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How does Jane Austen develop the character of Mr Collins in Pride and Prejudice

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Introduction

How does Jane Austen develop the character of Mr Collins in Pride and Prejudice? All page references are to the Penguin Classics edition of Pride and Prejudice, published 2003 In Pride and Prejudice, the character of Mr Collins is developed in many different ways. On some occasions, character traits are fully brought to the reader's attention in one go; in other instances the trait is developed gradually throughout the entire novel, with the final development being in Collins' last appearance in the novel. Jane Austen introduces Collins into Pride and Prejudice very well, showing the reader some of his key character traits which will continue all through the novel, merely through a letter of his. When the reader first hears of Mr Collins, regarding his letter to Mr Bennet, the reader is presented with an original view of Collins as a well-spoken, proud man who tries very hard to seem humble, even when "trespassing on [the Bennets'] hospitality" (p.62), and has a certain fondness for Lady Catherine de Bourgh. There are many times after this letter where, although Collins' character is developed further, these underlying tendencies of his still come out. In this letter, Collins speaks very highly of Lady Catherine, telling Mr Bennet that "it shall be my earnest endeavour to demean myself with grateful respect towards her Ladyship" (p.61). In this sentence, Austen subtly gives the reader an insight into the sort of person Collins will turn out to be, which can only be truly appreciated by reading this sentence again with some knowledge of Collins' character. ...read more.

Middle

Many times in Pride and Prejudice, the reader hears of Collins' long speeches, but his proposal to Elizabeth is the main example of a long speech of which Austen gives the reader a full description. Austen develops parts of Collins' character and parts of his reason for coming to Longbourn in this speech. The reader starts to understand there is a certain double meaning to the word "proposal", even if Collins does not call his asking Elizabeth to marry him a proposal. The meaning of proposal one is to expect in this situation is a marriage proposal where Collins expresses his love for Elizabeth and tries to convince her to accept him through affection; instead, in this sense, both the reader and Elizabeth understand proposal to mean business proposal, as Collins speaks mostly of economy and how Lady Catherine told him that he "must marry" (p.103). The only times Collins mentions any feelings or affections are when he says "before I am run away with by my feelings on this subject" (p.103) and, after his proposals of economical gain for Elizabeth, "nothing remains for me but to assure you in the most animated language of the violence of my affection" (p.104). In the first instance, these words are followed by "perhaps it will be advisable to state my reasons for marrying", however one would expect the running away with his feelings to be the very reasons for marrying, as opposed to reasons of economy and necessity. ...read more.

Conclusion

Collins finishes by telling Mr Bennet "to throw off your unworthy child from your affection for ever, and leave her to reap the fruits of her own heinous offence" (p.282). This is the only time in the novel where Collins lets himself become overrun by his feelings, and all of these feelings are negative. But what is worse than his feelings is the fact that he expresses them in a letter which he will have read through and decided to send to Mr Bennet, as opposed to having just said it all without thinking about it. This develops his lack of self-awareness, and also brings a new trait to the reader's attention: Collins' belief that as he is a member of the clergy, he has the moral high ground and should tell people when they have done something wrong, or when they should condemn another wrongdoer. Austen develops the character of Mr Collins gradually throughout Pride and Prejudice, with some traits being revealed early on in the novel, and others being held back until nearly the end, finally showing Collins to the reader as the "mixture of pride and obsequiousness, self-importance and humility" (p.69) that he is, with the contradictions in this description being contradictions between the reader's views of Collins and Collins' views of himself. Throughout Pride and Prejudice, Collins' character never changes; it is merely the reader's perspective and knowledge of Collins that develop gradually. ?? ?? ?? ?? Page 1 of 6 ...read more.

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