Today marks 200 years since Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice was published for the first time.

Sigh, do you think our boyfriends will ever read it?

This is a significant birthday. To celebrate, I’m going to re-read (again) the novel which I first opened at the age of 13, and have returned to many times since. Many people around the world will do the same thing.

I have a feeling, though, that most of them will have something in common. Yep, they’ll pretty much all be female.

If I suggested to my boyfriend that he read Pride and Prejudice, or anything else by Jane Austen, he would scoff. He is more likely to read the Twilight books. In fact, one of his dirty secrets is that back in high school he did read all four of the Twilight books.

But Pride and Prejudice, with its talk of dances, tea, bonnets and the dashing Mr. Darcy? Never.

Sometime over the course of the last 200 years, Austen’s masterpieces got pushed firmly into the literary category known as “Chick Lit”.

This has especially been the fate of Pride and Prejudice. And it’s all Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy’s fault.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Darcy as much as the next Austen fan. He was my first literary crush, even before I watched the BBC adaptation featuring Colin Firth and his infamous wet shirt.

But after almost ten years, my feelings for Darcy have turned rather more circumspect.

In most long-term romances we realize that Mr Perfect actually isn’t quite so perfect. Darcy, on the other hand, is too perfect – so perfect that every girl who reads Pride and Prejudice falls hopelessly in love with him.

There is no greater cliché than the single, female Jane Austen fan who is desperately searching for her own Mr Darcy. This has been the inspiration for countless rom-coms, from the hilarious but very girly Bridget Jones’s Diary to Bollywood extravaganza Bride and Prejudice.

Taken on their own, I have no problem with these movies. My problem with the “cult” of Darcy is that it detracts from the true value of Jane Austen’s work.

It’s also the biggest turn-off for male readers. They don’t want to read about this old-fashioned, apparently perfect gentleman whom they could never hope to emulate, even if they wanted to.

In that respect, he’s a bit like Edward Cullen in the Twilight series. Except that Darcy is not to Pride and Prejudice what Cullen is to Twilight.

If you took Edward out of the Twilight series, not an awful lot would be left – except for a few lame vegetarian vampires and a pathetically love struck teenage girl. Pride and Prejudice would still be brilliant without Mr Darcy.

It is true that Pride and Prejudice, written by a young lady back in 1813, deals with what were then the largely female concerns of domestic family life, small town society, courtship and marriage.

But as Sir Walter Scott states, Austen’s greatest achievement was to “render ordinary commonplace things and characters interesting”.

Interesting really is an understatement. There are countless places in the book where you cannot help but laugh out loud, and the characters’ witty dialogue echoes in your head long after you’ve turned the page. No other author has ever written with such skill.

The fact that Pride and Prejudice is told from a female perspective does nothing to detract from the brilliance of Jane Austen’s writing. Nor should it detract from the greatness of her achievements. Two hundred years after the book was published, it remains one of the greatest works of fiction in the English language.

Doubtless, Austen’s books will not be every man’s cup of tea - just as books about war might not appeal to every girl.

But I can sit on the bus reading Game of Thrones without feeling embarrassed. A man who appreciates Austen’s artistry with the English language should be able to pick up Pride and Prejudice without people wondering why on earth he’s reading “Chick Lit”. Let’s move it out of that section of the library.

Comments on this post will close at 8pm AEST.

Most commented

120 comments

Show oldest | newest first

    • TChong says:

      06:39am | 28/01/13

      “There is no greater cliche than the single female reader….”
      Now, ,why do you suppose that is ?
      Have to disagree with Sir Wally - Austen ( and similar genre authors ) managed to turn any observation , about any subject, unbearably boring.

    • Lisa Meredith says:

      07:05am | 28/01/13

      Dear TChong,

      Boring, maybe, but hilarious for it!

      Mrs. Bennet: Have? Oh Mr Bennet! How can you tease me so? Have you no compassion for my poor nerves?
      Mr. Bennet: Oh you mistake me, my dear. I have the highest respect for them. They’ve been my constant companion these twenty years.


      Mr. Bennet: How happy for you, Mr. Collins, to possess a talent for flattering with such… delicacy.
      Elizabeth Bennet: Do these pleasing attentions proceed from the impulse of the moment, or are they the result of previous study?


      Mr. Bennet: Well, Lizzy, from this day henceforth it seems 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.

    • TChong says:

      08:35am | 28/01/13

      Dear Miss Meredith
      The quotes you hilight do indeed seem to lend themselves to be given a certain interprative comical air, with an appropriately timed raised eyebrow, sly smirk, a contempary witty aside,  belly larf, or facepalm
      Maybe young Miss Austens work could do with a bit of “Ulyssesing ”    ie: alcohol,  and undergrads.
      What could go wrong ?
      And it would bring publicity.

    • Lisa Meredith says:

      09:52am | 28/01/13

      Dear TChong,

      It is satire.

    • Robert says:

      07:15am | 28/01/13

      I am a married grandfather of almost 73, and I only discovered P & P just two years ago.        As one of my most favourite books, and the Jennifer Ehle/Colin Firth DVD, which I have read/viewed many many times, and never tire of either.            The language is beautiful, the scenes are etched into my mind, and who could not enjoy, the plot, the characters the outcome?          I admit, that I am a great fan of Jane Austen (and Jennifer Ehle if it comes to that!

    • pa_kelvin says:

      11:08am | 28/01/13

      73 grandkids… thats some achievement Robert..
      Me ,I’ve got 7 and thier a handfull…. smile

    • Ben says:

      07:28am | 28/01/13

      >They [men] don’t want to read about this old-fashioned, apparently perfect gentleman whom they could never hope to emulate, even if they wanted to.

      Yep, that was it. We’d read the first chapter, burst into tears, and confine ourselves to the room, rocking silently back and forth. “How can I even hope to emulate Mr Darcy”, was a plaintive cry heard in many a footy change room.

    • Chillin says:

      09:28am | 28/01/13

      Now let’s talk about a book which shows how we want women to be.

    • Tubesteak says:

      11:33am | 28/01/13

      I’ve read P&P and that isn’t why I didn’t like it. I found it imprenetrably dense and needlessly verbose. There was little wit in it and it failed in that regard (brevity is the soul of wit).

