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Stylistic analysis Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
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Book report

«Pride and Prejudice» by Jane Austen

Jane Austen was born in 1775 at Steventon, Hampshire in southern England, where her father was a minister. She was the sixth child in a family of seven children. The family was very close, and Jane had a particular closeness to her sister Cassandra. Although she attended boarding school for a short while, she was mostly educated at home. Both she and Cassandra were attractive and attended country parties; neither of them married, although Jane had several proposals. Much of Jane’s life is captured in the letters that she wrote to her sister, but Cassandra cut out any references there might have been about Jane’s intimate, private life and her innermost thoughts. In spite of the missing information, the letters retain flashes of sharp wit and occasional coarseness. Jane began to write at a young age. Pride and Prejudice, her most popular novel, was the first to be written, although not the first published. She wrote on it for several years and finally completed it as First Impressions in 1797. It, however, was not accepted for publication until 1813, when it appeared with its current version with its new title. As a result, Sense and Sensibility was published first, in 1811. Her other four novels, Mansfield Park, Emma, Northanger Abbey, and Persuasion were all published between 1814 and 1818. She also wrote six minor works and one unfinished novel. Because she wanted to avoid attention, most of her work was not published under her name. When Mr. Austen retired in 1801, the family moved to Bath, where they lived until Mr. Austen’s death. The family then moved to Southampton in 1806, to Chawton in 1809, and then again to Hampshire. A few days before her sudden death in 1817, she lodged in Winchester.

«Pride and Prejudice» is the social and psychological novel. Class distinctions in Jane Austen’s time were in fact very rigid. The land-owning aristocracy belonged to the highest rung of the social ladder, and all power was in their hands. Next in rank came the gentry. The new, prosperous industrialists and traders (like Mr. Gardiner) were gradually rising as a class, but had still not won the right to vote. The lowest in English society were the workers and laborers.

The novel is set in the 19the century, principally in Longbourn, the Hertfordshire country town that is a mile from Meryton and twenty-four miles from London. It is a well-ordered, provincial town, filled with landed gentry and oblivious to the sweeping changes occurring outside the fringes of its narrow, circumscribed vision.

Pride and Prejudice is written in third-person omniscient. This allows the reader to see the perspective of more than one character in the complicated social whirl of Regency England. It also embroils the reader deeper into the conflicts and problems presented within the novel.

The mood throughout the novel is formal and realistic to its nineteenth century setting. Even though it is a novel about love and marriage, it is not romantic and emotional, but realistic and practical.

Conflict

In Pride and Prejudice, the most obvious conflict is between the two main characters. Both Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy possess a strong sense of pride and prejudice which lead them to misunderstand one another. The two of them clash at social functions and they are determined to disagree with one another until this clash leads to a romantic tension. Their conflict started with misunderstandings and did not resolve until they were able to peel away their pride and prejudice to truly understand one another.

Elizabeth’s internal conflict comes from choosing between either duty or heart. Elizabeth carries with her the burden of choosing between marrying for financial reasons or marrying for love. When deciding whether to marry Mr. Collins, Mr. Bennet provided Elizabeth with an ultimatum to help her decide: “An unhappy alternative is before you, Elizabeth. From this day on you must be a stranger to one of your parents. Your mother will never see you again if you do not marry Mr. Collins, and I will never see you again if you do”. With this ultimatum, Elizabeth makes the difficult decision to keep rejecting Mr. Collins which is synonymous to rejecting an opportunity for financial security. This decision was revolutionary back in the 19th century where it was almost unthinkable to reject such a secure offer, but it also helps readers reflect back on Jane Austen’s decision to reject her own marriage proposal.

The third example of a conflict lies in Mr. Darcy’s internal conflict of rationality versus emotions. Mr. Darcy struggles with his feelings for Elizabeth and society’s expectations for him which also affect his pride. His internal struggles come to a climax when he confesses before Elizabeth. “In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you… Could you expect me to rejoice in the inferiority of your connections? To congratulate myself on the hope of relations whose condition in life is so decidedly beneath my own?” (Pride and Prejudice 125-127). In this confession, Mr. Darcy conveys to Elizabeth his internal struggles of how he loves her but does not look favorably upon her situation in life. Mr. Darcy comes upon a resolution for his own feelings but it is appalling to Elizabeth how blatantly Mr. Darcy disrespects her family. Mr. Darcy is rejected but the novel’s end has both Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy marrying happily and ending their internal conflicts when they marry for love, rather than for financial reasons or pride.

