Critical Reading: Pride & Prejudice today
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Amid protests fighting against discrimination, it’s important to understand why the message in Pride & Prejudice is still important now.
When the lockdown started, I, as I’m sure many others have, ran out of things to watch on Netflix relatively quickly. Then, I turned to something I’d taken far too long a break from: reading.
I am reminded of its importance, and the broad sense that books, from fantasy to non-fiction, all share a common purpose: to teach.
We teach in the hopes that others will learn; not only how to progress, but also how to recognize mistakes in history to avoid making them again.
My favourite teacher in high school taught me about literature: how to dissect it, recognize styles and strategies, and how to pull a central message from a story. Mrs. Light taught me what a theme really is in a book: not a couple of words put together (as a Wikipedia analysis might lead you to believe), but rather a universal truth. One that, once acknowledged, can change a mindset forever.
While exploring new and old texts, I can’t help but remind myself that these messages are still prevalent today, in a time of strife and injustice that could be changed by individual reflection.
I think of Elizabeth Bennet, and the thesis I wrote years ago about her journey.
“Elizabeth lets her pride cloud her judgment when she is handling conflicts, and shows that humans should not make decisions based on prejudice because it will hinder their ability to be truly happy.”
This is what I thought then, and it is still what I think now. However, the message here becomes wildly more complicated when we add in the factors of privilege, heavy-handed history, discrimination, and structural racism.
The truth remains, however, that a life led clouded by prejudice will hinder one’s ability to form a utilitarian life; and in a more current sense, prejudice can lead to the deaths of innocent civilians.I want to urge people not to say that they aren’t racist because they don’t “see colour,” and that rather than trying to move forward from the reality we live in today, it is important to take time to look at the past. We must dissect our own personal past actions, collective past actions, and the actions in fiction that, more often than not, strive to create a lesson about humanity.
I urge you to read critically and find the messages sent by those from the past, those living in times with less medical advances and more squalor, but still conveying truths pertinent and essential to the human condition.