      Dickens knew how to write a good story.

      Although, the idiotic romanticism from a bunch of insipid little girls was also a reason not to like it.

    • lKgrant says:

      05:10pm | 28/01/13

      I don’t see how Theadora gained this impression of Darcy. He was arrogant and very sure of his impotance.  He even began his proposal to Elizabeth by saying “In vain I have struggled. It will not do”.  The struggle being because she was so much lower in society than he.
      Nothing to worry about here boys.

    • jtz says:

      07:28am | 28/01/13

      I actually enjoy pride and prejudice. In year 11, years back I actually gave a presentation on the book. Yes Mr darcy maybe perfect but he is a good example of how to behave.

      The most interesting bit about this article is that it reminds me of the many stories i read about how Australia men reacted them the US marines arrived here in Australia during WW2. Women fell in love with because of how they were treated. Unlike aussie men at that time they would come over to pick the girls up with flowers and chocolate boxes.

    • Ben says:

      07:48am | 28/01/13

      >Unlike aussie men at that time they would come over to pick the girls up with flowers and chocolate boxes.

      The American soldiers were also far better paid, which tends to help. I don’t think their behaviour had anything to do with reading P & P.

    • Richard M says:

      08:29am | 28/01/13

      Many Australian men were away actually fighting while their women were happily having it off with the Americans.  What a great advertisement for Aussie women.  All it took was better fitting uniforms and more pay, and they couldn’t wait to hop into bed while their men were fighting and dying. I don’t think P & P had anything to do with it, just weak character.

    • Ben says:

      08:49am | 28/01/13

      @ Richard M

      Having further read jtz’s article, I now feel great shame at the actions of our World War II diggers. I am going to write to the RSL to demand that the few surviving ones formally apologise to the women of Australia for not buying them more flowers and chocolates during the war. The fact that they were underpaid and preoccupied with the very real possibility of dying in combat can no longer be used as an excuse.

    • jtz says:

      11:50am | 28/01/13

      @ben i was not at any point attacking our diggers at all. For your information I sm a former defence member and have great pride for our soldiers and diggers. I was just pointing out how this article remindd me of the stories I heard. Maybe read my comment before judging rather then just judging. Quick question, have you served as an ADF member. I guess not. You remind me of the boff heads who go around screaming aussie pride butyet not one of them has served thier nation.

    • adolph stalin says:

      02:29pm | 28/01/13

      i see no problem with the yanks courting our girls during ww2,just because our men were away i dont think it would be fair to ask all the girls to wait for an aussie man to find romance and or a hubby to have a family with,plenty of our troops had courtships with women in countries they were fighting in so samo samo ,and yes i am a soldier and have been deployed a few times,blame adolph not the women or yankees.

    • Ben says:

      03:10pm | 28/01/13

      In answer to your question - no, I’ve never been a member of the ADF.

      >>>You remind me of the boff heads who go around screaming aussie pride butyet not one of them has served thier nation.

      I’m not sure what a “boff head” is. Incidentally, do you subscribe to theory that the definition of “serving one’s nation” is confined to the military?

    • St. Michael says:

      03:46pm | 28/01/13

      “just because our men were away i dont think it would be fair to ask all the girls to wait for an aussie man to find romance and or a hubby to have a family with”

      It would be fair to ask the aussie man’s wife to wait while he was away on duty rather than take up with a US serviceman on R&R, though.  As was infrequently not the case.

    • Kgrant says:

      05:14pm | 28/01/13

      Did the boxes have chocolates in them?

    • Blazes says:

      07:37am | 28/01/13

      I, for one, am a male and love Pride and Prejudice. The thing is it’s not primarily a love story - it mainly about character (and pride and prejudice). There are little or no soppy parts in it.

    • LJ Dots says:

      09:48am | 28/01/13

      Blazes, same same. I’ve read her novels and enjoyed them all bar one (Mansfield Park being the exception). The difference is that a well written book is a well written book, whereas some books lumped in with chick lit such as Bridget Jones Diary, 50 Shades or Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants are teeth grindingly appalling and not deserving of the ‘lit’ suffix.

      If anyone wants to take back my Man Card back for reading Jane Austen, they will have to prise it from my cold dead hands.

    • adolph stalin says:

      02:32pm | 28/01/13

      @LJ,we dont have to pry your man card from your cold dead hands because reading that drivel proves you never had one,ha ha only joking

    • Pisces says:

      03:07pm | 28/01/13

      I’m a woman and Dostoyevsky’s ‘Crime and Punishment’ does it for me. There are absolutely no “soppy” parts in it and it is definitely not a “love story”.

      My other true-to-life favourite is Macchiavelli’s ‘Il Principe” (The Prince).

      Now they’re “lit” with a capital L.

    • NSS says:

      04:59pm | 28/01/13

      I’m female fan of both Miss Austen and Mr Dostoyevsky. They are very different writers, (well duh!) but both are extremely acute observers of human nature and their milieu. Both are also masters at revealing the internal worlds of their characters. “Crime and Punishment”, as well as “Pride and Prejudice” remain on my favourite novels list, and ever shall be.

    • BJ says:

      08:08am | 28/01/13

      Men see someone who behaves like Mr Darcy and wonder why women cannot see through such an obvious player.

    • Rose says:

      09:00am | 28/01/13

      ...so you didn’t read the book then!!!

    • marley says:

      10:12am | 28/01/13

      @BJ - there was an obvious player in the book, but it wasn’t Darcy.  Mayhap you should actually read the book.

    • Neil says:

      08:20am | 28/01/13

      It’s just gold digging shrouded in a pompous air isn’t it? It seems to have set the plot for every chick flick in history.

      Girl loves rich guy, they sort of get together, they have a fight, then patching it up and end up being together forever.

      I did like the movie though.

    • BJ says:

      01:53pm | 28/01/13

      I wonder why a woman who enjoyed reading a story about about someone who married a rich man would be studying law.

    • Theadora says:

      02:04pm | 28/01/13

      @BJ - Times have changed…we women must support ourselves now! Good thing too. But doesn’t stop me enjoying a good story with good writing and characters.

