Pride & Prejudice: On the Page and Screen

Amy Cohen and Samantha Schles

Over the years, Pride and Prejudice has been transformed into movies and television series. Most recently, it has been made into an award-winning major motion picture in 2005. Due to time restraints and other limitations, it would be impossible for the film to incorporate all aspects of the novel, and, given these circumstances, it is a just representation of Jane Austen's work.


The film follows the basic plot of the novel, save the ending and other minor aspects. Character development and portrayal is consistant for Elizabeth, Jane, Lydia, Mrs. Bennet, Miss Bingley, Mr. Collins, Lady Catherine de Bourg, and Charlotte. Elizabeth comes of as the strong protagonist that she is characterized as in the novel. Jane is accurately portrayed as a caring and optomistic beauty. Lydia and Mrs. Bennet are as obnoxious and vain as they are in the novel. Miss Bingley remains extremely prejudiced against the lower classes. Mr. Collins is as awkward as ever. Lady Catherine de Bourg's purpose is fulfilled as a representation of the upper class and social customs of society. Charlotte accurately exhibits a woman of unfortunate class marrying for status, not love. Furthermore, the setting of the film is consistant with the descriptions of the locations in the novel. The time frame in which the film was set is true to the time frame of the novel.


Though the film did remain relatively faithful to the novel, the film makers did take artistic liberties in changing the story. They updated the movie to appeal to the mainstream audience. Among the most noticable changes were characters being cut out or not fully developed and slightly altering the plot. For example, the level of humor in the movie is much more prevelant than in the book. Another change made was the ending of the movie. In the American version of the movie, it shows Darcy and Elizabeth post-marriage enjoying each other's company. This ending was not used in the novel or the foreign version of the movie. They used their artistic license to "up the love factor" and appeal to younger audiences. The movie as a whole expanded the love story line between Darcy and Elizabeth, making it more corny and typically 'Hollywood' than Jane Austen intended in her novel.

Moreover, the character of Mary is extremely altered. She is set apart from her sisters by her dark choice of clothing and her sensitive, emotional nature rather than insightful. This created the image that Mary was the odd one out, and by wearing all black when the rest of the family was clad in colorful articles of clothing, symbolizes Mary as the 'ugly duckling.' In the novel, Mary is portrayed as an omniscient character who rarely speaks, but when she does choose to use her voice, speaks profound and meaningful statements that provide insight to the themes of the novel. However, this characterization is not translated into the movie. She is given much more of a literal voice, which alters her character and gives no suggestion of her contemplative and observant traits.

In addition, Colonel Fitzwilliam character is quite understated in the film. Col. Fitzwilliam is a prevelent figure in the book and even serves as a potential love interest for Elizabeth. However, in the film, he is merely a blip, seen once or twice at Lady Catherine's mansion. His envolment in the story and character are hardly explored at all. While he is insignificant in the movie, he plays an important role in providing insights to Darcy's character and stimulates plot in the novel. Furthermore, Bingley is portrayed as a rather unintelligent person in the film. This characterization makes a suggestion that rich people are often dumb, but Jane Austen does not suggest this in her novel, rather she suggests that people are prejudice. Also, Georgianna is portrayed as being somewhat shy in the novel, yet the film exhibits her as a cute little girl who is more than anxious to get to know Elizabeth and does not hold back at all. In addition, only the favorable and respectable aunt and uncle are shown in the film, whereas the novel portrays both sets of the Bennet's aunts and uncles as being complete opposities of eachother. Thus, the film does not exhibit this comparison.

The film uses many artistic liberties to create different ideas through the imagery of film, rather than what is used in the novel. For example, when Charlotte is informing Elizabeth of her engagement to Mr. Collins, Elizabeth is on a swing. This symbolizes Elizabeth's desire to hold on to her childhood, a place where marriage is a notion not yet in one's mind, showing that she does not regret rejecting Mr. Collins. It also symbolizes Charlotte growing up and straying away from the carefree childhood life Elizabeth is trying to retain. Also, the theme of the pastoral is relatively absent from the movie compared to how it was exhibited in the novel. Elizabethe would take walks to clear her head; these walks in nature were her sanctuary, yet they were not portrayed in the film. However, the ending of the film shows Darcy and Elizabeth realizing their affection for one another in a field, showing happiness connected with the pastoral. Furthermore, the film puts an emphasis on Darcy feeling guilty for the Lydia and Wickham fiasco, but the novel puts the emphasis of guilt on Elizabeth. Moreover, when Darcy declares his love for Elizabeth in the movie, it is raining, making the situation more romantic and dramatic than in the novel. Lastly, the film uses liberties to create more symbolizism in the significance of dancing. When Elizabeth dances with Mr. Collins, the music is playful and upbeat, enforcing the idea of comedy with Mr. Collins' awkwardness. On the other hand, when Elizabeth dancing with Darcy, the music is in a minor key and is much more dramatic to symbolize the tension between the two of them.