, Wickham!); and that even though you might not want to marry someone (Collins), it doesn't mean he's un-marriageable.
I was also reminded about why this book is a great story, yes, but also a wonderful example when it comes to good fiction:
-Wonderful dialogue: "An unhappy alternative is before you, Elizabeth. From this day you must be a stranger to one of your parents. Your mother will never see you again if you do not marry Mr. Collins, and I will never see you again if you do." (Love it!)
-Distinctive, dynamic characters: (Pick a character, just about any character!) One of the most wonderful things about Austen's works in general is the large cast of characters. I love that there are no "Wait. Which character is this?" moments. They are all so unique and so well-placed in the narrative.
-Construction of the story: The beginning, middle and end of the book are all equally satisfying. There's conflict written throughout the book and Austen knew that there needed to be vignettes that carried the story along and not merely served as comic relief. Jane's trip to London-though fruitless-was explained by Darcy's confession that he was advising Bingley against the match. Elizabeth's seemingly innocuous journeys to visit her friend Charlotte and to the lake country with her aunt and uncle only brought her in closer contact (physically and mentally) with Mr. Darcy himself.
-A happy ending: This isn't criteria for good literature in general but it is my criteria for good literature. If things don't end well, I really don't want to bother reading any further. (There's enough unhappy ending in real life.) Lovely Jane and Bingley are wed as are Elizabeth and Darcy. Even Charlotte and Collins seem to be relatively... content.
What do you like about Pride and Prejudice? And what is your favorite Jane Austen film adaptation?