ISSUES IN SOCIETY
¨It is a woman’s perception of events that we are seeing. The narrator is anonymous and omniscient although we always follow Elizabeth throughout. The narrator sometimes has something different to say than Elizabeth, particularly at the beginning or end of the chapters, but it is Elizabeth’s point of view and her prejudices we read. (See further on). ¨Men – they are never shown by themselves but always in the company of women (in the novel).
We are shown aunts, sisters and female confidantes exchanging views, discussing events and sharing secrets. Many different points of view about marriage are expressed, from Mrs Bennett’s excessive planning to Mr Bennett’s disdainful irony. Women and marriage is the book’s main theme – no getting away from that. The book’s shortcoming seems to be that there is no other future for educated young women than to marry. Mary’s learning and education is not considered admirable in the book – why not? The narrator makes it fairly clear that her studiousness is a strategy to make up for a lack of beauty.
WOMEN AND ACCOMPLISHMENTS
¨In chapter 8 there is a discussion of the accomplishments of women. For Ms Bingley a woman has to ‘paint tables, cover skreens and net purses’. Basic! Caroline adds that an accomplished woman has ‘music, singing, drawing, dancing and the modern languages’. Why these? She must also have ‘something in her air and manner of walking’. ¨Darcy adds ‘the improvement of her mind by extensive reading’. Elizabeth can sing, play the piano, but to Lady Catherine’s astonishment, doesn’t draw! Elizabeth is independent minded and has spirited thinking about the world, refusing to conform to this convention. Darcy calls it ‘liveliness of mind’ while Lady Catherine calls it ‘impudence’.
¨By the end the reader has to admire Elizabeth by the fact that she is a wonderful role model not for her achievements but by being different, intelligent and charismatic, unlike the others. ¨Elizabeth is not afraid of Darcy – he likes that and admires her more for it – and draws attention to his broody silences. She is the one to tell her father that Lydia should be controlled. She stands up to Lady Catherine.
THE NARRATIVE VOICE
¨Sometimes the narrator just observes and shows us what is happening without comment. At other times we are told what to think of a character or situation by the narrator, particularly at the beginning or end of a chapter. For example, ‘Mr Bennett was so odd a mixture of quick parts, sarcastic humour, reserve and caprice....visiting and news’ (last paragraph, chapter 1). These are sharply different in tone and style from passages that describe the incidents and events of the novel. The main difference is the way time is handled. The moving present is described as it happens. The narrator can generalise, move back in time or summarise a passage of time. A narrator who summarises and comments to some extent has the same kind of existence for us as a character in the novel, an extra ‘character’ we listen to. Although the narrator is giving us only a partial view of events we consider the narrative voice reliable. For example, we are not immediately told all we need to know about Darcy and Wickham’s past to know that Elizabeth is judging the merits of these two men quite wrongly. If the narrator had shown us this we could have enjoyed Elizabeth making her mistakes, rather than learning from events as she does. Is the narrator tricking us?
THE NARRATIVE VOICE
Is it HER readers? The narrator surely can’t be HE. Is it Jane Austen as the narrator? That would be a foolish assumption. Why is the narrator female? She has a sharp and critical eye for fashion, although clothes are not described. She discusses carriages and money – is this women only? She despises many of the female characters’ foibles and mannerisms, some of which are specific to gender. She is harsh on the inadequacy and pomposity of the male characters. Men are never shown outside the company of women, not once. The main theme of the novel is marriage – isn’t that a woman’s topic? Men are equally involved in the business of marriage though and their shortcomings are highlighted everywhere. The narrator selects the things ‘she’ wants the reader to see. There is no sense of things unfolding chaotically in Austen’s novels. We know from the first page where the story is leading; everything we are told is linked to the end result. The strong impression of control and her capacity to judge is indicative of a narrator who is highly intelligent and impatient with the follies of human nature.
THE NARRATIVE VOICE
¨In her summaries of people and events the narrator is judgemental. She sometimes mocks her characters placing the narrator above the ‘comic’ world she describes. Her summarising authorial comment can be ferociously direct and critical. Again, end of chapter 1. ¨ As the novel develops, we are increasingly shown things from Elizabeth’s point of view, using her as a CENTRE OF CONSCIOUSNESS. We do witness conversations in which she doesn’t participate – for example, when Bingley’s sister makes comments about her behind her back. We also find out what Mrs Gardiner is thinking – she could see the look of love on one of their faces? Large parts of the narration are given over to reproduce the contents of Elizabeth’s consciousness as she modifies her view of Darcy from utter dislike to love. The idea of stream of consciousness – one in which the character’s thoughts are written as they appear in the person’s head – had not appeared yet. One narrative technique here is FREE INDIRECT DISCOURSE ‘Oh! Why did she come’ (Ch. 43) which is midway between speech and thought. Direct speech – Why did I come? And thought – she wondered why she had come. FREE INDIRECT THOUGHT is used throughout the novel and suggests Austen’s determination to display the psychological processes of Elizabeth.
¨The type of behaviour displayed by Lydia is shocking, no question. Is the same moral standard applicable today? Jane typically sees the best in her sister. Mrs Bennett blames everyone else but not herself. She worries what clothes Lydia will buy and whether Mr Bennett will fight. Mr Bennett is silent. Mary delivers a very telling sermon on female virtue. Elizabeth feels the worst has happened but is irritated by the neighbour’s curiosity. ¨Mr Collins writes a letter that is cold and callous. Austen is perhaps making a criticism of the clergy? ¨The lack of morality and obsession with clothes links Mrs Bennett and Lydia. Lydia bought a bonnet (hat) with money intended for the sister’s lunch: this is a motif for the excesses of female silliness, the narrator showing us that the serious characters in this play – Jane and Elizabeth – don’t care for fashion and drapery. ¨Lydia and Wickham return and the family is astonished that they are behaving as if nothing’s wrong. Elizabeth is disgusted. Lydia dominates the conversation at dinner and invites them to Newcastle (north-east England, where Miss Emma’s from) to get them ‘husbands’. Elizabeth – strangely – declines! ¨In Lydia’s narrative about the wedding, she lets it slip that Darcy accompanied Wickham to the church. Lydia is being a big mouth; this was supposed to be a secret. Elizabeth now knows that Darcy has saved her family to ignominy and shame, changing her view on him even more.
THE EPISTOLARY FORM IS USED TO CREATE TENSION- IT CREATES A SENSE OF DISTANCE BOTH LITERALLY AND IN TERMS OF TIME. IT HEIGHTENS TENSION AT TIMES SUCH AS LYDIA'S ELOPEMENT.