Pride and Prejudice was Jane Austens second novel and published in January 1813. It has achieved a popularity that has endured to this day, due to many interesting features which can be found in her novel. This essay shall attempt to discuss some of these features and analyze them based on the extract provided.
The narrative voice in the story is that of a third person. The narrator does not belong to the story and refers to characters in the story by name or third person pronouns: he, she and they. The narrator is also able to see into the thoughts of the characters in the novel.
Austens novel Pride and Prejudice has been recognized as having an effect of naturalness which is achieved by means of superb artistic organization, which exploits to the full the potential of novelistic prose and form. (Morris 32) One of the ways she achieves this is through the use of irony.
The narrator in the story makes use of irony to convey a mood of comedy as evident in the example He bore with philosophy the conviction that Elizabeth must become acquainted with whatever of his ingratitude and falsehood has before been unknown to her. The idea of someone asserting their ingratitude and falsehood to others voluntarily and forcefully is indeed satirical and funny, to say the least. Skillfully fusing two opposing viewpoints in a single sentence is indeed a hallmark of Austens writing style.
Another example of irony that is used is structural irony. Structural irony reflects the underlying moral scheme of work. In the extract, Elizabeth knows about Lydias character very well but she still chooses to help her from time to time. She even convinces Darcy to offer some help to Wickham, even though Elizabeth knew that the couple were living beyond their means. As the heroine, Elizabeth was intelligent and witty but at the same time weak and helpless when it came to discerning family members.
The narrator also uses the two main forms of narration showing and telling. In telling, the narrator actually tells us how the character feels and thinks. This method is a quick and indirect way of informing readers about a character. For example, we are told that Lydia and Wickham were always moving from place to place in quest of a cheap situation, and always spending more than they ought. The choice of words suggests that they were both living beyond their means and that they were both materialistic people.
In showing, a method which has been described as more effective in involving the reader imaginatively with characters and producing an active response of sympathy or judgement (Morris, 34), the narrator tells us that that even Bingleys good humour was overcome, and he proceeded so far as to talk of giving them a hint to be gone. We can derive from this that Mr. Bingley was probably a kind hearted man who welcomed Lydia and Wickham. Even for a person of his nature, the antics of the couple would have been unsettling, so much so, that he was inclined to drop hints that they were probably overstaying their welcome.
The themes in the passage chosen are mostly about money and class. Money is an important fixture in the extract. We can see the contrasting lifestyles led by the sisters, Lydia and Elizabeth. Lydia was poor but carved for material success and depended on her sisters rich husband for support. While Elizabeth had married Darcy who was rich, she was not greedy and often helped her sister out of her own goodwill. The men in the novel were viewed as cash cows while the sole aim of the women was to find a rich handsome groom to marry. The only exception to this rule was the heroine herself, who did not marry Darcy out of love for money.
The basis of marriage has also been explored in the extract. In the novel, Lydia marries Wickham out of vanity and on a whim. As such the foundation of their marriage was weak and it led to indifference for Lydia by Wickham as mentioned in the extract. As for Elizabeth and Darcy, who truly understood each other and married, their love for each other grew stronger for each other, enabling them to do little sacrifices for each other. This is evident in the extract, when Darcy assists Wickham in his profession, because of Elizabeths sake.
The difficulties faced by women in a conservative society are also a major theme. Women were viewed by the men they married and the richer the man, the better it was. Although Elizabeth was married, she was still duty bound to help out her siblings and parents who came to visit her. Lydia did not hesitate to write letters to her sisters appealing for financial assistance even though her sisters were leading their own lives.
One of the techniques used to communicate the message across to the reader is the use of focalization. In focalization, the narrators voice speaks but we are made to see through a characters eyes or point of view. For example, from the extract she endeavoured in her answer to put an end to every entreaty and expectation of every kind although the voice of narrator is in place here, the point of view conveyed is that of Elizabeth, giving her unfavourable impression of her sister who was asking for help.
The effect of using Elizabeth as the main focalizer for the novel is that it induces reader sympathy, since we often see things through a characters eyes. This can be a very useful devise for a didactic novelist who aims to educate the readers moral discrimination by closely involving them in the process of moral improvement the heroine enacts. (Morris, 38) This is also one of the reasons why Elizabeth is considered one of the most popular heroines in the canon of English Literature (Morris 41).
Another technique used in the novel is the epistolary method. Austen makes use of many letters in Pride and Prejudice. In the extract, a letter is written by Lydia to Elizabeth. Letters written by characters are always an important and revealing method of characterization in Austens fiction (Morris 39). The letter paints a picture of Lydia as a haughty individual who also manipulates Elizabeth on the basis of the relationship as sisters.
Lydia compares her own marriage life to Elizabeths in the opening line, giving Elizabeth an impression that she is deeply in love with Wickham and that her marriage is in good shape. However, in the following lines, she requests from Elizabeth some form of financial assistance for her husband and implores her not to bring this matter up with Darcy. Lydia wants Elizabeths help, but without Darcys knowledge.
From the letter, the reader gains an insight into the character of Lydia. Lydia is full of pride and vanity and even though she is poor and her marriage is on the rocks due to financial reasons, she still manages to keep up appearances, probably as a form of saving face. Lydia knew that Elizabeth will help her, which is why she wrote a letter to Elizabeth in the first place.
In conclusion, Mikhail Bakhtins ideas on language can be used to identify with Austens novel. Pride and Prejudice is a dialogic novel which contains a dialogue of voices ranging from different classes, genders and profession. It contains many features which help to reveal much about society and its underlying moral themes which are relevant to this day.
Word count: 1256
LIST OF WORKS CITED
1. Morris, Pam. Reading Pride and Prejudice, The Realist Novel, edited by Dennis Walder, Routledge, Open University, 1995