Major Themes

The pivotal theme is that marriage is important to individuals and society. Throughout the novel, the author describes the various types of marriages and reasons behind them. Marriage out of economic compulsions can be seen in Charlotte’s marriage to Collins. Marriage due to sensual pleasure can be seen in Lydia’s marriage. The marriage of Jane and Elizabeth are the outcome of true love between well-matched persons.

Jane Austen’s romance novels contain the typical theme of love and marriage. This theme is prevalent throughout Pride and Prejudice which centers around the two main couples as they undergo many hardships that challenge their potential romance; including their own prejudices towards each other. These couples must overcome the many social conflicts that come with the gentleman marrying beneath his social status. For example, even though Jane and Mr. Bingley do not have any internal challenges to their relationship, the outside forces tear them apart for a while. Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy must first overcome their own misunderstandings before they realize their mutual love for one another. Even after overcoming this internal challenge, outside forces such as Lady Catherine de Bourgh and Miss Bingley, are consistently there to interfere in this couple’s relationship. Love and marriage in Pride and Prejudice also brings up the social aspects of 19th century England where women, such as Charlotte Lucas, often entered into marriages for convenience’s sake instead of for love. Marriage is conveyed in a romantic way by Elizabeth when she chooses to marry for love instead of for financial reasons.

Another prominent theme in Pride and Prejudice lies in the title: the theme of pride. Pride resides in both Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy, which blinds them to the true characters of one another. Mr. Darcy possesses much pride due to his family, social status, and wealth, making him look down upon any who are not within his immediate social circle. On the other hand, Elizabeth also exhibits pride. As she professes her distaste for Mr. Darcy’s pride, Elizabeth states, “I could easily forgive his pride, if he had not mortified mine”. Even though Elizabeth claims that Mr. Darcy is undeserving of any pride, she herself confesses that she is also prideful. Elizabeth prides herself on her judgment of others and after making an opinion of Mr. Darcy, refuses to change this opinion. It is this pride in her abilities that make it difficult for Elizabeth to accept Mr. Darcy’s virtues along with his faults. It is not until Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy shed away their feelings of pride that they are able to understand and love each other.

The other half of the title, prejudice, is another ubiquitous theme found in the novel. Many of the characters, besides the two main characters, have prejudices against those unlike themselves. Mr. Darcy is extremely prejudiced against those outside of his social status and feels he is lowering himself when he proposes to Elizabeth. Elizabeth is prejudiced towards Mr. Darcy for her impressions of him during their first meeting. When Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy rid themselves of their prejudices, they must also try to overcome the prejudices of other characters. An opposing force that is determined to tear the couple apart is Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Lady Catherine exhibits much pride and prejudice towards the status quo and refuses to accept Elizabeth due to her inferior family and wealth. Her prejudice is shown all the way up until the end of the novel and never once diminishes.

Minor Themes

A minor theme found in the novel is appearance versus reality, with Austen stressing that a person cannot be judged by his outer being. During the course of the book, several characters are not properly judged, for good conduct does not necessarily mean good character, just as a pretty face does not indicate a pure soul.

Another theme stressed by the author is that in order to display good sense, a vitally important characteristic, a person must possess intelligence, sensitivity, and responsibility. Each of the major characters in the novel is judged against these three important criteria.

Pride and Prejudice is the story of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet and their five unmarried daughters. They live in the estate of Longbourn in Hertfordshire, a rural district about thirty miles from London. The family is not rich. Their property is ‘entailed’ to pass to the nearest male heir in the family, in this case to Mr. Collins. The main concern of Mrs. Bennet’s life is to see that all her daughters are married, preferably to men with large fortunes. She sees an opportunity for her eldest daughter Jane when Mr. Charles Bingley, a wealthy gentlemen from the city, occupies the nearby estate of Netherfield Park. In her excitement, she urges her husband to visit Mr. Bingley on the very first day of his arrival, before any of the other neighbors. Mr. Bennet complies to his wife’s request and visits Mr. Bingley, but withholds information about his visit from the family.

