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Jane Austen's use of letters in 'Pride and Prejudice' The epistolary novel was once a prevalent literacy technique

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Introduction

Jane Austen's use of letters in 'Pride and Prejudice' The epistolary novel was once a prevalent literacy technique, particularly in the 18th century, but is now neglected by most authors. It is a novel in which the plot is identified, furthered and resolved entirely by means of letters sent between characters. Epistolary novels transpired at a time when the popularity of literacy was mounting. They satisfied the reader's requirement for stories that represented mundane incidents and provided ethical guidance in a rapidly shifting society. Jane Austen's 'Pride and Prejudice' is an adaptation of the epistolary novel, and frequently uses letters sent between characters to identify, further and resolve the plot. A great advantage of this epistolary style of writing is that it presents an intimate scrutiny of a character's thoughts without the intervention of authorial comments and direction. Thus the reader is able to form his/her own opinion of characters and events. Not only does the use of letters offer a diverse structure for a novel (as oppose to dialogue or direct narrative) but it is also a practical means of furthering the plot, allowing the reader to make connections between characters and events: 'Through letters, whatever of good or bad was to be told would be communicated'. Letters provide the drama of anticipation as they are always followed by action, and thus frequently form narrative crisis points or indicate a new direction in the plot of a novel. Elizabeth is informed of Lydia's elopement with Whickam by a letter from her sister, Jane. This bad news acts as a turning point in the story, linking Darcy more intimately to the Bennets' affairs and moving the story from London back to Longbourn, which offers diversity in the plot and helps to maintain the reader's interest. ...read more.

Middle

He is evidently aware of his advantageous position regarding the entailment of Longbourn estate. Mr Collins writes rather dramatically and it could be said that some of the language he uses is somewhat inappropriate for a letter to family. In my opinion Mr Collin's attempts to use vocabulary that he deems sophisticated and imposing in order to impress upon people his supposed higher social class. He uses condescending phrases such as 'not lead you to reject the offered olive branch' and 'I flatter myself that my present overtures of good-will are highly commendable'. In my opinion by using such vocabulary Mr Collins in fact stresses his lower class compared to the likes of Darcy, instead achieving a conceited, dislikeable manner. From the pretentious style of his letter one can form an opinion of Mr Collins even before he is introduced properly to the plot. One of Mr Collins' earlier snobbish mistakes in his letter is to rudely refer to the Bennet's as people 'with whom it had always pleased [his father] to be at variance'. He then proceeds to refer continually to Lady Catherine de Bourgh, whose association he clearly sees as a means of boosting his own status - he is a social climber. He says that he has been 'so fortunate as to be distinguished by the patronage' of Lady Catherine, and then proceeds to tactlessly mention his position as a clergyman, which he considers to be highly respectful. Mr Collins' second letter is intended to console Mr Bennet on the 'loss' of his daughter. This letter is particularly obstinate, perhaps due to Elizabeth Bennet's rejection of his marriage proposal. In the first sentence he rudely says that he felt obliged to write to Mr Bennet due to '[Mr Collins'] situation in life'. ...read more.

Conclusion

Mrs Gardiner's letter towards the end of the novel explains the details of Darcy's presence at Lydia's marriage, which boosts Elizabeth's opinion of him. The fact that Mrs Gardiner relates the information to her niece so willingly shows that, despite being sensible and amiable, Mrs Gardiner is also somewhat of a gossip. Mr Darcy exhibits surprise upon learning this, saying: 'I did not think Mrs Gardiner was so little to be trusted'. Mr Gardiner's letters provide information about the elopement of Lydia and Wickham, following the pair on their travels, and thus furthering the plot. His letters are well structured and composed (as oppose to those of his brother-in-law, Mr Bennet) which is a sure sign of his intellect in comparison to the rest of the Bennet family. Elizabeth is blatantly relieved at her aunt and uncles' higher class. In reference to Darcy's opinion of them it is written: 'It was consoling that [Darcy] should know she had some relations for whom there was no need to blush.' In conclusion, Jane Austen's 'Pride and Prejudice' is an ingenious novel. Austen successfully incorporates an appropriate balance of humour and gravity into the story, whilst estimably tackling the some of the main social issues of her time, such as marriage, money and social status (all of which were frequently influenced by pride and prejudice). In her letters Austen tries to show the reader that what seem to be insignificant ordeals of daily life are in fact the things that mould an individual, and often connote the dissimilarity of pain, grief and comfort that allows a person to view their life with perspective. ?? ?? ?? ?? GCSE English Pride and Prejudice coursework Hannah Fulford 1 ...read more.

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