    • Samuel says:

      08:33am | 28/01/13

      You can’t tell what i am reading on my e-reader. One of the few things I like is not having the judgement by my peers when I do read “chick lit”.

    • Richard M says:

      08:34am | 28/01/13

      Can anyone ever remember a chic lit or flick romcom where the hero was poor?!  Like “the popularity of “Sex in the City”, what does this say about modern women?

    • Harry says:

      09:06am | 28/01/13

      Richard I think you’re on to it with your clit chic

    • Kelly says:

      09:06am | 28/01/13

      Oh please, Richard M. You must be a real barrel of laughs.

      Firstly, why are you trying to understand “modern women” through the popularity of a TV show? Secondly, in Sex and the city, Miranda (one of the leads) married a bar tender from Queens. Sure, he co-owned a bar but he was hardly rich.

    • adam says:

      09:34am | 28/01/13

      Sure can Richard!

      Shaun of the Dead

    • Richard M says:

      10:25am | 28/01/13

      Kelly, the reason I mentioned “Sex in the City” is because it was one of the most popular TV shows ever amongst women, particularly younger women, and their shallow, self-obsessed, pampered, over-indulged little lives, and their arrogant judgmentalism, especially towards men, says everything that needs to be said about modern women.
      If you doubt this, I ask you to imagine that the main characters in that show were men rather than women, but that their behaviour remained the same.  The feminist outrage would know no bounds.

    • Rose says:

      10:29am | 28/01/13

      Richard M…..Barney….How I Met Your Mother…..Enough said!!

    • Ben says:

      10:35am | 28/01/13

      I think Rod Liddle summed up Sex and the City phenomenon nicely:

      “This fascination that females have over a horse-faced woman and her quest to find love.”

    • BJ says:

      10:44am | 28/01/13

      Perhaps Rose should ask a few SACT fans about Two and a Half Men, sit back and learn about hypocrisy.

    • Swingdog says:

      11:13am | 28/01/13

      Ooh, Richard, you’d love Girls.

      Then again….

    • Rose says:

      12:06pm | 28/01/13

      BJ. I don’t really know many fan of either show, and I’ve only ever watched bits and pieces of both…neither impressed me, on any level, at all. I imagine the fans of these shows would be those looking for some brain-dead light entertainment, not those who would necessarily be into deep discussions on the inner meanings of rubbish TV.

    • Rose says:

      12:11pm | 28/01/13

      ...although almost everybody I know watches/loves How I Met Your Mother, myself included.

    • Rose says:

      05:08pm | 28/01/13

      Thanks Nihonin smile

    • Richard M says:

      08:57am | 28/01/13

      If women were only prepared to look past the surface and the stereotypes, they might find that there are plenty of Aussie men who could compare quite favourably with the privileged and wealthy Mr Darcy.  Men who love their families, work hard to support them, deal with everyone honestly and fairly, work in their communities to help others and would lay down their lives happily for their families, their friends and their community.  They are the salt of the earth.  They don’t get or look for awards or rewards, they just go about their daily lives as decent, loving, hard-working husbands, fathers and mates - men with old-fashioned values, like my Dad (unfortunately no longer with us), who was a quiet, decent man, who loved his family and community, fought for his country, and never did a dishonest thing in his life.  People like him are the true heroes of our country.  Often, though, they go unappreciated by our shallow women, who are too busy looking for Mr Darcy or the modern equivalent to see what is right in front of them.

    • Rose says:

      09:05am | 28/01/13

      It takes a special kind of person to take an article about a 200 year old piece of fiction and re-interpret it to insult modern women.
      Have you considered that maybe it’s not that women are all that shallow, it’s just that you’re not particularly likeable?

    • Dibbler says:

      09:43am | 28/01/13

      I agree with Modern Man.
      Women have been indocrinated with the ideology of feminism to believe that they are better then us and can treat us how they want.
      Women are shallow vultures who only want men for there money and status. I’ve never met a woman who was respectable.

    • marley says:

      10:15am | 28/01/13

      @Dibbler - oddly enough, respectable women are attracted to respectable men. So if you haven’t met any, you might want to consider whether the fault is theirs or yours.

    • Jen says:

      10:24am | 28/01/13

      “it is present day women that are not likeable”

      “I’ve never met a woman who was respectable.”

      Wow. It doesn’t take much for the hatred some men have for women to appear does it?

    • Rose says:

      10:33am | 28/01/13

      Or…..could it be that now that women are no longer almost forced to marry for financial stability, that they’re not prepared to put up with men who don’t respect them?
      Women don’t think they are better than men, however they do know that they are equal!!

    • Richard M says:

      10:51am | 28/01/13

      Oh, please Jen.  Why is it OK for women to indulge in whatever outrageous, insulting generalisations they like about men, and have it labelled “feminism” but when a man makes an observation about many modern women, he is labelled a woman-hater?
      @Rose, when did this become an excuse to indulge in ridiculous, irrelevant feminist rhetoric?  When did it become impossible to make some comments about the possible faults of modern women without being accused of not respecting women?  Who suggested here that women are not equal? This is just tired sloganeering, which has nothing to do with the subject.

    • Swingdog says:

      11:15am | 28/01/13

      Men = modern victims.

    • Rose says:

      11:29am | 28/01/13

      Richard M and Modern Man…I think you’re both seriously deluded. You have gone on about the faults of modern women but nothing of their virtues. You prattle on as if men are some sort of victims of evil feminism. It’s utterly ridiculous, apart from a handful of radical feminists women have simply sought equality and for the most part we’ve got it, most men support that. Feminism is actually about respect, it is about men and women respecting each other.
      I think it’s just an absolute cop out on some mens’ parts (that would be you two and Dibbler) that they seem to think that every time a woman achieves something, or every time a woman rejects their outdated notions, or every time a relationship fails etc, that it is the fault of feminism. It’s time you blokes took your share of responsibility.
      Truth is, in terms of value men and women are equal, in terms of decency as humans, there’s great men and great women and there also both men and women who are quite horrible. You just need to get over whatever your personal hangups are and start rating people as individuals and not according to gender.