At the next social gathering in Meryton, Bingley brings along his two sisters, Caroline Bingley and Louisa Hurst. But more importantly, he brings his closest friend, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy. Bingley, who is charming and social, is immediately attracted to the modest and gentle Jane Bennet. Darcy, in contrast to Bingley, is proud, rude, and disagreeable. When Bingley suggests that Darcy dance with Elizabeth Bennet, he refuses and negatively comments on her looks. Elizabeth overhears the comment and develops a strong prejudice against Darcy. At the next ball in Netherfield, Darcy feels an attraction for Elizabeth and asks her for a dance. She refuses to dance with him, thereby avenging the earlier insults. Jane and Bingley continue to be attracted to one another. Caroline Bingley invites Jane to Netherfield for a visit. While at Netherfield, Jane falls ill and Elizabeth comes to look after her sister. While at Netherfield, Elizabeth is forced to confront Darcy. She approaches him with wit and sarcasm. Since Darcy has known only flattery from others, he is charmed by Elizabeth’s frankness. During her short stay at Netherfield, Elizabeth realizes Caroline is very contemptuous of her family, its social status, and Mrs. Bennet’s vulgarity. Elizabeth concludes that Caroline’s friendship and cordiality towards Jane is only a pretense. The male relative to whom the Longbourn estate is ‘entailed’ is Rev. William Collins of Hunsfort. Mr.

Collins pays a visit to Longbourn with the intention of proposing marriage to one of the Bennet daughters.His pompous manners and his bloated rhetoric disgust everyone, except Mrs. Bennet, who looks upon him as a prospective son-in-law. Collins is attracted to Jane, but Mrs. Bennet informs him that she is about to be engaged. He then turns his attention to Elizabeth and makes a ridiculous proposal of marriage to her. When Elizabeth rejects him, he proposes to her friend Charlotte Lucas, who, to everyone’s shock, accepts him. Mrs. Bennet is distressed by Elizabeth’s rejection of Mr. Collins because it is the one opportunity she has ofkeeping the Longbourn estate in the family.

Bingley and his companions soon depart for London. Both Bingley and Caroline write to Jane to say that they have closed Netherfield and have no plans of returning to it in the near future. Jane is very disappointed. As Jane feels frustration over Bingley, Elizabeth finds a new attraction. She meets Mr. Wickham and is foolishly and magnetically drawn to him. They have a friendly conversation in which she reveals her dislike of Darcy. Taking advantage of this information, Wickham concocts a story and tells Elizabeth that he has been cheated by Darcy. Elizabeth takes pity on him and almost falls in love. Mrs. Gardiner, however, warns Elizabeth about Wickham, who soon marries Miss King.

At the invitation of the Gardiners, Jane goes to London for some rest and change of air. She hopes that she sees Bingley, even accidentally. Jane makes many attempts to get in touch with him, but Caroline does not even inform her brother about Jane’s presence in London. Jane is heartbroken, but grows to accept her rejection.

Elizabeth goes to Hunsford to visit Mr. Collins and his new wife Charlotte, who is Elizabeth’s dear friend. During Elizabeth’s stay in Hunsford, Darcy happens to visit his aunt, who also lives there, and attempts to build a relationship with Elizabeth. To her surprise, Darcy proposes marriage to her in a language so arrogant that Elizabeth turns him down indignantly. She asks him how he dares to propose to her after separating Jane and Bingley, who were in love with each other, and after victimizing Wickham. She ends her tirade by saying that she would not marry him even if he were the last man on the earth. Darcy is upset and leaves in a huff. The next morning he meets Elizabeth when she goes out for a walk and hands her a long letter that answers all her accusations. He explains to her that he did not believe that Jane was really in love with Bingley. He also tells her the truth about Wickham. Elizabeth is shocked by his answers. There is also another shock awaiting her. Her youngest sister Lydia has been invited to Brighton by a young officer’s wife. Lydia is very excited about the trip; but Elizabeth knows how stupid, scatter brained, and flirtatious Lydia is. She tries to persuade her father not to allow Lydia to go to Brighton. Her father, however, dismisses Elizabeth’s fears.

Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner plan a tour of the Lake District and take Elizabeth with them. At the last minute, however, the tour is cut short and the Gardiners decide to restrict their trip to Derbyshire, where Darcy has his vast estate in Pemberley. Elizabeth makes sure that Darcy is away on business and then agrees to visit Pemberley, out of sheer curiosity. Pemberley is one of the most beautiful places she has ever visited, and Darcy’s elegant tastes are evident everywhere. To top it all, Ms. Reynolds, the housekeeper who has known Darcy since his childhood, speaks very highly of him, saying he is just and fair. Elizabeth cannot believe that she has made such a mistake in judging his character. As Elizabeth is looking over Pemberley’s lovely grounds, Darcy himself appears, returning a day before he is expected. He looks surprised to see Elizabeth, and she is intensely embarrassed. He is polite to her and the Gardiners, and Elizabeth notices that there is no trace of pride in him.

