The April A to Z Blogging Challenge is where a few thousand bloggers post every day of the month (except Sundays) using a different letter of the alphabet. My theme is: “What I Love About Pride and Prejudice.”
U is for Universal Truth
And so begins Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. This amazing first sentence is considered one of the most famous opening lines in all of English literature. It is much quoted and parodied, from advertisements to television shows. “A truth universally acknowledged” is synonymous with Pride & Prejudice itself.
One outstanding benefit of this sentence is that it takes us, the readers, immediately into the story. We know that there is a wealthy SINGLE man. We also know that he is going to get a wife…whether he knows he wants one or not.
We also know that this is going to be a story full of humor. The ironic comedy of the second line clears up any question, “However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering the neighborhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered as the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters.” Not only is the wealthy man going to marry, but he is going to marry one of the town’s daughters. Case closed.
The REAL universal truth that the narrator is trying to get at is the opposite of what is stated. Men of wealth and status in England of the Regency period did not necessarily have to have a wife. The need for a marriage with the benefits of money and rank fell on the ladies of the land. Their means to support themselves was so limited, it was crucial for the women to marry well.
I love that Jane Austen took jabs at the social conventions of her day. She, who never married and who felt the need to write anonymously, knew what the limitations for her life as a woman were. The good news is that she seemed to be able to laugh at it.
What are your takes on the universal truth? I’d love to read your comments.