    • Can't we all just get along says:

      12:41pm | 28/01/13

      Rose - I also believe that feminism *was* about fairness and recognition of the equality of our value to society. Also for the right of those who exist in the overlap between the bell curves to avoid being denigrated for choosing that which would normally be associated with the other. I don’t believe that this is still the case.

      Disclosure: I have no issue with “women”, especially because I don’t know that many. I have issue with the feminist rhetoric and lack of understanding that feminism is now the system (the man if you will) and with power comes responsibility.

      The women that these fellas are reacting to are the type who would reject any societal norms and for instance not shave in any way for that is a solid feminist stance, yet bow to pressure to circumcise her male child, leaving him scared for life (it didn’t go to plan, true story). The imbalance in rhetoric for the past few decades may seem justified but it has had an insidious effect that will only become apparent in the years to come.

      Neither side has any high moral ground. We’re both down in the mud together. Shall we just admit it and try to move on together instead of constantly pushing each other back into the filth?

    • Rose says:

      01:20pm | 28/01/13

      Can’t we all just get along…...we should be able to. I absolutely agree that there are some rabid feminists out there that give all women a bad name, just as their are the rabid MRA types who give men a bad name. My problem with what is written by these three men stems from this ; “The women that these fellas are reacting to are the type who would reject any societal norms…..” instead of recognising that these women are in fact the tiniest minority of women these three have tarred all women with the same brush.
      The fact is that most women are far too busy living their lives to be concerned with the extreme fringes of the radical feminist movement, just as most blokes haven’t time for the extreme fringe of MRA groups. Most of us just want respect and consideration as equal partners in this world, male and female!!

    • Fiona says:

      02:08pm | 28/01/13

      Good god, the ridiculous about women that you men are throwing about are almost funny. As rose states! You’re carrying on as if all men are victims of women and feminism. All your comments really show is how bitter you are.
      Oh and you’ve gone way off topic too.

    • Rose says:

      02:26pm | 28/01/13

      Modern Man, the reason we can’t all get along is simply because people like you CHOOSE not to, and yes there are people like you on both sides of the argument. The rest of us however do live in harmony with the opposite gender, respecting people as people and not because of gender. I don’t know what it is that made you so bitter, but if you looked back with open eyes, you’ll probably find that, like all people, you share some of the responsibility for whatever it is that went wrong. I am however, absolutely done with this, you are far too unreasonable to discuss anything with!

    • Warren says:

      02:39pm | 28/01/13

      @Bertrand.

      Pure Gold! Thanks for the link.

    • adolph stalin says:

      03:06pm | 28/01/13

      oh and i must add,both my asian wives grew up here in australia so dont go screaming mail order brides,,not that i see a problem with mail order brides my mates been happily married to 1 for 20 odd years she is a little gem

    • A happy expat. says:

      03:36pm | 28/01/13

      Hey Dibbler “Women are shallow vultures who only want men for there money and status” Is this so ? You should think about going to shop around in Asia. I have been with my lady from the Philippines for well over 20 years and I can assure you that status and money never entered into the equation, ‘cause I have never had neither. And even after retiring you don’t get any status or money on the pension mate. And at an age difference of 30 years I am treated like a king, I guess it is because I treat her like a queen.

    • Rose says:

      05:09pm | 28/01/13

      Thanks Bertrand smile

    • Express runner says:

      09:06am | 28/01/13

      Is it a surprise that grown men don’t love the same book that 13 year old girls love?

    • SAm says:

      09:11am | 28/01/13

      Men dont read it cause its as boring as batshit.
      Men read, just not pretentious crap that is boring, insulting and idiotic.

    • Rose says:

      09:36am | 28/01/13

      So men don’t read sports magazines then, because they are also boring, insulting and idiotic most of the time?
      The only books my husband has ever read are the ones he read to the kids at bed time. He has recently taken to watching some of these historical ‘chick flicks’ and has surprised himself by enjoying most of the ones he has watched.

    • Rose says:

      10:37am | 28/01/13

      Sports magazines are often boring, insulting and idiotic….If you read my comment in the context that it was a direct reply to SAm’s, it should have been pretty bloody obvious.

    • Harry says:

      10:49am | 28/01/13

      Rose, you’re displaying the lighter side of you nature.

    • Glenn9 says:

      09:29am | 28/01/13

      “To celebrate, I’m going to re-read (again) the novel ...”
      Tautology, anyone ? Great writing, love your work.

    • Sam Clench

      Sam Clench says:

      09:34am | 28/01/13

      No actually. She’s saying that this isn’t the first time she’s reread it. Not tautology, technically.

    • Daz says:

      09:32am | 28/01/13

      I haven’t read Pride and Prejudice but I did try to read Fifty Shades of Grey.

      Pretty sure that book would have stayed stuck in the literary mud
      if E L James hadn’t made Christian Grey a wealthy billionaire and CEO of Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc. Can you imagine if she’d met some impoverished undergraduate and he took her back to his shared dive and showed her his tiny broom cupboard full of home made gadgets and improvised toys? 

      All that painful book proved to me is how much shit some women will put up with if you’ve got money and power. And seriously, casting your heroine as a wide-eyed twenty-one year old virgin in this day and age? Well I guess that’s the only way it could have worked. And she did come to her senses in the end. 

      And guys you gotta do this stuff if you want to understand the feminine psyche. Kinda like gathering intelligence. In this case I felt cheated I hadn’t spent the time down in the back shed sawing and nailing stuff together.

    • Katie says:

      10:16am | 28/01/13

      *narrows eyes* You did not just bring up that piece of crap in a P&P forum! Now I feel dirty, and not in a good way…

      I’m a 28 year old female and I honestly don’t understand what’s so appealing about that awful book. The vast majority of my friends who’ve admitted reading it feel the same. I got about three quarters of the way through and couldn’t take any more. Christian Grey is so annoying and arrogant that I wanted to slap him, Anastasia or whatever her name is is a wussy little wuss-face who I also wanted to slap, and the writing is just bad - there’s no other way to describe it. The sex scenes are not sexy. People act like erotica is somehow a new concept! If you just want written porn, there are many other books out there. You don’t have to troll at the bottom of the barrel to find sexual stories - Nora Roberts is a brilliant author who is firmly shoved on the romance shelf, and all her books have a fair bit of erotica. They just have amusing and interesting characterisation too. There’s some great romance and erotica authors. If you’re prepared to wade through a lot of crap to find it, there’s some brilliant fanfiction for free (which is the format in which 50SoG should have stayed)! 50SoG is offensive to women, men, sex, S&M, writing, and tiny puppies everywhere.

