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Revisit a Classic for the Holiday: Pride and Prejudice as Primary Source

Elizabeth Bennett ornament

"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife."

Over the last 200 years, this has become one of the most famous first lines in world literature. Readers of all ages return again and again to Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice (1813) and the sharp-witted wisdom of its narrator, Elizabeth Bennet. What does this protagonist teach us about her world that so draws us in, even two centuries later? And how can students use this text as a "primary" source to learn about Austen's time?

This holiday, as you take a much-deserved break, recharge by revisiting the novel that is perhaps one of the most widely reimagined stories of all time.

Beyond seeing considerable success during Austen's lifetime (although the author saw little of the profits), Pride and Prejudice has been memorialized in the 20th century in hundreds of speculative fiction spinoffs and television and big-screen adaptations, where numerous versions have endured from the early 1930s to today. Despite the flashy period costumes and lively scenes on film, none can truly replace the original text. Among many lessons on social mores of the time, Pride and Prejudice provides detailed insight into the lives of women, particularly those belonging to the class known as the landed gentry, in early 19th-century England—the same class to which Austen and her family belonged.

Use the Literature Connections resources, in the Perspectives drop-down menu on the left, to support student understanding of this classic in the library and classroom. Literature Connections provide readers with the historical background for such definitive novels as Pride and Prejudice, helping students make connections between history and the novel through essential questions and multiple perspectives. These resources will help students work with the novel as a primary source to learn about the social and economic history of early 19th-century England—including how property law and inheritance rights impacted the economic statuses of women and families and other major concerns faced by women of the time regarding marriage, education, and behavioral expectations. A bonus biography of Austen offers an interesting comparison to the world she presents in the novel. The accompanying Instruction will help you make the best of these resources and provides ideas to get students to think more deeply about this enduring story.

Fatima Policarpo

Entry ID: 2185332

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