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The Importance of Letters in the Novel

Questions:

1.Discuss the Function and Importance of letters in Pride and Prejudice.

2.Does Pride and Prejudicereinforce or erode sexist stereotypes of women?

3.Time and space are small in Pride and Prejudice.” Discuss the significance of critic Dorothy Van Ghent’s comment on the novel’s setting.

Pride and Prejudice is a novel written by Jane Austen in 1813, and it is considered one of her most preferred novels. It is a humorous story of life and love among English gentility. Mr Bennet is an English man living in Hertfordshire with his wife. He has five daughters, Jane Bennet being the eldest one. Unfortunately, after their father’s death, their distant cousin whom they have never met will be inheriting the house. Now, the family’s happiness is dependent on the marriage of his five daughters. A rich person Mr Bingley, arrived at their neighbourhood and many tribulations and trials stand between them and their happiness. In the novel, letters are a dramatic device that is used for character revelation, to further the plot and theme exposition. It acted as a mode of communication that helped to convey important information allowing Austen to respond quickly. It is a significant feature as letters were the typical source of communication during the 19th century (Weldon). This epistolary style was depicted in the novel. It can be stated that letters were used to reveal the characters for the method of introduction and advancement of the novel plot. Therefore, the following discussion involves the highlighting of the function and importance of letters in the novel.

Austen highlighted the function of letters and the way it helped to make connections between the events, personalities and different viewpoints. The immense importance of letters in the novel is indicated by different actions in the plot.  The special significance of the novel gives the readers a chance for story narration. The author is not directly narrating the novel plot (Austen-Leigh). Moreover, the main function of the novel is to reveal the contemporary society in the 19th century where letters were important for the communication process. They are also a mean of showing sorrow and happiness and are a way of shaping the characters in the novel. The letters depicted many aspects of people in the novel where they were judgmental before they have known the person. The function of letters was to narrate the novel through letters by one or more characters. Letters served as an advantage as it presented intimate view of the characters and without any interference from the author that helped to shape the events with dramatic immediacy. Letters are defined as epistolary where Austen used them as a function to reveal the characters in the novel of Pride and Prejudice (Gillie).

Using Letters to Reveal the Characters' True Images

The characters speak the story and therefore provide small viewpoints of the happenings. There is only portraying of the characters’ point of view and not of the author. In total, seven letters helped in unravelling the plot.

Mr Collins wrote the first letter announcing his arrival that anticipated his role in the novel. Later, he wrote letters describing how Mr Bennet should behave with Lydia and Darcy engaged to Elizabeth where the author used letters as a plot device. Elizabeth's letter to Mrs Gardiner, her aunt, helped in the revelation of the characters and their relationship in the novel. Darcy also wrote a letter to Elizabeth explaining his past dealings with Wickham. The author avoided dialogue while using letters that helped in providing an important piece of information to the readers. Therefore, this letter-writing event reveals that it played an important role in the furthering of the plot (Murphy).

The letters were also used for the revealing character’s true image in the novel. It was seen in the two letters written by Mr Collins addressed to Mr Bennet. The reference of Lady Catherine De Bourgh on a constant basis showed his status and pomposity. Consequently, the readers get a picture of Mr Collins’ social climbing character before he was introduced in the novel (Macpherson).

Mr Collin’s second letter was an apology towards the end of the plot to Mr Bennet. The letter was written when Mr Bennet lost his daughter, Lydia. He also said that it would have been better if she had died instead of eloping for marriage. This act forms a picture that he is a person with high morale and comprises an important theme of pride in the plot. His letters illustrated perfect examples of condescension and pride caricatured through the letters (Sørbø).

Jane letters also helped in furthering the plot as she tells her story about staying in London. Letters helped in revealing her character in the novel and relationship she has with her sisters. The author beautifully condensed Jane’s stay in London in a succinct manner in the letter (Murphy). The most important letter is from Darcy to Elizabeth. He conveyed his feelings strongly which expresses the theme of prejudice where Elizabeth judged Darcy in a wrong manner. There are other important letters written by Jane to Mr and Mrs Gardiner, her aunt and uncle informing Elizabeth about Lydia’s elopement with Wickham.

Conclusion

The above letters in Pride and Prejudice contributed to the narration of the novel. It highlights the time when letters were the main means of communication. The letters provided a chance for narration by the readers instead of the author. The main function of the novel is to reveal the contemporary society in the 19th century where letters were important for the communication process. Letters illustrated drama of expectations that was followed by action being the crucial contributions in the novel. Letters were used to depict the various aspects of the people in the novel. The concept of letters exhibited the two separate audiences in one plot. The reader became the narrator in the plot, as the author is not directly involved in narrating the plot. The author used letters to define the events in the novel and revelation of characters while furthering the plot (Ross and Webb).

References

Austen-Leigh, Mary Augusta. Personal Aspects of Jane Austen. Cambridge University Press, 2013.

Gillie, Christopher. A Preface to Jane Austen: Revised Edition. Routledge, 2014.

Murphy, Olivia. "Jane Austen’s “Excellent Walker”: Pride, Prejudice, and Pedestrianism." Eighteenth-Century Fiction 26.1 (2013): 121-142.

Murphy, Olivia. Jane Austen the Reader: The Artist as Critic. Springer, 2013.

Ross, Josephine, and Henrietta Webb. Jane Austen's Guide to Good Manners: Compliments, Charades and Horrible Blunders. A&C Black, 2012.

Sørbø, Marie N. Irony and Idyll: Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and Mansfield Park on Screen. Vol. 203. Rodopi, 2014.

Van Ostade, Ingrid Tieken-Boon. In search of Jane Austen: The language of the letters. Oxford University Press, 2014.

Weldon, Fay. Letters to Alice: On First Reading Jane Austen. Open Road Media, 2013.

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