The following day, Bingley calls on Elizabeth, and his anxious inquiries about Jane indicate that he is still in love with her. Darcy and his beautiful sister, Georgiana, also call on Elizabeth at the inn to invite her and the Gardiners to dinner. Elizabeth accepts the dinner invitation. During the dinner, Caroline tries her best to destroy the friendly relationship between Darcy and Elizabeth by running down Elizabeth’s family, but she does not succeed. Darcy is fond of Elizabeth. News comes that Lydia has eloped with Wickham, so Elizabeth leaves Derbyshire with the Gardiners to return home. All attempts at tracing the runaway couple have failed. Darcy, touched by Elizabeth’s distress over Lydia, seeks to find her and catches up with the couple in London. Darcy convinces Wickham to marry Lydia, gives him ten thousand pounds, pays up his debts, and persuades him to settle in the North of London.

Darcy then requests that the Gardiners not reveal his help to the Bennet family. Elizabeth, however, finds out the truth about Darcy’s assistance. She is impressed with his kindness. Bingley makes an unannounced reappearance at Netherfield Park, and renews his courtship of Jane. They are soon engaged. Lady Catherine also arrives unannounced and acts very haughty towards the Bennet family. She threatens Elizabeth with dire consequences if she marries Darcy, but Elizabeth refuses to promise that she will not accept a proposal from Darcy. A few days later, Darcy comes to visit and makes a second proposal of marriage to Elizabeth. This time she accepts wholeheartedly. He thanks Elizabeth for teaching him the lesson of humility. The two couples, Jane and Bingley and Elizabeth and Darcy, are married on the same morning. Mrs. Bennet is overjoyed at having three of her daughters married, two of them to very rich young men. After a year’s stay at Netherfield Park, Bingley purchases an estate in Derbyshire. His mother-in-law’s tiresome company and her vulgar behavior are too much even for his calm temperament. The novel finally ends on a note of reconciliation with all of the characters trying to forgive and forget past insults.

Elizabeth Bennet

The second daughter in the Bennet family, and the most intelligent and quick-witted, Elizabeth is the protagonist of Pride and Prejudice and one of the most well-known female characters in English literature. Her admirable qualities are numerous—she is lovely, clever, and, in a novel defined by dialogue, she converses as brilliantly as anyone. Her honesty, virtue, and lively wit enable her to rise above the nonsense and bad behavior that pervade her class-bound and often spiteful society. Nevertheless, her sharp tongue and tendency to make hasty judgments often lead her astray; Pride and Prejudiceis essentially the story of how she (and her true love, Darcy) overcome all obstacles—including their own personal failings—to find romantic happiness. Elizabeth must not only cope with a hopeless mother, a distant father, two badly behaved younger siblings, and several snobbish, antagonizing females, she must also overcome her own mistaken impressions of Darcy, which initially lead her to reject his proposals of marriage. Her charms are sufficient to keep him interested, fortunately, while she navigates familial and social turmoil. As she gradually comes to recognize the nobility of Darcy’s character, she realizes the error of her initial prejudice against him.

Fitzwilliam Darcy

The son of a wealthy, well-established family and the master of the great estate of Pemberley, Darcy is Elizabeth’s male counterpart. The narrator relates Elizabeth’s point of view of events more often than Darcy’s, so Elizabeth often seems a more sympathetic figure. The reader eventually realizes, however, that Darcy is her ideal match. Intelligent and forthright, he too has a tendency to judge too hastily and harshly, and his high birth and wealth make him overly proud and overly conscious of his social status. Indeed, his haughtiness makes him initially bungle his courtship. When he proposes to her, for instance, he dwells more on how unsuitable a match she is than on her charms, beauty, or anything else complimentary. Her rejection of his advances builds a kind of humility in him. Darcy demonstrates his continued devotion to Elizabeth, in spite of his distaste for her low connections, when he rescues Lydia and the entire Bennet family from disgrace, and when he goes against the wishes of his haughty aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, by continuing to pursue Elizabeth. Darcy proves himself worthy of Elizabeth, and she ends up repenting her earlier, overly harsh judgment of him.

