Pride, prejudice, Jane Austen and zombies

“You forget, sir, that I am a student of Shaolin! Master of the seven-starred fist!” fiercely exclaimed 19th-century zombie-slayer Elizabeth Bennet to the odious Mr. Collins in the novel “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith.

I found this to be an interesting new take on my favorite classic.

“Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” is an unexpectedly pleasant read. As an Austen fan and particularly of “Pride and Prejudice,” I expected to be offended by the changes made to the classic story I loved so well.

For example, Elizabeth Bennet is the second oldest in a family dedicated to the deadly arts of zombie slaying. Her pride and warrior’s spirit make her intelligent and witty, and she balances her personality with the strict teachings of her Chinese martial arts master. Elizabeth is determined to stay true to her vow to behead the undead until her last breath.

But, as in all romantic novels, romance would only interfere with her mission. Her heart would soon be eyed by the eyes of one Mr. Darcy.

Mr. Darcy, arrogant and proud, is known for his skills in the deadly arts. As the nephew of the famous zombie slayer Lady Catherine de Bourgh, he lives a quiet life of luxury until he follows his friend Mr. Bingley to the zombie-ridden countryside near Meryton, leading him to fall under the spell of the deadly Elizabeth and her fine eyes.

Typical of the original version of the classic tale, Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth share a mutual disdain for each other after their first meeting. Mr. Darcy slights Elizabeth’s honor at a Meryton ball and before she has the chance to separate his head from his shoulders, the assembly is disrupted by a zombie attack. The Bennet sisters dispatch the zombies and all is well.

Elizabeth and Darcy are continuously thrown into each others’ path, causing Mr. Darcy to gradually fall in love with her despite her low connections and annoying family.

Their paths lead them to the scene of a proposal and subsequent violent rejection. Elizabeth’s refusal of Mr. Darcy’s suit is not the end of their story, but merely the catalyst for a change of opinion.

A handwritten letter and a change of heart changes everything.

Overall I was genuinely surprised by how many pieces of the original story went untouched. I found myself appreciating some of the new changes and connecting with the story regardless of the violence and bloodshed so rampant in this version of the book.

Violence, blood, steamy scenes, and the undead are hooks to many modern teen and young adult readers, drawing in a new crowd to the classic tale. Goodreads claims this revision of the story “transforms a masterpiece of world literature into something you’d actually want to read.”

The added zombie-slaying scenes that make this appealing to young readers could be seen by critics as corrupting the original story and dumbing it down for a modern audience.

To many, this twist takes credit away from the original tale and injures its status as a literary classic. However, many of Austen’s familiar words are intact despite the violent additions. Seth Grahame-Smith matches Austen’s voice in all of the new additions. He manages to make zombie-slaying believable in the world created by Austen.

I didn’t expect to like reading about zombies suffering decapitation by some of my favorite fictional characters; however, I was pleasantly surprised the cores of who Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy are remain unblemished. Jane, Mr. Bingley, Lydia, Mr. Collins and the infamous Mrs. Bennet appear in the story as they should and play their assigned parts well.  

For true Jane Austen fans, the content may be a taint to their favorite story, but for readers who need a more updated version of the classic, “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” would be an excellent choice.

Sara Roberts is a junior Business Administration and English major.