Essay: Pride and Prejudice One of the Great

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¶ … Pride and Prejudice

One of the great English novelists' most famous works, "Pride and Prejudice," keeps fascinating the reader even today. In spite of those voices accusing its author, Jane Austen, of having been interested solely in depicting a life that had little to do with major shifts in society, events that changed the world forever, the novel remains a work of art worth of scrutinizing for new meanings.

Jane Austen's characters continue to be worthy of keeping the reader's interest intact because, regardless of the epoch they live in, they are endowed with traits that are essentially human. Far from being perfect, Elisabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy are two central characters of the novel who encourage the reader to explore the intricacies of the human psyche while enjoying the pleasant ride of reading the novel. Jane Austen appears to have chosen an authoritative narrator for her novel, a narrator that leaves little to no place for the reader's own interpretation of her characters. This is, as Susannah Fullerton questions in her book "Celebrating Pride and Prejudice: 200 years of Jane Austen's Masterpiece," a deliberate choice on the author's part to express what she considers as "universal truths" or rather to set them under the scrutiny of the public and challenge them. Her novel is, after all, placed mostly in a rural setting, creating the opportunity to contrast and constantly question universal values that come from the mouths of provincial characters.

Elisabeth Bennet, the heroine, the one who is never afraid of speaking her own mind, regardless of what the others might think of her, is destined to gather the reader's sympathy along with a fair degree of indignation, at times. Not only is she prejudiced and suffers from pride, but sometimes she is presented in a light that places her in an inferior position even when compared to Mrs. Bennet, undoubtedly one of the less favored characters in the novel.

In this passage, during the supper at Netherfield, the narrator describes Elisabeth's thoughts and actions in a cruel light. This way, she comes closer to her mother than she would have ever thought possible. First, the narrator points out that once she has nothing to focus on in her own life, she attempts to live through her sister,: "As Elizabeth had no longer any interest of her own to pursue, she turned her attention almost entirely on her sister and Mr. Bingley"(Austen, 265). The nature of her thoughts could be interpreted as innocent and inspired by her sisterly love, but the narrator is keen to quickly point out quit the opposite. She is not necessarily happy because she loves Jane, but actually she is vicariously living through her older sister. The latter experiences are a source of happiness she deliberately and repeatedly denies herself.

Austen is clearly addressing a public whom she considers intelligent and capable of reading through lines. In this passage, her narrator becomes deliberately cruel with her heroine. She uses the words "the most unlucky perverseness" to describe Elisabeth's own characterization of the situation that places her side by side with her mother at the super table. It might be, in fact, the perverse desire of the author herself to place her central character, a character she obviously loves, in some of the most cruel lights possible.

There is a combination of feelings that Elisabeth's behavior arouses in those who witness them: her thoughts and her actions at the table are in contrast with her kindness, her thoughtfulness and her intelligence. In this passage, Elisabeth appears to be highly hypocritical and even more so than her mother, Mrs. Bennet. While the latter does not hesitate to utter her thoughts, her daughter is not only embarrassed because of her mother's lack of constraint, but she is failing to see the resemblance with her own attitude in the matter related to the possible union between Mr. Bingley and her older sister, Jane.

The narrator presents Elisabeth even ready to forget her dislike for Mr. Bingley's two sisters for the sake of Jane's happiness, while drifting away in dreaming about a possible marriage between the two. She is embarrassed to hear her conscience's voice delivered in the words of her own mother who is sitting beside her at the table.

Austen proves her acute knowledge of psychology when placing her heroine beside the person she obviously strives to be in disagreement with all along: her mother. Elisabeth constant and deep disapproval of her mother's actions and motivations is challenged by her mirrored image in this grotesque manner. The situation is comical for the reader, but painful for the heroine. She must be able to sense the resemblance, at some level, but refuses to associate herself with her mother in any manner. The situation resembles a farce from a Commedia dell Arte: the characters are mercilessly laughed at, regardless of their status prior to that scene. The words Austen chose to express Elisabeth's thoughts are pointing into this direction: "and she felt capable under such circumstances, of endeavouring even to like Bingley's two sisters"(Austen, 265). The verb

"to endeavor" leads to thoughts of duty and Elisabeth is almost ridiculed in that she is presented bearing thoughts of acting out of duty, against her better judgment, all for the greater good of her sister's welfare.

A third person, Lady Lucas, just like her daughter opposite Elisabeth in various circumstances, completes the scene as the partner in discussion who is meant to underline a sense of wrongfulness on the part of her interlocutor. The narrator presents Mrs. Bennet chattering away, uninhibited, quick to proclaim the union between her older daughter and a man of wealth, such as Mr. Bingley. She is eager to point out the contrast with the situation she thinks her interlocutor's daughter is in.

Elisabeth's efforts to make her stop talking on the subject are even more laughable when confronted with her motivations. She does not appear to be embarrassed by the fact that her mother is shamelessly talking about something that might not even become concrete, or by her mother's unawareness of the right to privacy for the two characters involved. Her motivation does not even come from the fact that she feels sorry for lady Lucas who has to listen to her mother boasting over her daughter's fortune as opposed to the latter's. Elisabeth's only concern is that Mr. Darcy is overhearing the conversation and drawing the wrong conclusions. Elisabeth appears to fear that the abundance of motives in favor of the union Mrs. Bennet is so eager to enumerate, are in her eldest daughter's disadvantage.

The mother describes every possible reason he thinks is in favor of the marriage: location and the groom's wealth. She is also shamelessly presenting the advantages for the whole family that come with such a union. The series of blows to Elisabeth's ego are hard and seem to have no end. He situation becomes even more comical when her mother dismisses her daughter's attempts to quiet her by characterizing her as being: "nonsensical"(Austen, 265).

The author is merciless with her heroine in the scene at supper and her use of language create the sensation that her characters are dangerously driving with increased speed toward a concrete wall where they will break into pieces. Her use of satire eases the feeling of imminent disaster to some degree. Elisabeth is shown fighting in vain to keep her dignity in front of a man she apparently despises, almost kicking her mother under the table and making a fool of herself. There is no place for redemption here. The embarrassment reaches the highest level possible and it will continue throughout the evening.

Austen's deep psychological insight is once again obvious to the reader in the discussed passage. Her use of indirect speech in… [END OF PREVIEW]

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"Pride and Prejudice One of the Great."  April 24, 2013.  Accessed May 25, 2019.