The following sample essay on “Pride and Prejudice” a novel by Jane Austen published in 1813. Attention is paid to the plot and the main characters.
Jane Austen (1775-1817) English novel Pride and Prejudice was written between October 1796 and August 1797, but it was published in January 1813. This female novelist is considered to be a rebel within the norm and her works will show a very interesting ambivalence between the restrictions of society, which she regarded, and the freedom of her mind. The purpose of this essay is to show this ambivalence in the novel.
To do so, we are going to base our analysis on the narratological level, a method of analysis which will help us discover Jane Austenï¿½s complexity.
Pride and Prejudice is a very complicated novel. It has an incredible number of characters whose lives get mixed throughout the story. It would be impossible to analyse each of these characters and their functions in the novel, so we will concentrate mainly in two: Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy.
The first is the second eldest daughter of the Bennet family and the latter is a rich gentleman who, in the end, will become Elizabethï¿½s husband.
My hypothesis in this essay is: to what extend does the character of Elizabeth Bennet manipulate the readerï¿½s opinion on Mr. Darcy, and other minor charcters surrounding them? The answer, as I will prove, is that, in my opinion, Elizabeth only manipulates us at the beginning, when we get to know her, and that is just because we do not know what she is trying to do.
I am going to concentrate my analysis in the first part of the novel, that is to say, the first 35 chapters. Narratology will be my method, so we will have to distinguish between narrator and focaliser in the novel to get to the answer I mentioned before. Those two names stand for the one who tells and the one who sees respectively. The one who sees, the focaliser, will be our main concern when analysing the novel, because focalization is the most subtle means of manipulating the information presented to the reader.1
Elizabeth Bennet is the protagonist of the novel. She manipulates the elements of the fabula, the way in which the elements of the story are presented, to create certain impressions on the reader. Then, she is the focaliser whereas Mr. Darcy is going to be her object of focalisation. When I say that she is the focaliser, I mean that we are going to see everything that happens through her eyes, from her subjectivity. That is why she can manipulate what we think of other characters, and specially of Mr. Darcy, although she cannot do it for long as I said before.
Her position with respect to Darcy is that of inferiority in a sense. She knows she is a very clever woman, but at the same time, she also knows that he belongs to a higher social status, so she is afraid of what he might think of her. She would like to have someone like Darcy, but maybe she cannot succeed. That is why, her first reaction towards him is of absolute despise. Inequality and fear are the psychological attitudes shown towards the object of focalization.
Mr. Dacy appears for the first time in the novel in chapter 3, where we have a full description of him: “…the gentleman pronounced him to be a fine figure of a man, the ladies declared that he was much handsomer than Mr. Bingley…”?. Here, we see a quite straightforward description, the verbs used are “to pronounce” and “to declare”. These two verbs do not imply any interpretation of him, they just suggest mere actions.
But if we continue reading, we get verbs such as “he was looked at” and “he was discovered to be proud”. The question that arises now is: who is looking at him or discovering something in him?. The focaliser is the answer. But, who is it?, Elizabeth?, all the ladies at the party? The author? A mixture of all?. I would say that we are watching him through Elizabethï¿½s eyes. She is at the ball where Mr. Darcy is, and she is going to be rejected by him a few lines later. That is how she manipulates us. We do not know that he will despise her yet, but she is giving us a bad impression of him beforehand so that we start detesting him, just as she does.
On the contrary, Mr. Bingley, Mr. Darcyï¿½s male opposite in the novel, is the one to be liked. He is an agreeable man and he also likes Jane Bennet, Elizabeth eldest sister, so we end up thinking he is much better than Mr. Darcy. “…Elizabeth felt Janeï¿½s pleasure…”. Again, Elizabeth feels what the reader is supposed to feel. We are under her perception of events.
In chapter 6, Elizabeth talks to her best friend Charlotte Lucas. In this conversation, we just get Elizabethï¿½s perception of what happened at Meryton. She gives us her opinion of what her sister Jane feels, although we do not listen to Jane herself. At the beginning of the chapter, Elizabeth “…still saw superciliously in their treatment of everybody…” that is to say, she does not like those at Netherfield and so, she makes sure that we are going to share her perception. We do not question her, because all we hear and see is what she hears and sees.
Now, Mr. Darcy is somehow attracted to Elizabeth, and he tries to dance with her, but she is very proud and will not consent. We are force to think that he is the proud one, although she is just the same. She is just full of what she detests: prejudices and pride.
In chapter 9, we find the lady Bennets at Netherfield. Jane is ill so she has to stay there. Elizabeth proves herself to be a great observer of characters. In this chapter, Elizabeth even explains Mr. Darcyï¿½s words. At one point, she says to her mother “…you quite mistook Mr. Darcy…” How is it possible that everyone misunderstands information but her? We start thinking that she is neither honest nor objective. This forms part of irony, very much enjoyed by Jane Austen. Elizabeth thinks she is very clever nad objective when analysing someoneï¿½s behaviour. Here is where we find irony, the author is just using her to make a fool of those kind of women who think that their judgements are the only valid ones.
This irony places us at the same level, we share Elizabethï¿½s views, so we are also fools at the beginning. What is important is that we have to realise that we are being manipulated, so we have to think for ourselves forgetting about Elizabeth. Mrs. Bennet says at one point “…everybody is to judge for themselves…” but we do not pay attention to these surrounding comments because we are too much bewildered by what happens to Elizabeth and what he thinks about it. The manipulation of the focaliser is so subtle, that we do not realise we are being manipulated.
At the opening of chapter 10, Mr. Darcy is writing a letter while Elizabeth is busy with some needlework. Miss Bingley is sitting near Darcy criticising his handwriting. Once more, Elizabeth will try to manipulate our perception of both characters. “…Elizabeth took up some needlework and was sufficiently amused in attending to what passed between Darcy and his companion…” By using the verb “amused” we get the idea of something interesting, of something worth being listened to and then laughed at or criticised by our minds as readers as well.