Classic novels have always included those of the romantic genre. This genre though has changed over the years as Daniel Chandler says, “On-going genres and their conventions themselves change over time.” Romance novels of the past portrayed woman as passive individuals because that is how they were viewed in society at the time. A twenty-first century woman would be more forceful in obtaining her desires. Chandler also states, “mass media genres from a particular era [can be seen] as reflecting values which were dominant at the time.” Scandals of the past, such as a man and woman living together without marrying, are not viewed today as radical. Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen, is a popular and well-respected love story that appeals to people throughout the past century despite the noticeable changes within the genre of romance itself. The pattern of love story plots remains the same regardless of the apparent changes in society’s values. This pattern is what draws readers to these novels.
The first key moment in a romance novel is when the man and woman meet. Their initial meeting gets off to a bad start and they usually end up disliking each other. Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy are the two main characters that go through this romantic journey together. At an assembly dance, when Mr. Darcy is asked by another to dance with Elizabeth, his reply is, “She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me.” Elizabeth as well, does not show any affection for Mr. Darcy. The next path that the novel follows is that of the conflict. Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth are thrown together a number of times, whether it was due to her sister’s illness and they were both residing in the Bingley’s house or when Elizabeth goes to visit her friend Charlotte and Mr. Darcy is staying in the area as well. Mr. Darcy begins to fall in love as we see when Elizabeth notices, “ how frequently Mr. Darcy’s eyes were fixed on her.” Elizabeth on the other hand grows to dislike Mr. Darcy even more after she hears that he told Mr. Bingley not to court her sister. When Mr. Darcy comes and declares his love, Elizabeth dismisses him and they part on angry terms. The turning point in the novel is when circumstances cause the other character, Elizabeth, to come to realize that she does indeed love Mr. Darcy. Elizabeth realized she erred in her judgment of Mr. Darcy, as she tells her sister, “ I must confess, that I love him.” Mr. Darcy has never stopped loving Elizabeth and when they meet again, he proposes. Elizabeth accepts and they live happily ever after. This ending is crucial to that of the romantic genre.
Although, this seems to fit the romantic genre very well, there are circumstances where it veers off the path. These occur in the smaller stories within the novel. One of the most obvious incidents in Pride and Prejudice is when Elizabeth’s friend Charlotte marries Mr. Collins. Charlotte married him because she wanted to have economic stability. This goes against the idea of a romance where the characters marry only for love.
Although over time, people’s values change and society’s views may shift the genre of romantic novels, the basic pattern of these stories remains the same. This model makes it apparent that one is reading a novel from the romantic genre.