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Download ebook: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

A funny reviewer at Goodreads sums up Pride and Prejudice in a few darn good lines:

“Girls need to marry. Girls can’t get married. Girls are sad. Girls get married. Girls are happy.”

That’s an honest-to-god review of Jane Auten’s classic. The reviewer’s words are proven and undisputed as Kevin Bacon would put it (as he did in A Few Good Men). Yet there is something more to the story. Ah, actually there is a lot more.

The Usual Lovers

Pride and Prejudice is an unforgettable love story with some typical tensions and stumbling blocks found in most romantic novels. However, Elizabeth and Darcy’s love story has some deeper elements as well. Their journey is filled with irony.

Elizabeth says she is not someone who rejects a guy only to accept him later. But this is exactly what she does with Darcy. While the first line of the novel states that “a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife”, we find that a single woman needs a man of good fortune more desperately. Darcy detests the ill-bred behaviour of the Bennet family, but his own Aunt is no better. Elizabeth takes pride in her judgement, which results in her unjustified prejudice against Darcy.

Though there is no explicit symbolism in the story, the love story serves as a tool for social commentary.

Thou Art Proletariat

The importance of reputation and class in Victorian society is emphasised time and again. Though the middle class Bennet family socializes with aristocrats like Darcy and Bingleys, they are clearly treated as inferiors. The snobbish Mr. Collins is another product of the class system.

Do you think class is still a decisive factor today when it comes to relationships? Of course, a Paris Hilton is not going to marry a loser, but then how far can someone go beyond his own league?

Comedy of Wits

Darcy’s pride and Elizabeth’s prejudice against him make an intelligent story supported by lots of quotable quotes.

“I could easily forgive his pride, if he had not mortified mine.” — Elizabeth on Darcy.

Well said Liz.

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Classics Revisited: Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

Franz Kfka Metamorphosis

What if you wake up one morning to find yourself transformed into an enormous insect? What if your life suddenly takes a frighteningly different turn?

Alienation of the Condemned

Kafka’s classic is a dark fantasy with some absurdist humor. Metamorphosis is an apparently simple but bizarre story, which works on so many levels that no one’s too sure how to interpret it. But the primary theme is alienation of an individual in a society that is too afraid to accept changes. Metamorphosis would remind you Camus’ The Outsider, which deals with the same theme.

Gregor’s (The protagonist) metamorphosis isolates him from the rest of the society, and he is no longer a part of the established system. A psychological barrier separates him from his family and the people around him. However, it’s later revealed that his metamorphosis and consequent alienation is an extension of a long term feeling.

Anarchy in the Universe 

The cause of Gregor’s predicament is never explained. A seemingly fair, dutiful fellow turns into a giant insect for no apparent reason. Kafka strongly suggests the existence of a chaotic universe, which functions in an illogical and chaotic manner. The absurdity of life is highlighted with surprisingly effective symbolism.

In Search of an Existentialist life

Pre-metamorphosis: Samsa’s  life is miserable because family, society, and duties are most important to him and in the process he neglects his own existence. He is little more than a machine.

Post-metamorphosis: Samsa focuses too much on himself and is cut-off from the society. His life lacks purpose and becomes absurd.

The poor fellow struggles to live a meaningful and balanced life; so eventually he ceases to exist. The existentialist philosophers would say Samsa was not an an acting, feeling, living individual but someone with confused priorities in a world that might look frighteningly meaningless.

You, Me & Samsa

Readers can easily identify with the trapped, estranged, and lonely Gregor Samsa. If Dostoevsky had written an allegorical work of speculative fiction, he couldn’t have portrayed a more embittered protagonist with a more realistic agony. At the end of the day, are we not feeling a bit like Kafka’s Samsa or Camus’s Meursault?

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Forgotten classic: La Morte Amoureuse by Théophile Gautier

theophile gautier la morte amoureuse

Théophile Gautier (1811-1872) was a French poet, novelist, and critic who profoundly influenced French literature of his time. He was an ardent supporter of Romanticism and was blessed with fantastic poetic imagination. This is best exhibited in Gautier’s gothic fiction — La Morte Amoureuse (Clarimonde), The Mummy’s Foot, and Avatar to name a few. He was held in high esteem by prominent literary figures like Gustave Flaubert, Baudelaire, Balzac, and Oscar Wilde. Gautier was the director of Revue de Paris from 1851-1856.

La Morte Amoureuse is a classic Gothic vampire tale with numerous references to Orientalism. It delineates the story of a priest named Romuald, who is seduced by a beautiful woman — Clarimonde. With time, it becomes clear that Romuald’s beloved is a vampire, who thrives on his blood. While alive, she was a courtesan living in Palace Concini — a place of great debauchery. Romuald, however, lives with no regrets. He ends up being a two-face: a priest during day and a lover to an undead at night. Finally, an older priest becomes aware of the situation, digs out Clarimonde from her grave, and turns her to dust with holy water. Clarimonde comes back to Romauld one last time that night and tells him he would regret this all his life, but won’t get her back. The vampire’s prophecy turns out to be true as Romuald lives with a broken heart for the rest of his life.

This novella is an established classic and is bound to leave an impression on the lovers of gothic literature.

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Download ebook: Don Quixote by Cervantes (PDF)

Don Quixote - Old Penguin Cover

It’s just absurd to review Don Quixote. It’ll suffice to say that Cervantes messes with your head and kicks ass bigtime.

The author maligns his protagonist, makes everyone despise him, and relentlessly passes judgment on Quixote’s failures and flaws in a cynical way. But Cervantes martyrs Quixote in such a dramatic fashion that the hero transcends to the level of a pure and noble individual. Any 500-year old book that can pull that off is worth 950 pages of difficult prose.

The book could have been a bit slimmer, but remember it’s an oldie. Marilyn Monroe might have dropped fifteen pounds to scorch the screen now, but 1950s didn’t demand it. Quixote, no matter how dumb & fat he is, should be on your bookshelf.

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