I'm so glad we got to watch Downton Abbey in class today! I've only seen season 1 of the series, but already I've noticed similarities between this period piece and Pride & Prejudice. Even though Downton Abbey is 100 years ahead of Pride & Prejudice, the characters still face the same trivial problems.

My 12 year-old sister describes both Downton Abbey and Pride & Prejudice perfectly: "nothing really happens, but it feels like it does."

You may be kinda confused by that statement. Both Downton Abbey and Pride & Prejudice describe the daily lives of privileged and proper British people. Honestly, not much happens in the course of an episode of Downton Abbey or a chapter of Pride & Prejudice. The characters complain about their "problems", insult each other slyly, ride horses, change into new clothes, and eat dinner. Yet, why am I so captivated?!?

Because conflict. Conflict, conflict, conflict. It's everywhere at all times. And conflict between characters turns the smallest problems into huge issues. Truthfully, I love the conflict. While reading Pride & Prejudice, or watching Downton Abbey I become immersed in their worlds. Are their problems really all that significant? At the time, yes. Downton Abbey and Pride & Prejudice provide a small window into worlds I will never experience myself.

Lady Sybil & Tom Branson outside a political rally
In both Downton Abbey and Pride & Prejudice there are characters who identify themselves as independent, intelligent women with opinions and goals. In Downton Abbey, Lady Sybil is a feminist and a wannabe-activist. She befriends her Tom Branson, her chauffeur  He is an Irishman and a radical socialist. He inspires Sybil to strongly advocate for women's rights. As a result of their friendship, Sybil goes out of her way to help one of the housemaids become a secretary. In the early 1900's working women were part of a new movement for female independence. Lady Sybil is an extreme version of Elizabeth Bennet. In Pride & Prejudice, Lizzy is known as the witty and intelligent sister. Like Sybil, Lizzy is different from the other women in her society. She defies social norms and risks her status as a "proper" women. When she decides to walk to Mr. Bingley's house to see Jane, her mother adamantly disapproves. When she arrives to Bingley's house Miss Bingley and the party call her "wild." Lizzy could care less about the opinions of others. She is not as focused as other girls with adhering to the societal norms set in place for her. In this way she is very similar to Lady Sybil.

The Bennet sisters in the movie adaptation of Pride & Prejudice
Another common theme is the entail conflict. In the first episode of Downton Abbey, the two male heirs to the estate die on the Titanic. This creates the central problem of the series: What's going to happen to the estate now?! Lady Mary, the oldest daughter of Lord Grantham, cannot inherit Downton. She must either find and marry a rich husband, or marry the next heir to Downton, Matthew Crawley. Finding a husband proves to be a major issue for her; her mother sets her up with a different man almost every episode. Lady Grantham is like Mrs. Bennet, she desperately wants her daughters married (though she's not as pushy as Mrs. Bennet). In Pride and Prejudice, Jane Bennet is the oldest Bennet daughter and is pushed into finding a husband by her mother. Thankfully, Jane finds Mr. Bingley and is not forced to marry Mr. Collins.

Pushy mothers, large fortunes, complicated inheritances, and finding a husband? Just a regular day in the world of Pride & Prejudice or Downton Abbey.
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