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Analysis of Jane Austin’s Pride And Prejudice Essay

Elizabeth’s and Darcy’s epithet (not literal but rather implied) of “Proud and Prejudiced” as the title of the book indicates, is clearly evident in the discourse and the use of pronouns found in extract “A” – chapter 10. Extract “B” – chapter 58, has an entirely different use of discourse and the “polarity of persons” is fundamentally different to that of extract “A”, the “I” and “you” of Elizabeth and Darcy become increasingly more like a metaphorical “we” or “us” as the book progresses, bring about a new implied epithet of “humble and accepting”. Benveniste refers to the use of pronouns as bringing one’s “ego” into reality through the “othering” of people. The culture of politeness at the time that Jane Austin wrote Pride and Prejudice dictated that a person had to be far more subtle in their approach to, amongst others, insults. This was predominantly done through the change in indexicals, in the same manner we as the reader are able to pick up on the transition from; repulsion between Elizabeth and Darcy through to attraction and ultimately love, all as an event of language.

In extract “A” Mr. Darcy moves closer, “drawing near” – line 2, to Elizabeth , this is indicative of his affection towards her although it may be on a sub-conscious level. The reader can assume this as he moves his entire body towards her in a private manner. He then proceeds to “other” and mock her in line 4 by not including his own subjectivity in the discourse. “Do not you feel a great inclination, Miss Bennet, to seize such an opportunity of dancing a reel?” – In this “utterance” Mr. Darcy does not include himself in the discourse and refers to Elizabeth as “you”, this creates a distance between the two as the “you” is not linked to Mr. Darcy’s “I”. Mr. Darcy extenuates Elizabeth by referring to her as “Miss Bennet”, in this he creates more distance by the formal address.

The word “seize” is a blatant attempt to incite a reaction from Elizabeth by emphasizing her family’s economic situation by insinuating that being poor, she would jump at the opportunity to let loose and revel in the opportunity to participate in, it is implied, this rare treat. In actuality Darcy is using an ironical tone to provoke a response and although othering Elizabeth is desperately seeking her attention. The same practice is performed by most young children, often mocking and behaving in a callous manner to the opposite sex in order simply to engage them. Elizabeth does not answer his question and he is forced to repeat it. This indicates to the reader that although the two seem to be partaking in an argument, it is more than that and they are rather just trying to get attention from one another. It is important to note that at the time the novel was written it would be considered extremely rude to not answer a direct question and the fact that Elizabeth does this to Darcy shows us; that she is a head strong proud individual and that she feels comfortable enough with Mr. Darcy to be impolite.

After having repeated the question Elizabeth answers him. The polarity of the subjectivity and deixis is well demonstrated in her response to him. “I heard you before”, she involves him as a “you” (the object) and rebukes him by making him aware that he knew she had heard and there was no need to repeat the question. She continues by re-iterating her intention of othering him by using “in reply” – line 9 opposed to “to you”. To illustrate his opinion and highlight his rudeness, she proceeds and turns him into the subject by placing the “you” at the beginning of the sentence in line 9, “You wanted me”. Elizabeth does this in order to embarrass Darcy and in doing so becomes a hypocrite, by using a tit for tat approach. She rebukes his poor cordiality but in doing so becomes just as malicious as Darcy.

Elizabeth ‘s rebuttal reaches the crux with her proverbial “but” – line 10; after involving him she utterly removes him as a subject in her discourse and moves into a statement, “I delight in overthrowing those kind of schemes, and cheating a person of their premeditated contempt.” The reader can observe the “those” and “their” as a way of putting Darcy and his verbal banter in the same category as any other person she has encountered in her past. To enhance her point with dramatic effect she slows the tempo of her “utterances”; “I have, therefore, made up my mind to tell you, that I do not want to dance a reel at all – and now despise me if you dare.” Once again she makes herself the subject with the “I have” then a the series of pauses so that the reaffirmation of her subjectivity can occur distinctively three times; “I have”, “made up my mind”, “that I do not want”. In closing Elizabeth forces the polarity onto Darcy by using direct and powerful words “despise” and “dare”. It is thus impossible for Darcy to avoid discourse and resorts to a defence of his ego offered by the “I”.

Extract “B” – chapter 58 begins with Darcy explaining to Elizabeth the circumstances of his youth that brought about the “selfish” – line 8 adult that he became. In this monologue Darcy’s use of pronouns from lines 1 through to 11 are all self involved and one can notice the repetition of “I” at the beginning of sentences and after conjunctions or the start of a new point. This is unlike the use of “I” found in earlier extracts as well as future extracts; this is due to Darcy’s explanation being of little importance to any “polarity of persons” but rather a brief description. Darcy has by this stage of the book evolved into almost an entirely different “I” or person.

When he uses the “I” in this section of the extract he is in essence borrowing it from his old self in order to justify his “Prejudiced” actions towards not only Elizabeth but all people he perceived to be of an inferior class. The introduction of Darcy’s new self occurs in line 12 with his inclusion of “you” and the use of Elizabeth ‘s name, “but for you, dearest, loveliest Elizabeth!”. The surrender of all ego is done by attributing “dearest” and “loveliest” to the “you” of Elizabeth , importantly he uses the pinnacle of these attributes to raise her above all others. “By you I was properly humbled.” – line 14; this positioning of the “you” before the “I’ show that Darcy has completely surrendered himself over to Elizabeth by giving the “you” tenure of the “I”.

Elizabeth, not surprisingly, also gives herself over to Darcy by reversing the order of pronouns in line 17 – “Had you then persuaded yourself that I should?”. The use of pronouns as Benviniste demonstrates is a direct representation and the only true representation of ones ego. Both Elizabeth and Darcy then proceed in a rather shameful manner to reverse the “polarity of persons” in order to apologise to one another. “How you must have hated me after that evening!” – line 22, the reader should take note of the utterance being formed as a question but made as a statement.

Certainly Elizabeth is seeking a response but in a very passive manner! Darcy replies in an equally passive tone but hints of defensive tones can be observed in his response of “Hate you! I was angry, perhaps, at first, but my anger soon began to take a proper direction” – line 23. Darcy involuntarily reverts back to his old “I” as a means of defence and finding a comfort zone, correcting himself he introduces and Elizabeth and her “you” by implying that she is the “proper direction”. The lines that follow are of the same passive nature as slowly the “I” and “you” of Darcy and Elizabeth become one.

Benviniste tries to convey that our use of pronouns is in essentially the only way in which or utterances or communication can be of any importance. Pronouns are the gateway in which or ego’s can be transmitted into reality. These two extracts from “Pride and Prejudice” show wonderfully how this is done. Through the book we notice a clear change in the “polarity of persons” from that of egotistical to unselfish and relinquished pronouns.

Bibliography:Jane Austin Pride and Prejudice


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