Pride, Prejudice, and Zombies Analysis
In the year 1813, a novel that would quickly become a classic was published. This novel was
Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Austen’s novel is one directed towards a young adult
audience; the love story is an eloquently written novel with a relatively broad vocabulary and an
overall large audience.
It is true, however, that the average young adult growing up in the 21st century may not have
the same appreciation for a novel written in the 19th century; one might find it difficult to relate
to such a novel. Perhaps for this reason, a more recent novel has come out: Pride and Prejudice
and Zombies, by Seth Grahame-Smith, a novel that is meant to be a “mash-up” between the
original, romantic classic, and a zombie sub-story line. It is also true that the author of this “quirk
classic,” as it is often called, was using a popular name such as Pride and Prejudice in order to
attract an audience that was already initially interested in Jane Austen, allowing him to begin his
writing career with an already larger, more informed audience.
With the intent to draw in a youthful, more interested audience, and perhaps even introduce a
younger audience to the original classic, along with gaining fame, popularity, and an “author”
status, does the author of this mash-up (and the other few that he has written) successfully create
a new genre by creating his adaptations?
Throughout this analysis, I will discuss and answer a variety of questions and facts. I will
discuss the comparison of Seth Grahame-Smith and Jane Austen as rhetors, the previous and
current audience of the two books, and the situation which Smith decided to write the book that
In terms of why a new genre such as this one has been recently created,Smith, himself, has
explained in a few interviews that he has created his mash-up to appeal to a younger audience,
and to make classical literature more interesting. Smith has produced a lot of work, including
some mash-up books and movies related to Abraham Lincoln. In one interview, he was asked if
he believes historians want to “run him out of town.” In response to this question, he speaks in
regards to his most recent Lincoln mash-up book. He quotes, “As a matter of fact, one of the first
events I'm doing for the book is at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library in Springfield on
March 6. They realize we're bringing new people into the tent. Hopefully, they will be
It is clear here that Smith’s main intention is to broaden the audience that is interested in
history and classic literature. He wants to make the topics more known, even if it means needing
to add non-realistic elements to history in order to entertain. Many audience members of his
work may not have even heard of the historical events or classic books he references until they
have heard of him. Therefore, Smith could potentially be teaching his audience something new.
As stated earlier in the introduction, Smith is lucky to have so much attention (positive
and negative) towards his books, because he is writing on a topic that is already very broadly
known. Austen has written classics that people have known about for so many years. Smith has
seemingly jumped on the opportunity to produce a different version of an already popular story,
probably hoping to have a set audience in the beginning regardless of the outcome of his story.
The audience of both novels differs slightly, but relevantly. Jane Austen’s original novel is
directed towards a young audience. The original novel, was also written in the 19th century. It is
unfortunate that now, in the 21st century, not as many young people take the time to pick up a
classic novel, as they are often distracted by social media, social networking, internet, and
technology. A young adult in the 21st century may not feel as though they could relate to a
character in a book that Austen had written in the 19th century.
“Zombies” have been a trend since the late 60’s and early 70’s. In the past 10-15 years,
zombies seem to be more popular than ever: movies are frightening people with the possibility of
a zombie outbreak, video games that involve a main character fighting off zombies to survive are
very common, and books such as How to Survive the Zombie Apocalypse, by Michael Thomas
and Nick S. Thomas have come out. With this huge zombie “outbreak,” it is obvious that Smith
chose to turn Austen’s book into something a little bit more recent—something that a young
adult growing up in the 21st century would already feel slightly knowledgeable about. By adding
a more modern element to a classic novel, a younger audience may be more inclined to pick up a
It is also important to note, again, that Smith more than likely hoped to attract Jane Austen’s
initial audience with his mash-up classic. Smith had the ability to begin his writing career with a
larger audience that is familiar with Austen’s work.
There have been many terms used to describe Grahame-Smith’s new adaptation of Pride and
Prejudice. A term that is typically used when the book is researched is the term, “mash-up.” The
question as to whether or not Grahame-Smith has created a new genre has a complex answer;
one might argue that he has created a new genre. However, the author himself claims that the
books he has written a collection of books that can be considered to have their own subgenre,
rather than a complete, new genre.
Grahame-Smith has not written a sequel, prequel, or anything along those lines, to Jane
Austen’s original Pride and Prejudice. Smith has simply taken Austen’s original book and added
a slight zombie story-line to the original book. All character’s names and settings remain the
same as the original; in fact, Smith even has Jane Austen’s name as one of the writers on the
front of his book; this is how similar his novel is meant to be. A “mash-up,” in this case, is
simply a slight addition or “tweak” to an original classic meant to broaden the audience of an
original classic and perhaps even intrigue a younger (or different) audience.
