Do you think Jane Austen in "Pride & Prejudice" is more successful in presenting the male or female characters?
Could you support your answer by using examples of at least two female and two male characters from the text.
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Jane Austen is equally adept at creating both male and female characters. The two important features which help to determine her characterisation skills are:
1. The characters must be well 'rounded' individuals. The novelist must reveal to us as many facets as possible of the character. Collins, for instance, is a character who has been introduced in the novel by Jane Austen to satirize patriarchal and male chauvinistic attitudes prevalent in her society. However, he is not a 'flat' character like the characters of Jonsonian Comedy. In the first paragraph of Ch.15, Jane Austen gives a detailed description of Collins which helps us to visualize all the multiple and contradictory dimensions of his personality: "made him altogether a mixture of pride and obsequiousness, self-importance and humility."
Darcy, is another 'round' male character. We learn about the different dimensions of his personality from his housekeeper Mrs. Reynolds' conversation with Elizabeth and her aunt and uncle at Pemberley in Ch.43.
Similarly, for the female characters the five Bennett girls are presented as well rounded indiviuals. Jane Austen takes great pains to emphasize the uniqueness of each of the girls.
2. Consistency: The action of the character must match his or her description. For instance at the end of the first chapter, Mr. Bennet is described as being "capricious." This is proved by the fact that although Mr.Bennet first refused to call upon Bingley, he later visited Bingley without informing his family. In Ch.15 Jane Austen describes Collins as being "not a sensible man." Throughout the novel all of Collins' actions prove that he is a very stupid man.
Charlotte remarks in Ch.6 "it is better to know as little as possible of the defects of the person with whom your are to pass your life." True to this remark of hers she marries Collins hastily.
Similarly, Jane is described by Elizabeth in Ch.4 thus, "all the world are good and agreeable in your eyes. I never heard you speak ill of a human being in my life." In the whole novel she is the only person who does not judge Wickham harshly.
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