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In what ways do public and private worlds affect our judgement of characters in Pride & Prejudice?

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Introduction

In what ways does Jane Austen use the public and private worlds to influence our judgement of characters in Pride and Prejudice? Jane Austen frequently uses public and private lives of characters in Pride and Prejudice to help us create our own opinion of them, as variation in behaviour, be it good or bad, inevitably affects whether or not the reader takes a liking to the character in question. In the early 1800's, there was a clear set of rules that were prominent in the middle and upper classes, and it was this etiquette that determined how these classes should 'rightly' behave. There was a clear distinction between public and private worlds, and it's how these characters behave in these two worlds that help to enforce Jane Austen's own impressions and thoughts and to make a case for or against them. More often than not, it's the characters abusing these rules of etiquette that bring interest, and as a result opinion to the story, and it's these kinds of discrepancies that end up influencing our judgement of these characters. Mr and Mrs Bennet are perfect examples of how Jane Austen uses public and private worlds to mould the readers' impression of characters, as they are both occasionally, or in Mrs. Bennet's case frequently, guilty of breaking the rules of 19th century etiquette. Mrs. Bennet is renowned for her lack of manners, and the book has plenty of these written examples. Jane Austen purposely creates an alternative view to a seemingly well-intended woman by crafting her as someone who often embarrasses herself and family members by speaking irrationally. ...read more.

Middle

With seemingly dissimilar personalities it seems odd that Lizzie and Darcy grow so fond of each other throughout the course of the book, although they are both similar in the way in which they hold themselves in different times and places and how they critic harshly the lives of others, as well as their own. At the beginning of the book, while un-knowledgeable as to the true character of Darcy, we believe very harshly of him. Jane Austen conveys this opinion particularly in the way that he behaves in public, as he comes across as an egocentric, pompous man - treating those lower than himself socially as less worthy and inferior, a theory that evidently comes in to place at his first ball when he describes Elizabeth as simply 'tolerable' but not 'handsome enough to tempt me'. This facade strongly confirms our initial impressions of him as having a huge ego, and not a particularly nice man in general. Although lacking appropriate decency in many parts of Jane Austen's novel, Darcy does show on the whole to be fully aware of proper manners and behaviour, which becomes evident at his residence in Pemberley where his behaviour is impeccable; the Gardner's refer him to as 'more than civil' and 'attentive'. Again, Austen uses this stark contrast between the ways Darcy behaves in private, which is usually respectable and charming, and the way he behaves in public, often the opposite, to reflect upon the way the reader looks at him. ...read more.

Conclusion

And it's this obsession with rank, herself and the opinion of others that Jane Austen manages to convey a character with such atrocious behaviour begging for dislike, both from other characters in the book, and the actual reader. Mr Collins, however much disliked, is used by Jane Austen to bring humour to the book. Again, she uses his behaviour in these two different worlds to shape the readers opinion of him. In both private and public situations, he is known for boasting about his connections with Lady Catherine and publicising his sickening admiration for the woman, describing her as 'affable' and always referring to her as 'her ladyship'. It's this constant barrage of his own opinions, the majority of which are just advertisements of Lady Catherine's greatness and superiority, and his will to become involved in everyone's lives that makes him such a hard character to like and respect. Again, it's this lack of distinction between public and private behaviour which influences are feelings towards him. Overall, it's clear to see that Jane Austen is using and differentiating between public and private lives and behaviour in her novel to affect the readers' opinion, and it's her intention to use these contrasts and attitudes of characters to evoke reaction and judgement. This is the purpose of using these two contrastive worlds and 19th century etiquette - as it gives Jane Austen the chance to use her own dialogue and narrative to transform our own opinions as readers, which indeed influences our judgement of characters in Pride and Prejudice. Pride and Prejudice Coursework: pre 1914 Prose July 2007 Will Seymour BSN Essay ...read more.

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