In the 210 years since first publication, Pride and Prejudice has sold over 20 million copies worldwide and has never been out of print. Although its critical reception was slow, it was influential from the first. Not only did it introduce a heroine who was outspoken, knew her own mind and valued her independence above financial security – in its style it was also ground-breaking. It was satirical and funny, self-aware and full of detailed, realistic characters and events; as such it set a standard for fictional narratives based in social realism and probable human psychology—a style that would gain ground in the later nineteenth century with Elizabeth Gaskell, George Eliot and Thomas Hardy.
Unlike almost any other novel in English literature, Pride and Prejudice has taken on a life of its own. Its first line is so often quoted that it has become a recognized cliché. The novel has been adapted for radio, stage, TV and film countless times. There are astonishing numbers of spin-offs, prequals and sequels, from Bridget Jones’ Diary to Death Comes to Pemberley and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. It has been translated into multiple languages, and is the favourite novel of people all across the world.
Whilst all Jane Austen’s novels are popular and admired, it is Pride and Prejudice that has captured the world’s hearts and imaginations.
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