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Discuss the use Jane Austen makes of letters in her novel Pride and Prejudice

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27th April 2010 Grace Turner 10CH Discuss the use Jane Austen makes of letters in her novel Pride and Prejudice In the eighteen century, one form of novel that was very popular was the epistolary novel; ‘An epistolary novel is a novel written as a series of documents. The usual form is letters, although diary entries, newspaper clippings and other documents are sometimes used. The word epistolary comes from the Latin word epistola, meaning a letter.’ It is thought that epistolary novels originated from ‘novels with inserted letters’, or, that the epistolary novel came from miscellanies letters and poetry. Miscellanies are ‘separate writings collected in one volume’ or ‘a collection of writings on various subjects. ‘The first epistolary novel was the Spanish novel "Prison of Love" by Diego de San Pedro in 1485. Other examples of epistolary authors are: Edmé Boursault and James Howell. Although Jane Austen used the epistolary style, she adapted it to suit herself. One of Jane Austen’s favourite author’s was Samuel Richardson He is best known for his three epistolary novels: ‘Pamela: Or, Virtue Rewarded’, ‘Clarissa: Or the History of a Young Lady’ and ‘The History of Sir Charles Grandison’. In Jane Austen’s time, letters were a very important form of communication. If someone was away for a large amount of time, a letter was the only way of keeping contact with them. Jane mainly wrote to her sister Cassandra who was also her closest friend. ...read more.


The letter is to congratulate Elizabeth on her marriage to Mr. Darcy; she says ?I wish you joy. If you love Mr. Darcy half as well as I do my dear Wickham, you must be very happy.? The letter is short, and after the first line, the letter turns from congratulations to asking Elizabeth to think of her and perhaps offer some financial aid; ?It is a great comfort to have you so rich, and when you have nothing else to do, I hope you will think of us.? This shows us that Lydia is very selfish. She also goes on to say ?I am sure Wickham would like a place at court very much? and asks for three or four hundred pounds a year as ?I do not think we [Lydia and Wickham] shall have money enough to live upon without some help.? She suggests that Elizabeth should not ask Mr. Darcy about it ?if you [Elizabeth] had rather not.? It is very inappropriate and impolite to ask for money like this, but as usual, Lydia has no idea of social etiquette. Two letters that deal with important aspects of the plot are written by Jane to Elizabeth and appear in full on pages two hundred and six to two hundred and eight in Chapter Four of Volume Three. The first letter informs Elizabeth of Lydia?s elopement. The letter arrived late as ?Jane had written the direction remarkably ill.? The letter was dated five days prior to Elizabeth?s opening of it. ...read more.


Letters are important in this novel not only to develop the plot and illustrate character but also to bring about a satisfactory conclusion to the story. Just before the end of the novel, Lady Catherine de Bourgh turns up at Longbourn to see Elizabeth. Lady Catherine interrogates Elizabeth about if Darcy has proposed to her. She says that she has received a ?report of a most alarming nature? that informed her that Jane was to marry Bingley and that this would probably mean that Elizabeth, as Jane?s sister would marry Darcy, Bingley?s good friend. Lady Catherine asks for Elizabeth?s word that she will not accept a proposal from Darcy and when Elizabeth refuses to accept, Lady Catherine goes to try and convince Darcy not to propose to Elizabeth. Elizabeth later finds out that it was the Lucases who informed the Collinses of Jane and Bingley?s wedding, who then proceeded to tell Lady Catherine. Unknown to Lady Catherine, her going to Darcy actually gives Darcy hope. Lady Catherine tells Darcy that Elizabeth refuses to promise to refuse his proposal and Darcy thinks that this might mean that she would accept if he proposed, so he rushes straight to Longbourn to propose and Elizabeth accepts. Jane, Bingley, Elizabeth and Darcy all get married at the end of the book, much to Lady Catherine?s dismay and even though for a short time Darcy is so angry with Lady Catherine he refuses to speak to her, by the end of the book, they are on good terms again. ...read more.

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