The cover of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice as published in the “Pulp! The Classics” series boldly places Mr. Darcy’s character as the central focus in attracting readers’ attention, inviting us in with promises of drama, intrigue, and perhaps even danger. On the front cover, under a campy-fonted, bright yellow title is an impressionist likeness of Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy in a cravat smoking a cigarette, casting a furtive yet seductive glance to his right. Here is no fresh-faced, smiling Mr. Bingley; the designer’s choice and intention is to present our hero, Darcy, as mysterious and shifty, his face half in shadow while refusing to make eye contact. The portrait is reminiscent of James Dean, the archetypal rebellious bad boy, but with a ruffled over shirt instead of a leather jacket. Next to this portrait is the thrilling tagline: “Lock up your daughters...Darcy’s in town!” This indicates that Darcy will not only take a central role in the novel (as he is the only character featured on the front cover), but also suggests that he has the potential to be a womanizing, heart-breaking playboy, without disclosing what it is he actually does. This cover certainly does not present the “perfectly well behaved, polite, and unassuming” side of Darcy so admired by Mr. Gardiner in Volume III of Austen’s novel, but rather the prouder and more contemptuous side he initially presents. We might imagine this image of Darcy after he tells Elizabeth, “My feelings are not puffed about with every attempt to move them. My temper would perhaps be called resentful.--My good opinion once lost is lost forever” (42), or perhaps leaning against the wall while glaring at people during a ball.

This Darcy-centric theme promoting his mystique is continued on the back cover, which sports a smaller version of the portrait on the front, next to which is the opening line from the book itself, implying that any man with money must be on the prowl for a female companion. Under this, we see a plot preview, which reads: “Mrs. Bennet is on a mission to marry off her five daughters to rich men. Enter, Mr. Bingley and his rather fit friend, Darcy. Love, loathing, and bittersweet romance follow…” With the promise of an eligible bachelor, passionate hatred, and, of course, romance, this cover promises a story heavy with interpersonal drama and romantic tension. The vague hints at the plot lure the viewer of the cover to read on in order to try and unveil the mystery that is Mr. Darcy’s character.

The stylistic choice of using a “pulp fiction,” or cheap, pre-war paperback novel theme highlights certain plot qualities and also touches on the reader's sense of humor. The traditional “pulp” style of novels is often associated with lowbrow, sensationalist storytelling, rife with violence, sexual tension, and simplistic plot structure (Vintage New Media). Because it is widely accepted that Pride and Prejudice is traditionally associated with very few of these things and predates the advent of this style by over a hundred years, the result of the cover’s design is more satirical than serious. The design has a certain self-aware humor that is even mentioned on the “Pulp! The Classics” website as “irreverent,” “fun,” and “wry.” Readers and viewers who appreciate this cover the most have a sense of irony and understand the humor that results from juxtaposing a heavily-lauded classic novel with the style of a paperback novel one might have found in a dime store in the mid-1960s. Additionally, the style’s focus on certain words such as “romance” and “loathing” on the back cover guide the reader toward these themes more so than any others. The cover’s scant yet carefully-curated word choice and focus on only Mr. Darcy encourages diving into the story with him and his drama in the forefront of one’s thought. As a result, a reader of this novel might focus more heavily on scenes which combine strong emotion with interactions with Mr. Darcy, such as Elizabeth’s passionate fight with him when he confesses his love to her in Hunsford. The cover is synonymous with Darcy exclaiming “You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you” (131) while his “countenance express[es] real security” (132) as it does in the cover portrait.

This cover illuminates how the themes in Austen’s novel are continually applicable, versatile when it comes to adaptations and able to be reinterpreted over time. The simplicity of the cover highlights the salient themes in the novel which, over two hundred years, have still not gone out of style: romance, mystery, intrigue, and handsome, single men. The choice to design it as traditionally “pulp” style makes an interesting point as well: this style of book cover is exceedingly dated in that it boomed in popularity almost exclusively during the 1950s. However, it is still aesthetically enjoyable enough to print in 2016. The result is a fascinating combination of stylistic appropriation on the part of the cover art itself and continued application of classically appealing themes on the part of the text featured on the cover, reconciling artistic qualities that a widespread audience still enjoys today.

Works Cited
Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. Norton and Company, Inc. 2016.
Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. Oldcastle Books, Ltd. 2013.
“What is Pulp Fiction?” The Vintage Library. May 10, 1996.…