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Explore how Austen presents Mr Collins
Views on Lydia's Elopement
Austen's portrayal of Mr Collins adds a comical element to the otherwise tense plot of Pride
and Prejudice. I am going to discuss the literary techniques used in order to achieve this.
The first impressions of Mr Collins by the other characters contribute to Austen's portrayal of
Firstly, Austen uses the epistolary element of a letter to make Mr Collins' character palpable to
the reader. After reading Mr Collins' first letter, Mr Bennet states that `there is a mixture of servility
and selfimportance in his letter, which promises well.' Mr Bennet seems to have already concluded
Mr Collins to be quite pompous and narcissistic, which is emphasised by the sibilance of the two
abstract nouns: `servility' and `selfimportance'. Austen may be suggesting that Mr Collins'
character is so obvious that his character can be determined simply from a letter. However, she may
also be satirising the judgemental society of the period as Mr Bennet seems to have already formed
an opinion of Mr Collins without actually meeting him. Also Austen manages to construct sentences
in order to include subtexts. For example, her use of syntax which places `which promises well' at
the end of the sentence emphasises Mr Bennet's lampooning comments towards Mr Collins but
may also suggests that a man of that period should have a `mixture of servility and selfimportance'.
Also, another use of syntax, is the fact that immediately after the above comment, he states that: `I
(Mr Bennet) am impatient to see him', may be ironic as Mr Bennet anticipates Mr Collins' visit,
although he has not been seen in a favourable light. However, to me, it emphasises Mr Bennet's
satirical comments as throughout the novel, Mr Bennet seems to prefer somebody who is selfless
and amiable and not someone who is pretentious.
Mr Collins lives up to Mr Bennet's views as Austen's use of dialogue presents him as assured
and assertive but not in a favourable light. After meeting the Bennets: `Mr Collins seemed neither in
need of encouragement, nor inclined to be silent himself.' On first read, this may suggest that at first
he seemed to have sociable and amiable qualities as he is talkative. However, Austen has beautifully
structured this sentence so that a subtext is revealed, which states the exact opposite. The syntactic
parallelism of the two negatives: `neither in need of encouragement, nor inclined to be silent himself'
may suggest that he is arrogant and also feels that he is superior to the Bennets. Despite this, Mr
Collins does not want to seem disagreeable as `he compliments Mrs Bennet on having so fine a
family of daughters'. Free Indirect Style is used as this may be Mr Collins' voice, emphasised by the
fricative sounds of `fine a family'. He is sycophantic towards Mr and Mrs Bennet as he would like to
marry one of their daughters but only because he pities the family as he is to inherit the estate. An
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Elizabeth's or another Bennet's voice as it has a hint of
sarcasm. This lightheated but comical comment may portray Mr Collins as being ridiculous.
His infamous marriage proposal to Elizabeth seems to add to his insanity but also makes him
seem naive as he does not seem to have experienced the world yet.
During the proposal, his fixation on Lady Catherine makes him seem absurd.…read more
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This may present Mr Collins as desperate as this is his last chance or he
may still be ignorant of the rejection as he feels he is Elizabeth's best choice.
His views on Lydia's elopement show a surprisingly brutal and indifferent aspect to his
Austen once again uses the epistolary element of letters to present Mr Collins as ruthless which
is in antithesis to his previous character.…read more