      Deep breaths. Sorry. That book just presses my buttons in a bad way.

      I think I’m a little off topic… Anyway, you should cleanse your mind and give P&P a try Daz, because it’s a genuinely great read! And you could gather intelligence with Nora Roberts if you want some modern stuff for intelligence gathering wink

    • Shane says:

      11:12am | 28/01/13

      @ Katie, ultimately the reason why 50 Shades is popular alongside P&P is because the main male character is mind bendingly wealthy. Sure, one expresses its message in archaic witticism and the other in graphic bedroom gymnastics but they deserve to be placed on the shelf next to each other for good reason - they are both about the pursuit of wealthy men.

      I don’t see 50 Shades as being offensive to men - get past the sex and it tells men what is required to be desirable to women. It’s not offensive to women for the same reason. As a gender you can’t have 99% of your opinion of men based on their bank balance and cry foul when some book points that out.

      I for one would like to see some chick lit based on the pursuit of a man who is a good man but isn’t wealthy, and I would like to see that popularised, purchased and lauded like the books about Darcys and Greys. I won’t hold my breath though.

    • Swingdog says:

      11:16am | 28/01/13

      “I haven’t read Pride and Prejudice but I did try to read Fifty Shades of Grey.”


      And that’s where you should have stopped.

    • Daz says:

      11:39am | 28/01/13

      Katie sorry if my comment had that effect on you and I’m off topic I know. My comment was primarily inspired by another comment here wondering if chic lit and flics would work as well if the heroes were poor. Given its enormous popularity among women Fifty Shades was an anticipated exercise in gaining a deeper understanding of the feminine psyche and maybe even female sexuality.

      But I agree it’s a piece of crap. Basic storyline is jaded, older, sexual sociopath (substitute severe emotional retard here if you like) systematically takes advantage of younger innocent woman. 

      My sixteeen year old daughter who is an avid reader was reading it at the same time. No, we didn’t read it together. That would be way too weird as they say. She got to about the fourth chapter then said “Dad, this is shit” and couldn’t read any more. She was absolutely disgusted as you are, at how weak and spineless Anastasia’s character is.That made me a happy dad and I did say things like if any man ever tries to treat you like that tell him where to bloody well get off.

      So what is the fascination? Most women I’ve met are not that deeply into S&M. Some have told me it’s kinda like being married. My guess is it’s the bad boy thing and the secret hope you guys have that you can turn bad boys good.

      Just the same I was glad in the end she came to her senses and that love triumphed over lust. Maybe I will give P&P or Nora Roberts a try one day. Right now I got some sawing and nailing to do.

    • Kerryn says:

      09:38am | 28/01/13

      I can’t read Pride and Prejudice.  I just can’t stomach it.  Especially compared to something like “Little Women/The Good Wives” and the follow up, “Little Men/Jos Boys”.  Sure, they’re a bit dated, but there’s a firm lesson in there about sticking to your morals and trying to be the best you can be (if you can get past the sexism, which is easy when you remember what time period the book was written in).  One thing that makes me chuckle is the number of girls who still think Jo and Laurie should have gotten married.  Anyone who has had a failed relationship will know that those two were in no way suited at all.

    • Fiona says:

      02:18pm | 28/01/13

      For those men that think good stories “don’t work/appeal/sell” or whatever. In the little women series, Meg married a poor man, Jo married a poor man and their father wasn’t rich either. Amy was the only one that married up.

    • Harriet says:

      09:45am | 28/01/13

      I don’t think Thea is making or aiming to make a comment on Australian men at all. If anything she’s saying that she thinks Australian men could and might embrace Pride and Prejudice for all it’s merits. I think that the reason Pride and Prejudice is so firmly fixed in Chick Lit has nothing to do with Mr Darcy being perfect. Rather he’s not. He says the wrong thing at the wrong time, he fails to understand even the most basic of human behavior and is entirely void of the ability to admit he is has faults. There is even a scene in the book dedicated to his faults where the conclusion that Ms Elizabeth Bennett draws is that the one fault he admits to in not really a fault. Jane Austen in Pride and Prejudice makes no secret that Darcy is far from perfect. It is the way that Rom Coms seem to transfer this imperfection to be purely in the eyes of the heroine and her lot. The cult of Mr Darcy has changed the very values and lessons that Jane Austen’s Mr Darcy is meant to learn. And it is this “idealised” Mr Darcy that everyone knows.

      So really Jane Austen should carry no blame for the faults of “modern women” and their “expectations” as some of you claim. Richard M, Captain Wentworth in Persuasion, as man who Anne Elliot wanted to accept from the very beginning, started poor. It was her family, not her who thought his poverty was an issue. She as the heroine was not swayed by money - this meant nothing. In the same book Louisa falls for and marries Benwick who is poorer than her own family.

      So let’s listen to Thea when she says that the modern cult of Darcy is giving some of the most impressive literary works a bad name!

    • Kelly says:

      09:49am | 28/01/13

      If the men feel that P&P is too boring, that nothing happens, there’s always Pride & Prejudice and Zombies… I think both are a great read!

    • Theadora says:

      09:50am | 28/01/13

      I love Little Women too, and agree with you about the moral teachings. Although its much more serious than Pride and Prejudice. P&P is more of a comedy. It satirises the process of courtship and the snobbery of the time. Mrs Bennett is mercilessly made fun of by Jane Austen for being such a materialistic snob and gold digging for her daughters.

    • stephen says:

      10:30am | 28/01/13

      Sharon Ghidella the newsreader reckons she has read this book more times than she cares to remember.
      (Got, er, a good memory have we, um, Sharon ?)

