Out last week is the graphic novel version of Jane Austen’s famed Pride and Prejudice and got us at B3 wondering, what inspires so many versions of this classic tale?
Austen authored 6 novels in total, starting with Sense and Sensibility in 1811 and her final 2 novels Northanger Abbey and Persuasion posthumously in 1817. Pride and Prejudice was her second novel and originally published in 1812, although it is said that Ms. Austen worked on the novel for 12 years before its publication. All her novels are well-known thanks to classic story-lines, college lit classes and the numerous movie versions.
If you somehow live under a rock and are not familiar with the basic story of Pride and Prejudice, the quick and dirty is the five Bennet sisters are in need of husbands if the Bennet family is to keep its standing in genteel country society. Mrs. Bennet begins to aggressively match up her daughters to ensure the family fortunes. Elizabeth Bennet is the second oldest of the five sisters and she is a feisty one. She becomes acquainted with Dr. Darcy, an uppity, wealth, genuine bachelor at a dance. Here is where Austen may have forever changed the course of storytelling, creating a love/hate relationship full of misunderstandings between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy that has become the foundation of almost every romantic comedy written or filmed since. Austen, famous for the complexity of her characters’ relationships throws in another dozen characters into the mix and mayhem ensues.
In 1940, Laurence Olivier played Mr. Darcy and Colin Firth shot to fame after his Dr. Darcy portrayal in the 1995 BBC version, which was the fourth BBC version. Aishwarya Rai played an Indian Elizabeth Bennet in the Bollywood version, Bride and Prejudice. And of course, Renee Zwelleger brought Heidi Fielding’s Bridget Jones Diary to celluloid in 2001.
In the last couple of years, Pride and Prejudice has become a popular literary mash-up source. Pride and Prejudice with Zombies made quite splash in 2009 and other mash-ups have been turning out a lot quicker than Zombies move. Now you can find Really Angelic, Pride and Prejudice with a Paranormal Twist and Mr. Darcy, Vamprye. There is even a rumored film in the works that is a mash-up of Pride and Prejudice with Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 1987’s Predator.
Why does Austen’s novel receive all this attention? The love story is as simple and universal as Romeo and Juliet. The themes of class, reputation and love are as potent in today’s society as Austen’s. The manners may be outdated but don’t we all long for a little courtship in our lives?