In terms of whether or not Smith creates a new genre, it can be said that yes, he does create a
new genre (even though it is more often considered a “subgenre”).
It is true that one probably could not read Smith’s mash-up version of Pride and Prejudice and
claim that the original is completely the same with the addition of a zombie sub-story line. The
mash-up takes place in almost a different universe completely, but with the same characters. The
mash-up attempts to use the same story line as Austen’s original story, but instead uses zombies
to create another story within the original, in a way.
For example, Mr. Bennett (a character that Jane Austen herself came up with) trains his
daughters to fight against zombies in case of an attack in the mash-up version. The daughters
then fight off a bunch of zombies at a dinner party. In the original book, the daughters did go to a
dinner party, but there were, of course, no zombies. It is clear in this example that the mash-up
version uses Austen’s story entirely, but the story line is very generally similar. One could not
necessarily say that Smith’s version is the same story as Austen’s, because only the basic
storyline is the same. Smith adds many scenes, such as this one, to his mash-up, turning his book
into almost an entirely different story, but using Austen’s story as a “ground” to begin.
Austen’s original book is set entirely in the 19th century, and while Smith’s book is also to
be set in the 19th century, the settings are slightly different. Yes, both books are set primarily in
the Bennett’s family home and Mr. Darcy’s estate, but in Smith’s books, the setting is one that
can allow zombies to be entered into the setting as well.
When it comes to whether or not one must read the original book in order to understand
Smith’s mash-up, it is important to keep in mind that Smith’s adaptation of Austen’s original
book is not a sequel by any means. The story is completely independent, and therefore, the
original book does not necessarily need to be written. It is true, however, that one whom has read
the original book may have a different (and perhaps stronger) appreciation for Smith’s
adaptations. The original book is what Smith’s book is based upon.
There are, of course, two different sides of the story when it comes to whether or not Smith
has done the right thing in terms of creating a mash-up version of Austen’s work. In this
segment, I will describe Smith’s novels from the two main points of view that an audience
member of his novel could come from.
It is evident that these “zombie” books will appeal to a younger audience and push a
younger adult to read Smith’s book(s) over Jane Austen’s original Pride and Prejudice. If the
intent of Smith’s books is just to push a younger audience to read in general, then of course a
child reading Smith’s books would be a positive thing. In one review of the book Pride and
Prejudice and Zombies, a mother described her young son’s reaction to being introduced to
Smith’s book. Her son seemed very interested. He showed great appreciation for the book, and
even asked his mother if she thought he should read the original Austen classic first. This
example is a perfect one of something positive that could come out of Smith’s novels; young
children may be introduced to the original classics simply because they were introduced to his
work first. If the idea of Smith’s books is to get younger people interested in reading, then mash-
ups have done their job of intriguing younger people.
Of course, there is bound to be negative attention drawn towards a classic book being turned
into something childish and silly. Some may portray Smith’s work as “cheapening” Austen’s
work entirely. Austen is a humorous author herself, but some may say that Smith’s work goes
too far. It is also true that the story lines may be so different throughout these two books to the
point where they are not even comparable—some may even consider Smith’s work to be
Those that are against Smith’s work could claim that since the only true similarities between
his book and Austen’s original books are the characters. Some argue that even the characters are
not very comparable, and Smith only used their general names. Throughout Smith’s books, he
may add too much of a zombie sub-story line to the point where it is no longer even similar to
It can also be said that if a young person reads Smith’s work and enjoys it, they may not ever
decide to read Austen’s classic; in comparison, Austen’s classic may seem dull and boring.
Young authors might even be led to believe that the books are very similar to the point where
they may not even need to read the original if they have read Smith’s adaptation, which is
incorrect, since they are both independent stories.
Personally, coming from a lifestyle that involves many of the people around me rarely
picking up a magazine, let alone a novel, I could never turn down or insult a book that was
drawing in a younger audience, even if the premise seems childish or negative. I believe that it is
more important to see younger people reading books at all. The context of the book, while is
important, is not the most important aspect that should be looked into. In terms of whether or not
Austen would appreciate the books that Smith has come up with, I can understand why an author
wouldn’t be completely okay with someone remixing their work, and why some people might
consider it “plagiarism.” But the fact is that Smith made sure that Austen’s name was on the
front of the book, making her a main writer. Smith gives Austen all the credit that she deserves.
Therefore, I think it is important to understand the entertainment purposes of this book and
accept them for what they are, rather than assuming that Smith was attempting to insult Austen.
As a new genre, I think that Smith has been very successful in terms of providing his
audience with entertaining novels, making his name known in the world of authors, and
marketing this new genre well.