Pride and Prejudice - critical review

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Pride and Prejudice Coursework

Pride and Prejudice, written by Jane Austen in the early 19th century, has long been regarded one of her greatest, and most enjoyable love stories. It was indeed hailed as the ‘greatest miracle of English literature’ by Reginald Farrer, and pronounced a ‘timeless masterpiece’ by Sir Walter Scott, both of whom were distinguished novel critics in her time. Through the novel, Austen harshly exposes hypocrisy in certain aspects of Regency society. She expertly uses various shades of satire through comical characters such as Mr Bennet and Lady Catherine, to examine the corruption of the marriage market, the pride and ineptitude of the ruling classes, and the mercenary of the clergy. Possible two of the most celebrated satirised comical characters in English literature, Mr Collins and Mrs Bennet will always be remembered for exposing key negative aspects of Regency Society. I will now go on to describe their development through the novel, and exactly what aspects of her society Austen exposes through them.

Perhaps the most comical character that Austen satirizes in the novel is Mrs Bennet, who we see in all her foolishness and petulance conversing with Mr Bennet in the opening chapter. Their dialogue beautifully sums up the Bennet’s characters, indeed making Austen’s ferocious authorial intervention at the end of the chapter unnecessary. We can clearly see that Mr Bennet character, with its quick parts, and pithy humour, is almost that of a professional satirist, making him a most unnatural father. Mrs Bennet however, speaks another language; her talk does not crackle with irony and epigram; her sentences run in quite another mould. They either go on too long or break up awkwardly in impulsive exclamations; this is the talk of a person of ‘mean understanding’ and ‘uncertain temper’.  This conclusion of Mrs Bennet’s character is strengthened as the novel progresses, and her more unpleasant and annoying traits are shown, the most ridiculous of which is her obsession with her daughter’s marriage. In ch 7, vol 1, Mrs Bennet sends her eldest daughter Jane to Netherfield ‘on horseback’ in the hope that she could ‘stay the night’ there, as it ‘looked likely to rain’. Mrs Bennet was not aware of the ‘felicity of her contrivance’ till the next morning, where she was informed by a letter that Jane had been taken ‘very unwell’ due to the rain. Mr Bennet then voices the readers feelings with a sarcastic comment, criticising Mrs Bennet’s overt scheming and sardonically informing her that ‘if (Jane) should die, it would be a comfort to know that it was all in pursuit of Mr Bingley’. This thus shows us Mrs Bennet’s fatuous demeanour, and the futility of her nature.

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Mrs Bennet’s vulgarity displays itself fully in ch 18, vol 1, when the Bennets and Mr Collins attend Netherfield Ball. Mrs Bennet tactlessly blunders on at the dinner table about the ‘advantages of the match’ between Jane and Mr Bingley, which is premature, and has not occurred yet. Indeed we can tell that Elizabeth anticipated her mother’s ‘loud and felicitous self-gratulation’, as she considered it ‘a most unlucky perverseness’ to be seated near Mrs Bennet at the table. We are exposed to the final unpleasant element of Mrs Bennet’s character in ch 7, vol 3, where Mrs Bennet, when ...

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