      It was written in 1813, but apart from Scott’s comment, no other famous person said anything about it.
      Hazlitt said nothing, Wordsworth was quiet, Shelley was uninterested, the normally critical Lord Byron was oblivious, (Keats was coughing) and I think that if it wasn’t for the 20th Century and all the little Jane Austen Society yearly banquets and roses, she would have been mistaken for a colouring book competion, without the colour ... that is, one half of a book for children, but only the reading bits survived.
      Her books rely in the visual imagination to be interesting.
      The sentences are too long, the characters have feelings but no action comes from them, and the mysteries of motive and drawing-room play is left up to the readers via the visual cue : the scene, any scene in her books, is photographic, and at best she would have made, in our day, a cracking good scriptwriter.
      Now, Ms. Fabricius, George Eliot, (and most readers have not even heard of this one, being, well, all head-over-heals in love with love - and that last bit is only what Eyre will give you : a feeling of warmth but no fire, of shelter but no barn, of compassion but no object - ) is the writer most writers aspire to be : her characters, together and apart, have the capacity to show and experience the full gamut of humanity.
      George Eliot is miles better than Jane Eyre, and I suspect that if you had read The Mill On The Floss instead of those silly Law Studies my dear, then your standards may have risen ... just like my hackles !

    • Theadora says:

      10:57am | 28/01/13

      Hi Stephen, I haven’t read Mill on The Floss yet although it is near the top of my “to read” list as it has been recommended often. I did very much enjoy Daniel Deronda by George Elliot though. Both the book and the bC tv adaption. I think Elliot was quite a different style of writer to Austen. I can understand why you prefer her, but I am happy to see that you’ve read some Austen before writing her off. Thanks for your contribution, which is about the merits of the actual book, not the merits of its readers!
      Cheers, Thea

    • St. Michael says:

      02:33pm | 28/01/13

      “It was written in 1813, but apart from Scott’s comment, no other famous person said anything about it.”

      Mark Twain said that every time he read the book, he formed a desire to dig up Austen’s corpse and hit her skull over the head with her thigh bone.  Not that he was anyone famous…

    • stephen says:

      04:37pm | 28/01/13

      Well I did not know that Twain said that, and perhaps others did refer to her books.

      By the way, I do know a better book than anything Jane wrote : Huckleberry Finn ... and I have never met a female who likes it.

    • PowderedToastman says:

      11:04am | 28/01/13

      I find Austen excruciatingly boring (until the genius of adding zombies into the narrative that is), and don’t really see what the author’s problem is. I love Hemingway, Conrad, Cormac McCarthy and other equally masculine writers of literature. Whilst I know that many women also love these writers, many do not, and they are not really missing out on anything by not reading something that they won’t enjoy.
      Just as I find the Austen’s witty repartee of upper middle-class 19th century England to be utterly trivial, I my wife finds McCarthy’s vivid descriptions of massacres of native americans to be quite revolting.

    • Paul M says:

      11:10am | 28/01/13

      “In most long-term romances we realize that Mr Perfect actually isn’t quite so perfect. Darcy, on the other hand, is too perfect – so perfect that every girl who reads Pride and Prejudice falls hopelessly in love with him.”

      Mr Darcy is a dull, stupid man. A complete cypher. And (obviously) brilliant satire. A man so dull and priggish that his sisters are not allowed to use his given name. And you just know that the reason he is rich is that he is completely heartless towards his tenant farmers. His only qualification is that he is staggeringly rich, and even that is not enough until Elizabeth visits his estate for herself and see just how rich ten thousand a year really is.

      P&P is nasty, nasty, nasty, and the nasty sort of creeps up on you after you read it. (here’s a hint: what was Elizabeth’s professed attitude towards marrying for love? How did she react when one of her sisters went ahead and did it?)

      That’s why its a masterpiece.

    • Chris says:

      11:23am | 28/01/13

      There is heaps of quality literature that blokes like and the girls scoff at… and we don’t get all upset and snooty and suggest that the girls are missing something (like a brain) for not getting into it.
      what is it about chicks that they think blokes have to like all the same stuff they like?

    • Don says:

      11:26am | 28/01/13

      Heathcliff would have whooped Darcy’s butt.

    • St. Michael says:

      02:45pm | 28/01/13

      Kurtz and Marlow would’ve shot both of them and then eaten their corpses.

    • Robert S McCormick says:

      11:41am | 28/01/13

      Here we go again! Another anti-male rant! Just because the type of stories Jane Austen wrote do not appeal to men you have written us all of as unintelligent bogans. Yes, I have read all Dickens, Eliot, Bronte, Austen, Thackeray, Lawrence, Wilde, Joyce, Trollope, Du Maurier, Buchan, Collins, Tolstoy, Christie, Graham, Gainham. I still have all their books. To mention just a few, we have read such serious books as Shirer’s “The Rise & Fall of the Third Reich”, Rich’s “Hitler’s War Aims”, Churchill’s “History of The English Speaking People”, Macaulays “History of England”. I grew up in Ireland the Geography & History of Australia, Our Constitution took pride of place. I knew more about Australia by the time I was 10 than I did of my own country, Ireland, & , for us, the accursed English.
      So please leave your prejudice & anti-male attitudes where they belong: In your own mind.
      In this The Age of the Feminists, women seem to think that they can say whatever they like about men so long as it denigrates & insults them.
      Let a Male say one word, of even the mildest criticism, look at his watch or anything else & some female will interpret that as the Male having the almighty gall to ignore them which she interprets as us being Sexist or, even worse, Misogynist.
      Sure, not all men are well-read but that can also every bit as equally be said of wimmen.

    • Warren says:

      02:33pm | 28/01/13

      “Let a Male say one word, of even the mildest criticism, look at his watch or anything else & some female will interpret that as the Male having the almighty gall to ignore them which she interprets as us being Sexist or, even worse, Misogynist.”

      Yup, because men are never allowed to express their opinions are they?

    • stephen says:

      11:48am | 28/01/13

      Daniel Deronda is a very difficult book, and not only because it was Eliot’s last.
      The main character, Daniel, was based on George Henry Lewes who was her husband, (though out of wedlock) and he was, too, Jewish, which made her rendition of Daniel extremely subtle.
      (Jews were then in England still a hidden force.)

