2024 Reading Challenge

2024 Reading Challenge
Jill Elizabeth has read 1 book toward her goal of 285 books.

2023 Reading Challenge

2023 Reading Challenge
Jill Elizabeth has read 5 books toward her goal of 265 books.

Homework Assignment Eight: Theme

Continuing the series of writing exercises inspired by Susan Breen’s The Fiction Class, today we are moving on to theme.  For more information on the book and this series of posts, please check out the original book review here.

Theme: Choose a novel or short story that you like and try to discover its theme. How does the author get the theme across? Title? Plot? Names of characters?


WARNING: SPOILER stuff here. Although I don’t know how many people reading my blog haven’t read/seen/been forcibly made familiar with this one by now, I will still provide the warning. 😉

Pride and Prejudice
by Jane Austen

Theme: Don’t judge a book by its cover – or there is usually more than meets the eye

The theme is relayed through the title (both the final title and the original, which was “First Impressions”), the plot/story development, character names, and even the book’s structureAusten uses all of these tools to distinguish her characters and their particular foibles.

The title words (final and original) speak for themselves.

The plot and storyline move at a quick pace early on, hustling the reader into meeting Mr. Darcy and the Bingleys and throwing Jane and Elizabeth Bennett into their paths in situations in which the girls hear and see more of the inner workings of the Darcy/Bingley crowd much quicker than polite social mores would support. This is exemplified by Elizabeth overhearing Darcy’s negative comments about her from their first meeting on, as well as by the Bennett sisters’ forced overnight visit to Netherfield when Jane gets sick.

Consider just the primary characters. Fitzwilliam Darcy. Eliza Bennett. His name feels formal and rigid and gentrified. Hers feels common and casual and simple. Yet he turns out to be a surprisingly down-to-earth fellow who disdains much of what he seems to exemplify and she is much more complex and sophisticated in her opinions and feelings than her name suggests.

As for structure, both physical makeup and literary content also contribute to the overall thematic presentation. The book is not excessively long, yet unpacking the myriad examples of misinterpretations, overexaminations, and misunderstandings due to hastily-formed opinions and prejudicial statements/actions can be a task for semesters if not years. And consider the first sentence: “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” Right off the bat the reader is provided with a statement that is deceptively simplistic. While it is true that all of the main characters do, in fact, prove it to be a truism by marrying by the end, I think most readers would agree that the statement is not as simple as it purports, as the reasons for and against marriage in multiple contexts prove to be much more complex than simply a matter of a man wanting a woman to check off the marriage box (e.g., Mr. Collins pursuit of Jane then Eliza then finally his marriage to Charlotte Lucas; Mr. Bingley’s on-then-off-then-on-again pursuit of Jane; Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth throughout).

Overall, Austen does a remarkable job of weaving together a series of seemingly disparate tools to present (and reinforce) her theme. There’s a reason the book lies at the heart of many a school curriculum, after all… 😉

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