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How does Jane Austen present Mr Collins in Pride and Prejudice

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Introduction

How does Jane Austen present the character of Mr Collins in chapters 13-16 of Pride and Prejudice? The character of Mr Collins is introduced by Jane Austen once the initial stage has been set for the novel-that of the Bennet family, Mr and Mrs Bennet and their five unmarried daughters. Mr Collins is a cousin of Mr Bennet and stands to inherit their property as the only male heir. Mrs Bennet refers to Mr Collins as 'that odious man' and also 'a man whom nobody cared anything about'. However this opinion was formed before the two were acquainted and is based on her feelings of injustice that Mr Collins stands to inherit Longbourn on the death of Mr Bennet. Mr Collins is a clergyman and would have held a respectable position in Jane Austen's society. He wishes to obtain a wife because in the eyes of society it is time for him to settle and be married, his sponsor Lady Catherine de Bourgh has advised him to marry and he is keen to comply with her wishes. ...read more.

Middle

To the reader Mr Bennet is mocking Mr Collin's pretentious style and sycophantic manner but this sarcasm is lost on all his family with the exception of Elizabeth. Mr Bennet often makes penetrating remarks and is the source of much of Jane Austen's choicest irony. When Mr Collins arrived he was observed to be 'a tall, and heavy looking young man of five and twenty. His air was grave and stately and his manners were very formal. He had not been long acquainted with them before he complimented Mr and Mrs Bennet on having five attractive daughters. Mr Collins describes how he is used to complimenting Lady Catherine and her daughter. Mr Bennet is delighted by Mr Collin's absurdity and satirically asks him if he prepares his speeches in advance, the question is so dryly humorous that Mr Collins completely misses its sarcasm. Jane Austen shows Mr Collins trying to enhance his own social status by his association with Lady Catherine de Bourgh. She is a member of the lesser aristocracy and shows this class at its most materialistic and ill bred. ...read more.

Conclusion

But unlike Collins he breaks the social code and is in time exposed to the eyes of the world. Both men's perceptions do not go beyond obvious formalities and social standards. Collins as Mr Bennet understands at one is 'absurd'; he is not very well educated but is portrayed by Jane Austen as a character with a mixture of pride and obsequiousness of over inflated sense of self. Jane Austen uses the character of Mr Collin's to inject elements of humour into the novel. Through the eyes of Mr Bennet and Elizabeth, Mr Collins is seen as both ridiculous and absurd, a pompous and opinionated young man. With whom she draws contrast with the other young men in the novel, Mr Wickham, Darcy and Bingley. However as usual in her novels Jane Austen enjoys her characters follies, she never fails to judge them against the eyes of society. Austen describes the personality of Collins as shallow more concerned with the external trappings of social status, more concerned with carrying out the duties of his church than any more Christian feelings. Jane Austen's present Mr Collins as lacking in depth and principals. ...read more.

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Here's what a teacher thought of this essay

3 star(s)

The writer realises that this is a question about Jane Austen's technique in character presentation, and offers several appropriate comments on this, mostly avoiding a merely descriptive account of what Mr. Collins is like.
The essay could be improved by more detailed analysis of language, and more care with punctuation, expression and proof reading. Also more attention could be paid to the comic presentation of Collins. Satire mixes criticism with comedy. This essay is good at pointing out how and why Austen is critical of the character, but there is less focus on the humour and the lively sense of fun she creates.
***

Marked by teacher Val Shore 17/06/2012

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