Although I loved Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice even from the first time I read it, my one major issue with it was the too Happily Ever After ending — the heroine gets a handsome, super rich husband who's changed his entire stoic, haughty personality out of love for her (good luck trying to find any guy in the real world who would actually do that for a girl!) and goes off to live in an opulent, ten-acre paradise. For some reason (possibly due to my own family's issues), about the third time I read it, my view of the ending completely changed, and I now find it, if anything, too depressing, not because of anything to do with Elizabeth's marriage but because of Lydia. No, I don't feel sorry in any way for Lydia herself but for her family, who are now forced to baby-sit this stupid girl and her Manipulative Bastard of a husband for the rest of their lives because their expenses always exceed their income. The Bingleys are apparently forced to live with the most detestable people in the novel, and poor Mr. Darcy is now bound to financially take care of his Arch-Enemy; whether he refuses them at Pemberley or not, how distasteful that must feel to him! Through the perfect combination of malice and stupidity, the Wickhams become a lifelong burden for three families, and this will most likely never change. How could I ever find this to be Happily Ever After?! - Lale
Although if you think about it even further, it's possible to see that things aren't that great for Wickham either; while Darcy has taken care of his debts, that means that Wickham is in his debt — and if he crosses the line too far (as he used to love doing), Darcy's no doubt more than willing to set the dogs on him. He's been given a cushy post in the military, but it's a cushy post in a go-nowhere regiment in the middle of nowhere (as far as the characters are concerned). He's saddled with a stupid wife he does not love who, again because of Darcy, he can't do anything about. Yeah, he and Lydia are saddling themselves on Jane and Bingley, but that's partially because Jane and Bingley are way too nice for their own good, to an at-times stupid degree, and it's implied that they're gradually reaching even the limit of their patience with these obnoxious spongers and are planning on kicking them out. So, while it doesn't look like punishment on the surface, digging deeper reveals that Wickham isn't quite the Karma Houdini he appears.
Also, this troper would like to point out that Darcy never traded in his personality for a completely different one. Such was the brilliance of Jane Austen, that the changes to his personality were simply Elizabeth seeing a different side of him; being around pleasant and elegant company and away from the less well behaved people at the dances (her aunt and uncle when compared to her family are practically nobles in their behavior), him being wrong and caught on it for the first time in the novel (there was no way he could deny that Jane was wrong about her sister loving Bingley so he had to admit his wrongdoing), and him being more comfortable on his home turf than in some stranger's house with no one he knows. This troper's 'aha' moment involved this and the relation to the title, how prejudice often blinds us to a person's good traits, and how we are so sure we are right that our entire view of a person changes when proof comes up showing us what a idiot we are. Note that also, the Darcy archetype at the time was NOT a sexy staple like in today's romance, but the least desirable man to chase after. Thus, prejudice also addresses the natural bias women had at that time against the stuffy, socially awkward type... who ends up being actually pretty awesome once you get to know him.
And it's even more brilliant than that. Remember in his letter after the failed proposal, he talks about Wickham nearly seducing his sister "last summer". Bingley took Netherfield at the past Michaelmas, which is in September. So no wonder Darcy was not a particularly happy or friendly guy in Hartfordshire—his beloved sister had almost been ruined LESS THAN TWO MONTHS AGO!
Although towards the end Darcy himself does admit that he was just a bit of a dick early in the novel and that he did genuinely deserve a large part of Lizzie's condemnation; the above is correct in that he didn't trade in his personality for a new one, but he did have to address his own flaws and improve his character in order to make headway with her.
The first time I read Pride and Prejudice I wanted to tear the binding apart. The book was written so eloquently and was so full of itself that I was enraged. This author is spending time talking about the most trite topics, describing the most idiotic, pompous people I have ever seen in literature. So then my friends convince me to re-read it two years later and everything fits. When I realized it was satire, everything changed. Suddenly the characters become true and masterfully detailed. I missed the point the first time because I took it seriously.
An early Victorian audience would have *immediately* twigged that Mr. Wickham was a whinger and shouldn't be taken seriously when he complains to Lizzie. That bit when he complains he's just "an officer in the militia" and has no money? He needed to pay for his commission. That's about $100,000 in today's money for an ensign's position (a 2nd Lt.) There's no indication he got it otherwise from merit.
The other point that would have made them twig Mr. Wickham is a whinger is that he's in the Militia, not the Regulars. There was a war going on: since the primary job of the Militia was to guard against invasion, they couldn't be sent overseas. Militia regiments, therefore, were a combination of training regiments and the Home Guard. Mr. Wickham has got himself the cool uniform (attractive to girls like Lydia) but avoided anything dangerous - like going overseas to fight.
In Pride and Prejudice you've got Mrs Bennett, who's snarked at by everyone- her daughters, her husband and by Austen herself. To begin with I was quite content to join in with the ridicule, but I later realised that she is the one person with no power: the girls have power as unmarried women, because they have some choice over whom they get married to; her husband has power as a man; and Jane Austen has power over their lives as the author of the story. To cap it all off, it's Mrs Bennett's attempts to get some kind of power- by getting attention and influencing her daughters' lives- that make her the character everyone snarks at. Ouch. -aimsme