The novel Pride and Prejudice was written during the middle of the Romantic period in western literature, but it is itself rather uncharacteristic of other fictional works of the period. Unlike the great Romantic novels and poems of the period, which usually praised youthful passions, Austen’s work minimizes them. Austen’s works are models of restraint. Instead of the wild force of nature, Austen concentrates on family life in small English towns. Instead of rampant emotionalism Austen emphasizes a balance between reason and emotion.
Instead of suicide and unrequited love, Austen offers elopement and marriage. “Austen’s prime theme of marriage is far from trivial” (Walder 1996, p. 52) as it is considered today as marriage was an important issue in Austen’s time and it was the only time when a woman had the freedom to get upward socio-economic mobility [though some critics thinks that she considers that considering money as the criterion for marriage is highly terrible. (Collins p. 161)] This extract explains this correlation between socio-economic status and marriage.
Irony or the contrast between the expected and the actual is the chief literary device Austen uses to comment on the manners of English gentry in Pride and Prejudice. Her irony takes different forms for different. Another stylistic feature that one can observe in this extract in general and throughout novel in particular is her formal style. Perhaps the first thing about Jane Austen’s style that strikes the reader is its formality by modern standards. This is a characteristic of her time, and of the outlook she shared.
The decorum of her prose represents a disciplined habit of mind and a disciplined attitude towards life. But the formality has about it nothing of the pomp us or verbose. On the contrary one of the chief qualities of her narrative style is precision, lucidity, and economy. With these is combined a habitual tone of irony. The irony is the cutting edge, as it was an instrument of moral perception which was Jane Austen’s sensibility. Mr. Collins speaks about his conception of a true marriage.
He takes the conventional notions about marriage of true minds where partners have similar dispositions and ideas about life in general. Mr. Collins philosophy of marriage reminds Charlotte’s reminds Charlotte’s matrimonial ideology as she also consider the harmony of characters and minds as the ultimate source of matrimonial bliss and place no importance to money or fortune. She says in Chapter 6; “Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance. If the dispositions of the parties are ever so well known to each other, or ever so similar before-hand, it does not advance their felicity in the least.
They always contrive to grow sufficiently unlike afterwards to have their share of vexation; and it is better to know as little as possible of the defects of the person with whom you are to pass your life. ” Mr. Collins also suffers from the same fictitious idealism like Charlotte. That’s the reason he says; “My dear Charlotte and I have but one mind and one way of thinking. There is in everything a most remarkable resemblance of character and ideas between us. We seem to have been designed for each other.
” (Chapter XXXV) Furthermore, he longs for same matrimonial felicity for Elizabeth in her married life without knowing what is her ideals of marriage and what she wants to be come out of marriage. Jane Austin has beautifully employed irony as Mr. Collins wishes something for Elizabeth that she does not like. Furthermore, Jane Austin juxtaposes this conception of matrimonial bliss with his own conception of marriage and its preconditions that prevail throughout the novel. Jane Austin has Marxian conception of marriage and she considers wealth and socio-economic well-being as the foremost pre-condition of marriage.
For the author, in the persona of Mr. Bennet’s daughter Elizabeth, however, irony’ is potent toy and a defensive weapon in the war against stupidity. The author uses Elizabeth to skewer self-important characters such as Mr. Collins and Mrs. Bennet. Yet Elizabeth is also blind to her own character faults, and her very blindness is another example of Austen’s use of irony. In her misunderstandings with Darcy, she (who is blind to her own pride in her ability to read character) accuses him false and excessive pride, while he (who is prejudiced against people with less money than he has) accuses her of prejudice.
The rest of the episode shows the haughtiness and pomposity of Mr. Collins. Mr. Collins is a type of character that Jane Austin uses to highlight the posing and pretensions of English society of the time and the vain self-importance of an individual. His acquisition of fortune by chance to get an approval of Lady Catherine de Bourgh has made him to think of himself in higher terms and opinion. All his haughtiness and snobbery in the extract is a manifestation of this high opinion of his own self. His high opinion of Charlotte is also a product of this imagined high placement in society.
He earns a handsome income and owns a house, so he requires a wife at this stage that can enrich his own fortune. Here Jane Austin elaborates the interrelation of marriage and money. If Mr. Collins would not have owned a house and would not have made a good fortune by chance, he would never think of having marriage. So he imagined conception of marriage as a bond between tow souls that are alike in their dispositions and character, seems only a caprice of imagination only. Establishing a correlation between marriage and social status is an important theme of Austen in this extract.
Jane Austen also makes her reader see the correlation in the light of her contemporary social conventions. Earlier in the novel, when Elizabeth refuses the proposal of Mr Collins, he is unwilling to accept it. It was highly improbable that a woman of Elizabeth’ social status would reject the proposal of a well-off person. His self-importance is another factor that contributes toward his un-acceptance if her refusal. He disapprove of Elizabeth’s social status in these words that Elizabeth’s “portion is unhappily so small that it will in all likelihood undo the effects of [her] loveliness and amiable qualifications”.
His social status reassures himself by saying that; “you are not serious in your rejection of me, I shall chuse to attribute it to your wish of increasing my love by suspense, according to the usual practice of elegant females. ” There is a dichotomy of Elizabeth’s refusal to Mr. Collin and her manifestation as an ideal woman of Austen who thinks marriage in terms of money. Walder (1996) has rightly pointed out; “In a social world where only possibility of movement in a women’s life was through marriage, choice of partner was as serious a business as choice of career was for a man.
” Seen in this light, Elizabeth’s refusal of Mr. Collins is as brave an act as that of a young man who refuses to enter the family firm. ” (Walder, 52) Jane Austen used Elizabeth as her mouth-piece to ridicule the fictitious idealism of various characters throughout the novel. In this case, Elizabeth does not directly say any word about Mr. Collins viewpoints but only show her contempt by feeling sorry for “Poor Charlotte” but she revisits her thought about her and says that she is not innocent as she herself has decided to marry Collins and choose a pretentious society.
Jane Austen reflects here that if someone is placed in this situation, then it is tragic but someone has consciously decided to go for a vain marriage proposal, he ore she should be fully responsible for it. So it was Charlotte own disposition rather than chance that her placed her in that situation. But when Elizabeth herself refuses the proposal of Mr. Collins, she was also caught in fictitious idealism. She is of the view that as her father is a gentleman; she is on equal terms with Darcy and Bingleys. (Brooke, 1999. p. 158) Jane Austen beautifully shows her fictitious idealism as well.
Jane Elizabeth also shows, through the character of Maria, the vainglory of English gentry. Unlike Elizabeth, Maria is amazed and amused by the social decorum. She was still startled at the nine dinners at Rosings and several teas. This extract further another aspect of Jane Austen’s art i. e. handling of dialogue. She had a remarkable ear, and must have been a shrewd observer of mannerism in speech. The speech of her characters is always consonant with their personalities yet it never approaches caricature. In the extract, Mr. Collins dialogues are true reflection of his personality yet it does not portray him as a caricature.
Maria’s dialogues are equally expressive of her self and her tender age. So this extract and other textual examples from Pride and Prejudice clearly manifest that Jane Austen has skillfully conveyed her basic theme of money and marriage through her subtle style. She does not waste her words and there is uncommon clarity with economy in her art. References Austen, Hane. (2006). Pride and Orejudice. New York: Poenguin Classic. Brooke, C. (1999). Jane Austen: Illusion and reality. Rochester, NY: D. S. Brewer. Walder, D. (1996). The realist novel. Approaching literature. London: Routledge.
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