      There is no character that I can think of in Jane Eyre’s books who does not do anything that is really and only contrived as a force of nature ... things they do is of because the actions of another, which ensure a commensurate response for the sake of plausibility.
      But there, therefore, is no heroic gesture in her books, and nothing is even really futile.
      There is no life at stake, only a reputation.
      Her books are very un-natural because of this, and I wished to read a character who had some seeds of destiny within them that came off the page, and was not completely and utterly at the whim of the author.

    • TheHuntress says:

      01:39pm | 28/01/13

      Jane Eyre? Written by Charlotte Bronte? I love Jane Eyre, but I suspect many here wouldn’t as really she is an early feminist. Although, after all the rants here about women only being interested in wealth, it might help that Jane returns to Mr. Rochester after his estate has been burned down by his mad wife and has himself suffered burns, lost his vision and a hand?

      I suspect, however, you are referring to Austen. I do like your analysis of P&P, but I also think it’s helpful to put the book within the context of the age it was written in. During those times, for women in particular, they did have to wait for things to happen to them and reputation in the upper classes was equivilent to life. It won’t change whether you actually enjoy the book or not, but I believe context helps alot.

      Thank you for the thoughtful reasoning.

    • Paul M says:

      04:09pm | 28/01/13

      “There is no life at stake, only a reputation.”

      To women of that class at that time, reputation *was* life. Without a father and then husband to maintain her, a woman might have no choice but to go into (*shudder*) service. That is - become a household servant. Hopefully one with some authority, but still a servant.

    • stephen says:

      04:31pm | 28/01/13

      Thank you Ms. Huntress ... ‘jane eyre’s books’.
      I like to lay traps for the younger readers, but this time I trapped myself.

      I should have said P&P.

    • Matt says:

      11:49am | 28/01/13

      I wonder how many women have read Sun Tzu’s The Art of War?

    • stephen says:

      12:06pm | 28/01/13

      My wife has.
      (Her nickname’s ‘battleax.’)

    • Sam says:

      11:52am | 28/01/13

      I think it is a sad day when we have to ‘gender’ literature, and that is the point Theadora is making. This is not a ‘chicks’ book simply because of the gender of its author or the content that modern adaptations have chosen to focus on. The point of this article is to ask people to read this book as a book, not coming from any preconceived notion of its contents or expectations abouts the gender roles it may or may not outline, and when we do that, we see its value as a work of literature. Congrats on a really well written article Theadora, I hope your message falls on some ears willing to receive it in the spirit it was written.

    • Diogenes says:

      11:56am | 28/01/13

      IN year 11, whilst attend a Boys’ High we were made to read P&P by a female English teacher, and we were getting the “great work of literature”, “witty”, “reflection of the mores of the time” line of BS fed to us. Boy did she ever get a debate, and surprisingly about 3/4 of the way through she need to take “medical” leave. She was replaced by a male teacher. I will never forget his first lesson with us. After he introduced himself he said he understood we were doing P&P, on receiving confirmation this was so, I will never forget what he “Boys, read this book to understand the female mind, -  being rich cancels out all faults. You can be an obnoxious, boring, pompous (insert robust language indicating an unpleasant person) and women will still tell themselves they love you.

      Discuss…

    • Fiona says:

      02:29pm | 28/01/13

      Well your 2nd teacher should’ve kept his BS opinions to himself. Your original teacher gave opinions on the book, whether or not you agreed with them is up to you. Your 2nd teacher gave his own opinions on a gender which was ethically wrong.

    • Alby says:

      04:13pm | 28/01/13

      Fiona,
      The first teacher didn’t need to opine on the book, if the students were reading it and the second teacher was just telling the truth.
      Why are his opinions BS but hers are not?

    • Fiona says:

      05:50pm | 28/01/13

      She was confining herself to the books when she talked about them. Yes it was only her opinion and as such probably not necessary, although a lot of other readers have also loved the books. She wasn’t putting anyone down either. The other teacher was only giving his own opinion too as well as putting a whole gender down. Big difference.. Bet you’d be squealing if the first teacher had managed to put men down.
      So do you think it’s ok for someone to tell a bunch of kids that all women are after is money, knowing that they will be trying to form relationships with women in the future?
      Shakes head.

    • Theadora says:

      12:04pm | 28/01/13

      Thanks Sam! You’re absolutely correct about the point of my article. I never intended to insult any guys. Just trying to say they shouldn’t feel embarrassed about reading a good book if they want to. I think it’s a shame people label pride and prejudice as chick lit when it is something which can be enjoyed by all people regardless of gender. Doesn’t mean I’m telling anyone they have to read it if they don’t fancy it. And i’m definitely not saying more men should be like Mr Darcy.

    • Shane From Melbourne says:

      12:10pm | 28/01/13

      Neuromancer by William Gibson. That is the only literature you ever need to read…....

    • stephen says:

      12:29pm | 28/01/13

      ‘No romance’ by Henry Gibson is even a better masterpiece, (that is, if a better masterpiece is even possible.)

    • W J Craig (Mrs) says:

      12:29pm | 28/01/13

      Rose,
      If, as you claim, feminism is all about respect: men respecting women & women respecting men then I am afraid that message has been lost by most women who claim tobe feminists!
      Feminists, including the Self-Proclaimed Goddess of Feminism, Germaine Greer, have never show men any respect. They have constantly criticised them, insulted them, put them down for no other reason than that they are male. The when some male comes along who does treat you with respect you accuse him of pandering. Grow up.
      Stop the pathetic attitude you have all adopted & men might just start showing you the respect you claim you show men - but fail to do.

    • Modern Man says:

      12:45pm | 28/01/13

      Touche to Mrs Craig. Some can see without being blinded by idealism.