Jane Bennet and Charles Bingley

Elizabeth’s beautiful elder sister and Darcy’s wealthy best friend, Jane and Bingley engage in a courtship that occupies a central place in the novel. They first meet at the ball in Meryton and enjoy an immediate mutual attraction. They are spoken of as a potential couple throughout the book, long before anyone imagines that Darcy and Elizabeth might marry. Despite their centrality to the narrative, they are vague characters, sketched by Austen rather than carefully drawn. Indeed, they are so similar in nature and behavior that they can be described together: both are cheerful, friendly, and good-natured, always ready to think the best of others; they lack entirely the prickly egotism of Elizabeth and Darcy. Jane’s gentle spirit serves as a foil for her sister’s fiery, contentious nature, while Bingley’s eager friendliness contrasts with Darcy’s stiff pride. Their principal characteristics are goodwill and compatibility, and the contrast of their romance with that of Darcy and Elizabeth is remarkable. Jane and Bingley exhibit to the reader true love unhampered by either pride or prejudice, though in their simple goodness, they also demonstrate that such a love is mildly dull.

Speaking about stylistic devices in the novel “Pride and prejudice” we should define such devises as metonymy, alliteration, hyperbola, metaphor, etc.

Pride and Prejudice is, at its core, a satire on the ridiculous demands of social obligations in Regency England. Austen satirizes the snobbish upper class and their constant struggle to reach ultimate social acceptance. She also ridicules the lower-class for their inadequacies and misbehaviors resulting from poor breeding.

Irony is used in several places throughout the novel within the dialogue itself. A prime example is exhibited through Elizabeth's comments regarding Mr. Darcy's character.

 This is an example of irony in the novel:

"Yes; but intricate characters are the most amusing. They have at least that advantage."..."But people alter themselves so much, that there is something new to be observed in them forever."

This is "the interest that makes the book 'go' and shows the type of awareness we are analyzing...[someone's] behavior can be taken in so many ways, because they are not always the same people." This idea is exhibited throughout the novel.

Landscape and dance are two important metaphors in Pride and Prejudice. In the novel, "good estates" like Pemberley are the key to the social virtues of their owners, that the characters' estates help to define the social worth of the characters themselves.  She argues that the spatial terms used in describing landscape can also be seen as perceptual or emotional ones.  For example, when Elizabeth sees Pemberley, there is a sense of ascent, mutiplicity and expansion of the landscape, which could also symbolize Elizabeth's changing view of Darcy and his character and the expansion of the possibilities of her relationship with him.
Dance is another metaphor in the Austen's novel, and that it is akin to marriage. There is a heroine who through dance must judge each of her partners for appearance, style, character and compatibility, not just in dancing, but in marriage. The importance of the dance cannot be impressed enough, and the women must be careful whom they accept and whom they refuse.  In Pride and Prejudice, there are quite a few parallels between dance and marriage for Elizabeth.  The first time Darcy asks Elizabeth to dance, she refuses, just as she refuses his first proposal.  The second dance and proposal are accepted.  We can also see the parallels with Mr. Collins.  The dance with Collins is "mortifying," and the proposal is as well, as he continues not to believe she is declining his offer no matter how serious she is.

In the first chapter of this novel of manners, "Pride and Prejudice," Jane Austen employs satire and irony. In fact, the opening line is ironic:

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife

This verbal irony is carried out through the character of Mr. Bennett who banters with his wife as she excitedly informs her husband that a "single man of large fortune is to move into town by the end of next week":

"What a fine thing for our girls!" she exclaims.

Mr. Bennett asks, "How so? how can it affect them?"  and Mrs. Bennett feels she must patronize him:

"My dear Mr. Bennet...how can you be so tiresome!  You must know that I am thinking of his marrying one of them."

Mr. Bennet teases his wife, telling her to go with the girls on a visit to Mr. Bingley as he "might like you the best at the party."  And, in his best lines of the chapter, Bennet replies most ironically to his wife's accusations about his "delight" in vexing her:

You mistake me, my dear.  I have a high respect for your nerves.  They are my old friends.  I have heard you mention them with consideration these twenty years at least.

In this first chapter, Austen satirizes the character of Mrs. Bennet, the shallow, silly mother who would design the marriages of her daughters to prosperous men as was customary in the late 18th and early 19th century.  It is not her character, as Austen states, for her to understand a man such as Mr. Bennet. 

I think that Austen's writing style is a mix of neoclassicism and romanticism. Neoclassicism encourages reason and restraint in writing. It is logical and follows a structured form. Romanticism encourages passion and imagination in writing. It is emotional and follows a flowing form. Mixing these two styles may seem impossible, but layering neoclassicism and romanticism together was one of Austen's strong talents. Jane Austen portrays characters that have clearly withstood the test of time, and through them, she shows us her powerful understanding of the complexities of the human emotions. Perhaps even as our world has changed dramatically since Austen’s time, we are still able to identify and relate to these complexities. Perhaps, human beings in their essence do not change all that much even as their environment evolves and improves by gross dimensions.


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