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Compare the ways in which Austen and Waugh present relationships between the sexes within a satirical context in 'Pride and Prejudice' and 'A Handful of Dust.'

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Introduction

Compare the ways in which Austen and Waugh present relationships between the sexes within a satirical context in 'Pride and Prejudice' and 'A Handful of Dust.' Relationships between the sexes in 'Pride and Prejudice' by Jane Austen and 'A Handful of Dust' by Evelyn Waugh are often portrayed within a satirical context. Each author uses different methods of effectively displaying the variety of interactions between opposite sexes. The two novels may seem unusual pieces to compare as they were written more than one hundred and thirty years apart, causing the authors to write from noticeably different biographical perspectives and contrasting historical contexts, yet when I analysed the novels closely I became aware that they were surprisingly similar compositions in terms of theme and approach, therefore allowing me to compare the themes and techniques of the two authors. Firstly, both authors focus their novels upon sexual relationships in contemporary society, equally within and outside marriage. Each novelist writes about the society he/she lives in and what they believe society's attitude would be to these relationships. The approach of both is satirical, that is, they employ a comic mode to explain a serious moral. Both authors in their opening chapters display this comic approach. Firstly, Austen's opening sentence is seen to be epigrammatic as her sarcastic, witty authorial view comes into play: 'It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.' This is ironic as it is the women of society who hunt men who have money. The satirical tone is therefore established from the beginning of the novel and these opening lines raise the interconnection of money and marriage, a major theme of the novel. Moreover, Evelyn Waugh like Austen uses an incisive, ironic tone: 'What with Brenda's pretty ways and Tony's good sense, it was not surprising that their friends pointed to them as a pair who were pre-eminently successful in solving the problem of getting along well together.' ...read more.

Middle

Everyone has known for some time.' making us believe that on an emotional level his callous nature will not bode well in his relationship with Brenda. Therefore, once again, we are forced back on our own judgement as with the match of Charlotte and Mr Collins in 'Pride and Prejudice.' Ultimately the ambivalence has to be conceded: the ironic nature of both authors throughout their novels leads to double meanings and the balancing of conflicting interpretations. Therefore here, we have to weigh expediency with principle, romance with realism, to decide whether we term these relationships successful or otherwise. The eighteenth century law of primogeniture led to another aspect of the prudential marriage, which Austen explores in 'Pride and Prejudice.' Marriages were sometimes arranged so as to keep money within the family. Certainly the ownership and transmission of wealth via marriage is a pre-occupation of Lady Catherine de Bourgh as she is determined that her daughter Anne, will marry Mr Darcy, a match so far removed from romantic notions and personal predilection that Austen's satire is virulent: 'From their infancy they have been intended for each other. It was the favourite wish of his mother as well as of hers.' This importance of money is seen in Elizabeth's relations with Wickham and Colonel Fitzwilliam. Mrs Gardiner warns her not to become too involved with Wickham: ' Do not involve yourself...in an affection which the want of fortune would make so very imprudent.' We can therefore see that the cash nexus features closely with marriage in another sense. Young men, often young sons, have a tendency to try and raise their failing fortunes via a prudential, advantageous match, something Elizabeth experiences regularly in the novel. Females needed the status of marriage to survive in the patriarchal society of the eighteenth century. Marriage promised security and a transmission of wealth allowing ladies to achieve a desired status. ...read more.

Conclusion

I therefore believe it is important for her to show us the necessary characteristics for a successful marriage. Secondly, there is the view that the end of 'Pride and Prejudice' may just be as intelligent marriage of resolution. As the critic Karen Newman says: 'Marriage is the reaching of self-knowledge, the overcoming of egoism, the mark of psychic development.' Two individuals have resolved their differences and decided to get married therefore not making any particular statement, but, realising they have found a perfect match, act upon this. I believe Jane Austen's reasoning goes further though. She shows through Darcy and Elizabeth a blissfully jubilant marriage, not of convenience but of desire. They will have money, but neither married because of it. Both characters have received a reward, a marriage of love, for the self-truths they have faced and overcome. I suspect Jane Austen wants to embody in the novel all the qualities of a good marriage. As the critic Stuart Tave expressed it: '...in this marriage two properly humbled people have learned to bear mortification and rise above it through love.' In conclusion, both novels have deep, informative messages, which gives their composition extreme relevance. As the novels were written in different times, there are obvious social changes, which are recognisable throughout, causing characters to have noticeably different opinions, particularly to sexual relations exterior to marriage and divorce. In their different structures the novels also stand apart. Both authors regularly employ a satirical mode to explain how unconventional couples, failed marriages, and society's immense satisfaction in the misfortune of unsuccessful companionships can often be seen as comic. In 'Pride and Prejudice' though there is a beneficial element showing the serious qualities needed for a sincere marriage, something entirely lacking in 'A Handful of Dust.' Through the closing union of Elizabeth and Darcy, a marriage containing social imperatives following its law and duty to family and the expression of individuality through romantic love, the novel is saved from the cynical, gloomy vision, which is apparent to us in 'A Handful of Dust.' ...read more.

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