    • Rose says:

      01:09pm | 28/01/13

      Feminism IS about respect…..individuals who may describe themselves may not be respectful, it’s important to note the difference. Greer and her ilk needed to be the ‘ball-breakers’ at a time when feminism was just starting to break down otherwise seemingly unpenetrable barriers. Their problem is that the barriers are pretty much all gone and now, in order to remain ‘relevant’ they stir up trouble whenever they can get away with it. From memory Greer’s last public outing was to pick on the PM’s butt.
      I do not have a pathetic attitude, quite the opposite in fact. My attitude is simply that people should be afforded respect based on who they are, what they do and how they treat others, not because of gender. I have never ever accused any man of pandering that I can recall, least of all because he showed some one, any one, respect. If I have ever accused some one of pandering it would have been because they weren’t showing respect, they were in fact pandering to some one….you see, I do know the difference!!
      I get shown enormous respect by men, particularly those I have worked with. The men I associate with treat people as people, not as men vs women pawns in some one’s pathetic little game. I suggest you go back and re-read all the posts and then explain to me why I’m at fault for answering some men back who basically insulted all of modern day womankind without me resorting to insulting anyone other than, possibly if you wish to take it that way, these three men.
      Feminism is about respect, you could clearly learn something from most feminists as most feminists are just ordinary women who wanted to be valued and respected for the equal contribution that they make to society.

    • Chris says:

      12:45pm | 28/01/13

      “I have not the pleasure of understanding you. Of what are you talking?”
      Mr Bennett is one of the great characters in literature.

    • Clay says:

      12:49pm | 28/01/13

      Totally agree. It was even one of Churchill’s favourite novels. But you lost me at “No other author has ever written with such skill.” Myself, and any other rational person could name fifty of the top of their head.

    • Theadora says:

      01:19pm | 28/01/13

      @Clay. When i said no other writer has written with such skill I meant that specifically in regard to the way Austen is able to capture the everyday mundanities of life and make them interesting. No other author, in my opinion, has done that so well. I didnt mean it generally. But that was probably a fault in my phrasing not in your interpretation. Clearly I at least don’t have as much skill as Austen!

    • Daz says:

      02:14pm | 28/01/13

      In that case Theadora maybe it should be compulsory reading for all aussie soap script writers. God knows we could do with a little less over-manufactured drama.

    • Theadora says:

      02:32pm | 28/01/13

      @Daz, I’d support that!!

    • mick says:

      02:23pm | 28/01/13

      that woman described me perfectly except she missed the fact that I now despise women.i wont hire them,i wont open a door and I certainly wont stand up for one.reap what you have sown.i own 10 hair salons and I only hire men.women,you have kicked yourselves in the arse.yer you have your women only gyms so ill hire who ever I damn well please.

    • St. Michael says:

      04:27pm | 28/01/13

      “There are countless places in the book where you cannot help but laugh out loud, and the characters’ witty dialogue echoes in your head long after you’ve turned the page. No other author has ever written with such skill.”

      Sure there has.  His name was Eddie Murphy.  There are countless places in his “Delirious” and “Raw” writing where you (a) can’t help but laugh out loud, and (b) where his characters’ dialogue echoes in your head long after the show is over.  (Oh, and to address your qualified retreat from your earlier comments, Eddie Murphy made the day-to-day stuff funny as hell.)

      But if you want haunting and memorable, with images, dialogue, and themes that ring true like well-made crystal and are guaranteed to move most men, and particularly fathers if not their sons in the modern era: read “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy.  There is a good reason why it won the Pulitzer, and it’s not because McCarthy spurns the precious literati crowd.

      Give the old authors their due: they accomplished brilliant things.  But the good authors of the present day stand on their shoulders.

    • stephen says:

      04:50pm | 28/01/13

      I’m re-reading Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson.
      I bought it 2 weeks ago -  I first read it in ‘82 for a university course in Toowoomba - and it was then my favourite book for about 10 years.

      I’m half way through, and I think it will regain that shine.
      (I don’t read novels anymore ; except going back over old stuff.’ The Mill On The Floss’ gets flossed at least once-a-year.  And so does ‘The Tree Of Man’.)

    • Katherine Grant says:

      05:47pm | 28/01/13

      Dibbler et al,  I am getting close to seventy so, hardly a ‘modern’ woman.
      However, I have a ‘modern’ daughter, three ‘modern’ neices, four ‘modern’ nephews and several ‘modern’ female friends all of whom are in strong marriages or relationships.  On their behalf I am grossly insulted and outraged by your ignorant and rude comments.

    • stephen says:

      06:26pm | 28/01/13

      ‘Dibbler et al’ ?
      No dibbler there.
      Do you mean dribbler ?

    • PsychoHyena says:

      06:28pm | 28/01/13

      Who says we could never emulate Mr Darcy? The problem is that anyone who does is labelled fake.

    • Kim Possible says:

      06:48pm | 28/01/13

      I am an avid reader, and I’d love to hear from others any recommendations of well written stories of any genre and style!

      I enjoyed P&P but equally I also enjoyed William Gibson. As long as its intelligent and well written, it doesn’t matter the genre.

      What else can punchers recommend?

    • stephen says:

      06:58pm | 28/01/13

      By the way, nice name.
      Thought of ringing Hollywood, for a patent ?

 

Facebook Recommendations

Read all about it

Punch live

Up to the minute Twitter chatter

Recent posts

The latest and greatest

The Punch is moving house

The Punch is moving house

Good morning Punchers. After four years of excellent fun and great conversation, this is the final post…

Will Pope Francis have the vision to tackle this?

Will Pope Francis have the vision to tackle this?

I have had some close calls, one that involved what looked to me like an AK47 pointed my way, followed…

Advocating risk management is not “victim blaming”

Advocating risk management is not “victim blaming”

In a world in which there are still people who subscribe to the vile notion that certain victims of sexual…

Nosebleed Section

choice ringside rantings

From: Hasbro, go straight to gaol, do not pass go

Tim says:

They should update other things in the game too. Instead of a get out of jail free card, they should have a Dodgy Lawyer card that not only gets you out of jail straight away but also gives you a fat payout in compensation for daring to arrest you in the first place. Instead of getting a hotel when you… [read more]

From: A guide to summer festivals especially if you wouldn’t go

Kel says:

If you want a festival for older people or for families alike, get amongst the respectable punters at Bluesfest. A truly amazing festival experience to be had of ALL AGES. And all the young "festivalgoers" usually write themselves off on the first night, only to never hear from them again the rest of… [read more]

Gentle jabs to the ribs

Superman needs saving

Superman needs saving

Can somebody please save Superman? He seems to be going through a bit of a crisis. Eighteen months ago,… Read more

28 comments

Newsletter

Read all about it

Sign up to the free News.com.au newsletter