Review: “Prom and Prejudice” by Elizabeth Eulberg

For the love of books

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen—most readers only have to hear these six words to visualize the classic romance that has been brought to the literary spotlight over the centuries since its publication.  Pride and Prejudice is a novel that has gained much interpretation by the modern world as well as many sequels to its plot and reconstructions of various characters’ points of view, e.g. Mr. Darcy, in modern writers’ overturns of Austen’s narrative.  However, few writers have dared to do the almost impossible: to create a replica of Pride of Prejudice in a modern setting with modernized characters.  Films like Lost in Austen only place a new character in the midst of Austen’s fictional work, but a complete transfer of the content of Pride and Prejudice to the background of a liberal society with advanced technology but without propriety has not been pursued…until now.

Prom and Prejudice is Elizabeth Eulberg’s twist on the original, a decisive scrutiny of everything that makes Elizabeth Bennet the feministic character she is, with all her steadfast aspirations and opinions.  Lizzie has not really changed here; she still belongs to a middle-class family and her personality is as bright and perceptive as ever, garnished with wit and honesty.  However, Lizzie now has a work ethic together with all those preconceptions about the “wealthy.”  Unlike her prototype, she also is in love…with music, which is admirably expressed.  A talented and dedicated pianist, Lizzie has certain priorities in life, which is why she is enrolled in a new high school for her junior and senior years.  Not just any high school, Longbourn Academy is an all-girls school that focuses more on social status, gossip, and prom than education, where the rich and famous send their female offspring to be “finished.”  That is why among all the snobs and conceited rich girls, Lizzie’s only friends are Jane and Charlotte Lucas.

Lizzie’s status as a scholarship girl is the reason for Darcy’s mistrust, but Lizzie cannot understand Will Darcy’s behavior.  He seems to be an arrogant jerk, a typical Pemberley student from the all-boys high school across from Longbourn.  Lizzie’s temperament is unspoiled by the retelling, but the famous prejudice that makes her temporary enemies with Darcy comes out even more clearly than in Pride and Prejudice.  Her life descends further into misery after she meets Will Darcy and exasperating George Wickham, both guys who have issues.  Not only does Lizzie have to cope with Jane’s problems as well as her own, she must also struggle with her peers’ cruelty and with reality.  As far as Darcy is concerned, Lizzie is torn between believing that he is such a bad boy as “taking-advantage-of-our-situations” Wickham describes him to be and that there actually is more beneath the physical surface of Darcy’s handsome looks and stoic disposition.

First of all, some critics argued that teenagers’ fanaticism over attending high school prom in Prom and Prejudice was an inadequate replacement for the nineteenth century’s anti-feminism and strict views on female capabilities within society.  Nevertheless, Eulberg’s intriguing substitute for the main controversies in Pride and Prejudice loosens the plot somewhat, easing the historical tension in the original into the more relative environment of the twenty-first century.  The author is not taking Pride and Prejudice through a flat, unoriginal retelling and then stamping her name on the cover of the book.  She is retaining the qualities of Austen’s characters and themes in her own similar ones.  The essence of a retelling is how a writer can refresh and re-imagine a familiar story in his/her own way with new concepts; personal insights into the plot, character development, and story details are part of any new take on a classic.

Eulberg’s analysis of what makes Pride and Prejudice such a remarkable love story is very special and quite clever.  Austen fans will notice that Eulberg has taken most of the characters’ and settings’ names from Pride and Prejudice and incorporated them all into Prom and Prejudice.  Familiar names and quotes from the original text appear out of nowhere in the most unexpected places, e.g. Netherfield becomes Jane’s last name, and Pemberley is the title of the all-boys school, not Darcy’s estate.  There are also noticeable adjustments to the original story’s details: Lizzie is now an only child, Darcy’s parents are both alive, and then there’s the welcome absence of Lady Catherine.  Like in Pride and Prejudice, the romance is not overdone as in some novels with teenage characters, leaving room for sincere emotional moments to sink in.

On the other hand, the humor is fantastically acute, especially when Lizzie is dealing with Collins (yes, one of Austen’s most dull, boring, and laugh-provoking characters is back minus the clerical position).  Charles Bingley and his evil sister appear in full form, while Lizzie herself is a lovely heroine who can speak her mind eloquently and play the piano brilliantly; it’s a treat to follow her first-person narrative throughout the novel.  Darcy himself is endearing with his sense of honor and his bashful ways when communicating his feelings for Lizzie, and the ending of the novel is the beginning of their relationship, which gives hope for a possible sequel…or just wistful thinking.  In regards to prom itself, Eulberg shows the literary crowd what this event is all about, the good sides and the bad sides of it.

In conclusion, Prom and Prejudice is not a written duplication of Pride and Prejudice.  Eulberg contributed her vision and her understanding of modern life to a novel that is pleasant and distinguished, an obvious tribute to one of the most innovative authors of all time.

Original review: Part 1: ‘Prom and Prejudice’ is a fun modern revival of ‘Pride and Prejudice’Part 2: ‘Prom and Prejudice’ is a fun modern revival of ‘Pride and Prejudice’Part 3: ‘Prom and Prejudice’ is a fun modern revival of ‘Pride and Prejudice’, Examiner.com

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