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Pride and Prejudice How successful this novel is in giving first impressions of the characters?

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Introduction

Pride and Prejudice The novel Pride and Prejudice written by Jane Austen was originally to be called First Impressions. Hence the ultimate aim of this essay is to identify how successful this novel is in giving 'First Impressions' of the characters. The focus of this essay is on the opening chapters of the novel as this is where we are first introduced to the characters. 'It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.' This is one of Austen's famous quotes and sums up the main theme of the novel; that in the time this novel was written all men with a good wage are eligible bachelors in finding a woman to marry. I would consider this idea to be put under the theme of marriage. Another significant theme of this novel is society. In those days one's reputation was very important to ensure they sustained their status in the hierarchy of society. If one was to do something disrespectful towards others; by breaking the rules that had been derived in the 18th century, then the whole family would be affected by one's wrong doings. This novel is based on the tribulations that occur throughout the Bennett family. The Bennetts were members of the gentry and this was considered fairly high in society. Hence they would have reasonable status in the hierarchy of society. A brief example I can give of the theme of society is: later in this novel Lydia Bennett (youngest of five daughters of Mr. and Mrs. Bennett) runs away with Mr. Wickham (a dishonest officer as we later find out in the novel). Because Lydia and Mr. Wickham aren't married their attempt in leaving Meryton as a couple stirs up controversy amongst the town. As a result of this event the family's reputation is put in jeopardy and none of Lydia Bennett's sisters can get married to members of the gentry. ...read more.

Middle

Collins. Throughout the novel Mrs. Bennett always seems to deal with serious situations in a foolish way, like with Mr. Collins's proposal of marriage to Lizzie. Therefore from this evidence in the opening chapters the first impression of Mrs. Bennett is she is a brainless character. Like Mr. Bennett's favourite daughter is Lizzie, Mrs. Bennett's favourite is clearly Jane as supported by this quote when Mrs. Bennett is talking to Mr. Bennett, 'She (Lizzy) is not half as handsome as Jane.' In the opening chapters of the novel Mrs. Bennett isn't really in much anxiety, 'Oh! My dear. I am quite delighted with him.' Here you can unmistakably see that Mrs. Bennett is in high spirits because her favourite daughter (Jane) has taken the sight of Bingley; she believes that he is quite fond of her and she is convinced this will ultimately end in marriage, so she is happy. However you can see her boisterous character developing through the novel when the Bennetts are in a bad situation, especially when their reputation is in jeopardy she is always screeching and complaining to seek attention, 'Oh you have no compassion on my poor nerves.' How she develops through the novel allows me to make the assumption that she truly cares about the reputation of the Bennett family (unlike Mr. Bennett), and when their reputation is bad she is in great anxiety as her daughters cannot get married. This reinforces the fact that her goal in life is to get her daughters married and further reinforcement is shown when at the end of the novel when the majority of her daughters are married she is perfectly happy, ' Good gracious! Lord bless me! Oh! My sweetest Lizzie!' 'I am so please - so happy.' Therefore this reinforces the effective first impressions of stupidity given to the character of Mrs. Bennett, because of her 'childlike' behaviour presented throughout the novel. ...read more.

Conclusion

The context in which certain words were used is different from today. In example they would refer to their father as 'Sir' and both men and women could be considered 'handsome'. Ultimately the language and style reflects on the formal society and the respect they showed by using words such as 'Sir' to refer to their own father, however this shows how they would relegate women as they wouldn't show them respect by calling them 'Miss, Lady or Mrs' unless they were above their class. Referring back to the initial question which I aimed to answer: How successful this novel is in giving first impressions of the characters? I can note in most cases highly successful. For example the first impression relationship created between Jane and Bingley immediately highlights that it will end in marriage and the first impressions of these characters themselves does sum up their character (this is the case with most of the characters). However the first impression relationship created between Elizabeth and Darcy doesn't give us the impression of a relationship to develop between the two at all, and the first impression of Darcy does not display his true character. It is only through Lizzie's Prejudice do we see Darcy's Pride. I assume because of this reason Jane Austen called the novel Pride and Prejudice rather than First Impressions. Only on that instant are the opening chapters ineffective in giving the first impression of a character, as the first impression is a prejudice opinion. I can conclude that Jane Austen has appeared to illustrate herself as the character of Lizzie not only because most of the novel revolves around her giving us the impression that she has been in the same social situation as Lizzie, but she is also expressing the same ideas as Lizzie as given earlier in the essay. I deem that it was essential for Austen to name this novel Pride and Prejudice to give a moral to it; that never allow one's prejudice to judge one's character. ?? ?? ?? ?? 1 Ashish Soneji ...read more.

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