This semester I had the rare pleasure of being assigned a book I:
a) Had already read
b) Actually liked
c) Learned something from
Not to sound like I never learn something from books; I love books, I love reading. But I’ve had to read some not so fun works over my two years here at BU (looking at you, Descartes) and it’s always refreshing to come across a literary classic with some life lessons and a badass heroine.
Enter Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice starring the fantabulous Elizabeth Bennet and my personal favorite, fictional, haughty, hottie, Mr. Darcy. Originally published in 1813, a time when women had little to no say in their life decisions, Elizabeth stood out as a rebellious female character willing to challenge the social standards of the society she lived in. I first read Pride and Prejudice in high school as a senior, and was so focused on just getting through the book and continuing my senioritis I didn’t really take in as much as I probably should have (did fine on the test though, and that’s all that mattered, amirite?). But when I saw it on the syllabus for one my classes this spring, I was excited to peruse it again mainly because I didn’t have to stress about reading it in a timely fashion. Ironically though, it’s the book I ended up spending the most time on because of how much I enjoyed it.
Since I have gotten to college, I’ve started caring more about my own personal philosophies and Miss Bennet really spoke to me about the importance of my own voice and decisions. So without further ado, here are the best things I learned from this fierce protagonist.
1. Other people’s opinion of you don’t matter
Elizabeth’s ability to think for herself and not care about how the world viewed her goes against the majority of what I see in college. We all focus so much on how we’re perceived by our peers. Be it with our Facebook page, our photos on Instagram, or how many people follow us on Twitter, we constantly look for validation, myself included. For Elizabeth, how she sees herself is more important than how others see her. She would rather be proud of the decisions she makes than worry about if they’re what is regarded as cool. For example, Lizzie walks (*gasp*) to the Bingley’s in order to see her sick sister. This leads to the hem of her dress getting covered in mud and her face to be flushed from exercise (*double gasp*). While the snotty Bingley sisters snidely remark about her appearance, Darcy thinks the glow from her trek makes her super, mega, foxy hot- ok that’s not the exact quote but whatever. Lizzie does what she wants even if it goes against the grain of society and you should too.
2. Don’t be afraid to say what you think
It’s so easy to just be silent when you hear things you disagree with, especially if it’s by someone of definitely higher rank than you. But that doesn’t stop Elizabeth from voicing her opinion to good old Lady Catherine de Bourgh which surprises the pantaloons off her. Now, I’m not encouraging anyone to stand up in a lecture and start arguing with a professor because you don’t like what he/she is saying, but don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself and your beliefs. I’m the person who would rather not say what’s bothering me in order not to rock the boat, per se, but in the end I regret not standing up for myself. If the person cares about you, they’ll respect your decision to speak your mind and addressing an issue you’re having.
3. First impressions can be wrong
I mean the title of the book deals with this, Pride and Prejudice; it’s Elizabeth’s prejudice that blinds her from seeing how amazeballs Mr. Darcy really is and it then takes a super long letter from Darcy to set the woman straight. So maybe let’s all stop being so judgmental of one another. Guess what, you don’t know everything about a person from one encounter with him/her (shocker, I know). I will admit that I did not like a lot of the people I now consider my best friends the first time I met them. I despised some of them in the beginning (sorry, guys), and if I hadn’t given them a second chance, I probably wouldn’t have some of the greatest friendships I’m lucky to have. Don’t write a person off just because they like Jack Johnson, there’s more to them than that one bad decision.
4. It’s ok to admit you like someone
The fact that this is something I had to fully recognize from a book written in the 1800s is pathetic. But come on, everyone tells you that if you like someone to hide that forever because if you tell a person you have feelings for him/her, they might hurt you. Ughhhhh. People. This is such an absurd thing we do these days. If Elizabeth can openly say she wants to marry Fitzwilliam (Darcy’s perfect first name), you can buck up and ask the person you’ve been texting for weeks if he/she would like to grab a cup of coffee. I have faith that the world will not end if the response is no. In fact, you’ll be able to move on with your life and find someone who is willing to get a cup of coffee with you.
5. You can say no
I myself am a person who will just say yes to things I really have no interest in doing/time for just to appease a person (or get them to stop talking, one of the two). But Elizabeth taught me it is completely fine to say no. There is no law saying you have to go to every single brunch you are invited to. Lizzie said no to a freaking marriage proposal when marriage is the only thing that guaranteed her a roof over her head for life. You are not obligated to always make every person in your life happy. You are allowed to do something for yourself once in a while and not worry about another person’s feelings. Not sure this is coming out exactly how I want it to, but the point is you do not have to always do what every person asks of you. There will always be another opportunity to help your friend train for that half marathon.
Overall, I’d say Elizabeth opened my eyes to the importance of independence and that it’s ok to look out for yourself. If it means I’ll marry someone like Mr. Darcy, count me in.