Whether in a bookstore or library, it is a common experience for an individual to examine a book if the cover caught their attention. Covers, therefore, are a great way for an author to demonstrate the themes of the story and create intrigue for potential readers. However, many different variations will be produced when authors of iconic works have been dead for centuries and therefore have no say in the appearance of their published work. Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is a perfect example of this, as this classic story has been printed and sold millions of times, with different covers sending varied messages to the public. One example of this is the Bantam Classic’s edition of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice cover, which creates a stoic yet sophisticated portrayal of the story with the intention of appealing to an older generation of readers and representing the societal limitations in which the Bennet daughters were placed.
The cover is of a young woman appearing to be posed, sitting and facing the potential reader. She is wearing a white, silk gown with lace sleeves, and is adorned with gold jewelry such as a necklace, bracelets, and earrings. The background is mostly black, creating a contrast against the gold jewelry as well as her red lipstick and blush, catching the one’s attention. This image is a painting, and gives the impression of a woman from a wealthy family sitting down to have her portrait done. Despite her clear display of wealth, the woman appears unhappy. She is not smiling and her eyes seem flat and detached, as if she doesn’t want to be there at all, representing the situation in which the Bennet girls are trapped. They are not from an impressively wealthy family, so their overbearing mother is relying on them to marry a rich man for a financially secure future, whether they like him or not. In her eyes, as was common for the time, the financial status of a marriage determined whether or not it was successful, rather than the happiness of the couple. When Mr. Collins proposed marriage to Elizabeth, she claimed they wouldn’t make each other happy. In response to this, her mother shows her true intentions regarding Elizabeth's marriage by claiming, “She is a very headstrong foolish girl, and does not know her best interest…” (96, Bantam Classic). In the end, Mr. Collins moves on to another woman, yet the cover of this specific edition is an accurate representation of what Elizabeth’s life would have looked like if she had married him. She would have been wealthier than if she was on her own, as represented by the jewelry, but her defeated look shows that emotionally she would not have been satisfied.
The stoic presence of the young woman on the cover gives off a sense of sophistication and high social status. This would most likely attract an older, mature reader who is interested in literature rather than a general romance story, as Pride and Prejudice is often labeled. The pose portrays her as someone who is refined and proper, leading one to expect that the story will not be an overly theatrical adventure novel. One can assume it will be depressing, disappointing, and boring as a result of her solemn look. The text on the front and back covers further elaborate this impression as it is a text of a light yellow and orange color, with no variation of color or font. On the front there is only the name of the novel and the author, and on the back there is no image - just a paragraph in which the publisher raves about the success of the novel. As a result of the monotonous font and colors, this edition is given a very uniformed appearance. The paragraph on the back cover is another reason as to why this edition is directed towards a mature audience since there is no description of the story, and no implications of romance. Therefore, a potential buyer most likely already has an understanding of the plot of the story, and is interested in Jane Austen as an author, and enjoys the wit and humor she incorporates into her writing. Overall, the monotonous cover of this specific edition isn’t designed with the intention of being striking for first time readers of younger generations, and is for a reader who has previous experience with Jane Austen’s work, or Pride and Prejudice in general.
Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is still being printed even 210 years after it was initially published. This success comes from the ability of her writing to be directed towards people of any generation - such as the older, mature generation for whom this cover is designed. The sober presence of the dismal young women on the cover, as well as a lack of description of the plot, demonstrates that this edition is aimed at a generation of readers who are already familiar with her work.
Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. Bantam classic reissue [ed]. New York, Bantam, 2003.