Jane Austen, Pride & Pregiudice

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- Jane Austen is one of the most important novelists at the beginning of the 19th century.
- She wasn’t influenced by romanticism and she detested gothic fictions so she was able to elaborate a personal and original style.
- She can be considered as forerunner of psychoanalytic analysis because of her interest into self-awareness. We can see this aspect in her works where the main characters make a process of grow and development during the course of the novel so at the end of a novel it is impossible see the same character we have seen at its beginning.
- She gives voice to the small country gentry who was just below nobility: they didn’t go to work because they have an income from their lands, but they haven’t got any title. Her novels explore the world of the country gentry at the end of 18th century. People coming from other social classes appear in the novel, but they are not analysed deeply, they haven’t got a central part, they aren’t protagonist.
- From a stylistically point of view we can say that she makes a frequent use of irony which permits her to critic the aspects of society she hates.
The story takes place in the 19th century in the English province. It talks about the life of some gentry’s families.
Jane Austen uses third – person narration.
The narrator is omniscient: he know everything about the characters, reports sentence and free direct speech. When the narrator uses the free direct speech, there is a close relationship between narrator and characters.
Irony is much employed as a technique in relation to the characters, which are trapped in a double perspective: they don’t know that things are not how they appear, while the reader does.
- 3 person narrator
- She chose the characters in interaction with dialogue
- She uses the last part of chapter to make a comment.
Jane Austen can be considered as a predecessor of psychoanalytic analysis. She is interests in self-awareness, in a process of grow and development of their characters. For this reason we can consider her main characters as round characters. Round characters are more complex and have more than one facet, like human beings:
- They pass through the crucial events of the story and are remembered by the reader in connection with those scenes.
- Their personality is modified by experience, they are likely to influence the development of the story, and are fit to surprise the reader in a convincing way.
- They bring the variety of real life within the pages of a book, performing both comic and tragic roles.
An effective example of round characters is offered by the figure of Elizabeth Bennet in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, when she realises she has been prejudiced towards Mr Darcy in the finally extract (Elizabeth’s self-realization). She isn’t the same girl the reader has met in the first chapters of the novel, she is a new woman, whose choices and actions have changed the life of the people around her, a heroine who has evolved and become aware of her real feelings.
In the novel also appear flat characters (the typical characters of gothic fictions), but they aren’t the protagonists. However this doesn’t mean they are always artistically inferior to round characters. As a matter of fact, the author can use them to create a particular atmosphere inside a complex narrative frame. Flat characters can be easily presented in a few sentences as in the case of Mrs Bennet in Pride and Prejudice: “She was a woman of mean understanding, little information, and uncertain temper. When she was discontented she fancied herself nervous. The business of her life was to get her daughters married; its solace was visiting and news”. There is Mrs Bennet; whatever she does and wherever she goes, she remains the same. Flat characters are best when they are comic; they run the risk to becoming boring when they perform tragically.
The heroine, Elizabeth Bennet, and the hero, Mr Darcy, seem to be in a critical antithesis to the conventional heroes and heroines of the romantic and sentimental novels of the period. Darcy is unsociable: he knows the principles of right conduct, but is selfish and arrogant. Elizabeth has a lively mind and she is capable of complex ideas. She has a strong spirit of independence: she refuses to take on the roles, which her family or people in socially superior position want to impose on her. Both of them at the beginning of the story are incapable to understand themselves and each other’s. She accuses him of pride and he accuses her of prejudice. They also work in reverse: she is proud and her pride blinds her to his virtues; he is prejudiced by his nature and he is disgusted by the vulgar manners of Elizabeth.
The beginning is ironical: “ It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of good fortune, must be in want of a wife”. There is a contrast between the solemn beginning that seems to be a philosophical truth and the statement, that is something superficial and banal and it reflects Mrs Bennet’s point of view.
This extract introduces the figure of Mr and Mrs Bennet.
Mrs Bennet is a typically country gentry woman because she knows that if Mr Bennet died they will become poor. Mrs Bennet is worried about her 5 daughters for one reason: at the time girls could not inherit their fathers lands because they are women. If the five girls don’t find a husband they have to go to work and in their social class it represents a shame of their family. She appears as a very stupid, moody and nervous woman.
Mr Bennet instead is not a very good father because is doesn’t worried about his daughters’ future. Mr and Mrs Bennet is a rather unhappy couple. Mr Bennet appears to have discovered too late those physical gifts of the woman he is married and he chooses to live in isolation as far as he can. He is more patient, ironical and quitter than his wife. We can say that their marriage is a loveless one, full of incomprehension and quarrels. They have a bad opinion of one each other.
Chapter three presents a scene at the ball.
This ball is organized by one of the family in the area in order to welcome Mr Bingley and his friend Mr Darcy. They are richer, wealthier and a bit hider than Bennet’s family. The function of this chapter is introducing the figure of Elizabeth and Darcy. This first meeting has a strong influence of the all novel. Elizabeth is very intelligent, the most honest, witty, sensible, but not very beautiful. Mr Bingley is very friendly, nice, easy going, is not conscious so he mixes with other classes without problems. On the contrary Mr Darcy is a snob, a proud aristocratic: he never dance with the girls. Pride can be possible referred to Mr Darcy’s attitude at the ball because he doesn’t want to invite dancing Elizabeth because she is the only girl unaccepted by the others men and she is socially inferior. Prejudice can be referred to the Elizabeth’s first impression on Darcy.
This chapter represents a turning point in the novel. In this chapter Mr Darcy proposes marriage to Elizabeth.
Darcy is able to control his feelings. He realizes to follow in love with Elizabeth, but he knows the social difference exists between them, but also knows that he can’t live without her. So he wants to marry her. When he propose marriage to her he speaks more about the social difference than about the feelings for her. Obviously it isn’t the right way to court a woman. As a result of his deprivable behaviour Elizabeth feels different feelings. Firstly she is surprise because she can’t believe that a proud man as Darcy would asked her to marry, then she hate him because she realizes that he considers more the social difference than his feelings. When she refuses his proposal she is satisfaction and she felt compassion for Darcy. Darcy is proud because he considers Elizabeth socially inferior and Elizabeth is proud too because she refuses him and she has also a prejudiced dislike to the hero because of his behaviour. She doesn’t accept it, because she is proud and doesn’t admit that Darcy considers her inferior in front of him. Elisabeth was not very rich so the refuse represents a very courageous act Mr Darcy: It is dangerous refuse such a rich man; because it is improbable that another man would like to marry her. She demonstrates to be a very independent and proud girl.
This is a crucial point in the novel and in the development of Elizabeth’s character. She has to learn to reconsider her attitude towards Darcy and herself. Jane Austen wants to convince the reader that the change in Elizabeth is something permanent. She is able to recognise her mistakes and she wants to reaper them. She isn’t the same girl the reader has met in the first chapters of the novel, she is a new woman, whose choices and actions have changed the life of the people around her, a heroine who has evolved and become aware of her real feelings