While Jane Austen authored her novels over 200 years ago, recent adaptations have made their way onto the shelves. Her stories convey timeless marriage plots with often scandalous twists. Jane Austen’s most famous novel, “Pride and Prejudice,” has been adapted into a variety of mediums, from comic books to video blogs. While some adaptations remain true to Austen’s words, others take a few more liberties.
“Pride and Prejudice” features the Bennet family and while marriage may be on her mother’s mind, Elizabeth is not going to marry for anything other than love. Her quick mind is a key part of her character. She has four sisters, an overbearing mother and a laid-back father. At a new neighbor’s party, she meets Mr. Darcy, who is wealthy beyond anyone else, which meant a lot to a young eligible woman in the 1800s. However, he is distant and ill-mannered. Another suitor gallops into the scene, and Elizabeth’s life is about to get a lot more interesting. If you have a mild interest in reading the novel, but can’t get used to Austen’s Romantic-period writing style, one of these adaptations may be for you.
“Pride & Prejudice: A Comic Book”
Written by Nancy Butler and illustrated by Hugo Petrus, this comic book adaptation of the iconic Austen novel was released by Marvel in 2009. While the cover looks like a modern magazine, the illustrations inside throw readers back into the 19th century. Duke University Press praised the comic adaptation as “far more comprehensive than any predecessor, and [the pages’] edgy and brightly colored artwork is nothing like the thin black-and-white line drawings of yore.” They wrote that the illustrations “[ooze] sensuality in a velvety palette of browns and dark greens.” As for Butler, they wrote, “She is smart enough to stick close to Austen’s original text and lift the best lines.” While the visual adaptation is concise, it maintains Austen’s humor, and it would not be “Pride and Prejudice” without it. This places Austen’s work in an easy-to-understand medium that readers will eagerly devour.
Although there are some parts that are not described as in-depth as in the novel, the adaptation follows the same storyline. If you’ve read the original, you may be able to identify the sections that Butler glosses over. However, the abridgment is necessary for such a short piece of work. Since the comic book is shorter, key motifs are easier to catch, especially personality traits. Mr. Bennet’s laid-back parenting and apathy toward his wife’s concerns are even more blatant and comical than in “Pride and Prejudice.” While Elizabeth Bennet always had a quick tongue, her quips are especially poignant in the “Pride & Prejudice” comic.
Although it doesn’t dive as deep, the adaptation is meant for a different audience, trying to get them to engage with a text they otherwise may not touch. This adaptation is a way to rework Austen’s most famous novel for modern audiences. If you aren’t devoted enough to read an entire novel but want to give “Pride and Prejudice” a try, the graphic novel is one way to get your feet wet.
“The Lizzie Bennet Diaries”
“The Lizzie Bennet Diaries” is shot in the style of a vlog and is a modernized adaptation of “Pride and Prejudice.” In this version, Lizzie Bennet is a college student earning a bachelor’s degree. Additionally, Lizzie only has two sisters — Jane and Lydia — which is fitting for the adaptation, since each video is less than five minutes and there would otherwise be a large cast of characters for viewers to keep track of. Of course, it’s different to see the characters personified visually and not just described on a page. For people who enjoy visual modes of entertainment, they can finally see the characters brought to life.
Since the camera is stationary, kept in Lizzie’s room, character appearances are limited. Lizzie’s friend, Charlotte, helps her shoot and edit the videos, and Jane and Lydia often pop in. The guest stars help Lizzie act out conversations with other people, like Mr. and Mrs. Bennet, who never appear in front of the camera. In each episode, Lizzie tells viewers what exciting things happened in her life. “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries” shares the same plot as “Pride and Prejudice,” but is modernized with a hint of humor. While it may seem overdramatized in some parts, Lizzie’s retelling of events and her interactions with her sisters provide insight into her life, and guest stars create a fuller picture for Lizzie’s story.
“The Lizzie Bennet Diaries” follows the same plot as Austen’s story, only updated. The characters and their challenges match the current era. For example, instead of the house becoming part of an inheritance to their cousin after Mr. Bennet’s death, the Bennets experience financial problems. Those types of changes are ones that viewers can relate to. Austen’s story isn’t just something that happened in the past; its ideas resonate today.
Written by Jo Baker, “Longbourn” is named after the Bennet home in “Pride and Prejudice.” Baker takes more liberties in her novel adaptation. While it follows the events of “Pride and Prejudice,” Baker writes the story from the point of view of the servants, who are seldom mentioned by Austen. For example, “Longbourn” includes the passage in which the servants clean six inches of mud from Elizabeth’s skirt after she walks a few miles during a bad storm. While the original novel only names Mrs. Hill as head housemaid, the housemaid Sarah is our protagonist. After years of working for the Bennets, she starts to feel a sense of unease with the current state of her life. The events following the new neighbor’s arrival and the introduction of James, a mysterious new servant to the Bennet household, lead Sarah down a new path.
“Longbourn” shines another light on the activity of the Bennet house. Stories that aren’t told lead readers to wonder what is left out. From the duties of the servants, readers see what it takes to keep the women of the house looking pristine: cooking, cleaning and farming, all of which were much different back then. The Bennet girls can only glow through the blood and sweat of others, meaning the servants. The adaptation provides a new point of view. In this case, readers see the bigger picture.
Unlike Austen’s work, Baker writes a less dialogue-heavy narrative. Instead, she includes more details and imagery. The characters are also more relatable since the novel was written in more recent times. The more contemporary characters and writing style could be read as an update to Austen’s style.
Jane Austen’s work has seen a multitude of adaptations in a variety of mediums. In each one, the creators chose to emphasize something different and pursue their artistic vision in a different way, but every adaptation demonstrates the lasting quality of Austen’s work that still resonates with people today.
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