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How does Jane Austen manipulate the reader's understanding of the relationship between Elizabeth and Darcy?

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Introduction

How does Jane Austen manipulate the readers understanding of the relationship between Elizabeth and Darcy? "It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a fortune must be in want of a wife". In the first few lines we get a taste for Jane Austen's use of irony. To someone reading the novel shortly after it was written, the whole story would be ironic. The idea of someone such as Mr Darcy ever marrying someone with connections such as Elizabeth Bennet's was virtually unthinkable. In the second sentence, we realise the irony of the first by Jane Austen's sly attack on husband hunting females. The opening chapter contradicts the first well-known sentence of the novel using the characters Mr and Mrs Bennet. Their marriage reveals the gulf between marriage and love. Conversations between the couple show their irritation with one another. A particular exchange displays this 'when a woman has 5 grown up daughters she ought to give over thinking of her own beauty.' In reply to this Mr Bennet states, 'In such cases a woman has no such beauty to think of.' Implying that he no longer thinks she has any beauty. After this it becomes clear that the first statement has no connotations relating to love. In the Georgian period, this was perfectly usual as both money and marriage were important aspects of life and very important to the upper classes. ...read more.

Middle

According to Lady Catherine, it was Darcy's mothers dying wish for him to one day marry her daughter. A visit from Lady Catherine at the end of the novel makes Darcy's superior connections even more felt by Lizzie and all relationships Darcy may have will be greatly frowned upon by his friends and family. Austen has used these tactics to manipulate the readers understanding because in the Regency Era, it would have been virtually impossible for the two ever to marry, or indeed fall in love given the importance of status marriages. Darcy is related to the aristocracy; Elizabeth is a mere Gentleman's daughter. The first proposal is probably the most important part of the novel and it teaches the reader about Darcy's true feelings. He mentions all of the reasons he ought not to love her but he also adds why he loves her and the strength of his love can over look these bad things. He is not being intentionally offensive but Elizabeth knows that her family is a complete embarrassment and it offends her that somebody should judge her because of her family, as she cannot help the way they act. It shows Elizabeth's courage to stand up to someone so great and tell him he is rude and ungentlemanly. He is deeply honest in his proposal about 'overcoming family obstacles', which Elizabeth interprets to be his pride and an insult. ...read more.

Conclusion

However, having refused him once, when she does acknowledge her love for him, her pride intervenes as in those times it was unlikely for a man to propose again once he had been rejected and it was unthinkable for the female to return the proposal. Elizabeth even finds it hard to discuss with Jane the true way she feels. She feels stupid for being wrong and states: 'One has got all the goodness and the other all the appearance of it.' As readers, we have a certain trust in Elizabeth that dates from the beginning of our meeting with her. We see most things from her point of view, for example, her opinion of other characters in the book greatly influence our own. It is from her deductions about Mr Darcy that we create our view of his manner. However, had we learnt about him from Georgiana, we would have seen him as a loving and kind brother. However, we are almost brainwashed in to thinking of Darcy as conceited, arrogant, proud and too grand for the likes of Elizabeth. The use of the word prejudice in the title is a deceiving trick Austen has used. The prejudice is assumed to be Darcy's thoughts towards others with a lower status than his; however, by the end of the novel we realise it applies just as much to Elizabeth and everyone else who is against Darcy. Throughout the novel the reader practically is Elizabeth. We think her thoughts; feel her emotions; share her prejudice. ...read more.

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