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What is the importance of the letter within the novel? How does Austen use language, theme and character in this chapter to extend the meaning?

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Introduction

What is the importance of the letter within the novel? How does Austen use language, theme and character in this chapter to extend the meaning? Chapter 35 in Pride and Prejudice presents a major turning point within the novel. The letter within the chapter exposes Darcy's true feelings towards Elizabeth as well as informing the reader on new developments and truths. Darcy's letter begins a humbling process for both Elizabeth and him, which results in a maturation of each of their attitudes toward the other. In Darcy's case, the rejection of his proposal strikes a blow to his pride and compels him to respond to Elizabeth's anger. The resulting letter reveals to Elizabeth how she misjudged both him and Wickham. With the extent of her mistaken prejudice suddenly apparent, she is humbled enough to begin to look at Darcy in a new light. ...read more.

Middle

Not only does Darcy expose his true feelings towards Elizabeth but also he reveals the truth behind Mr Bingley's departure and comments on Jane and Bingley's relationship. However Darcy's language within the letter is rather forceful and aggressive, "further apology would be absurd". Austen uses a large amount of abstract nouns, "hope", "astonishment" and "justice". This helps us sympathise with Darcy, as it is as if he is opening his heart to the reader and Elizabeth. Because of this we begin to trust Darcy. Austen's lack of decorative literary devices provides a realistic view of the plot. Allowing the reader to focus on what is happening, not what is going on around it. It also makes Darcy's plea to Elizabeth more realistic and this enhances the readers' trust in the character. In the letter Austen switches from the narrator that has given us Elizabeth's exclusive consciousness and character throughout the rest of the novel and we switch to the narrative perspective of Darcy. ...read more.

Conclusion

However the use of "dreadful bitterness of spirit" in which Darcy claims to have written the letter explains its uncharacteristic nature. Regardless of its realism, the letter serves its purpose, it reveals the truth about Wickham's relationship to Darcy and consequently shifts sympathy from Wickham to Darcy. The letter presents an opportunity for Darcy to explain himself and it is clear this is what Austen has used it for. We now no longer see Darcy as such an obstacle, but instead we now see the potential for a real love to develop, not a one sided relationship that leaves one character chasing another. The first time we see a new perspective that isn't that of Elizabeth, whether it is internal speech or narrated thought we begin to question her reliability. We are now, although still focussed on Elizabeth's views and thoughts, open to accept other views and interpret them in our own way, not through Elizabeth's eyes. ...read more.

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