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How does Jane Austen use contrast within any one character to create interest?

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misssamira14 | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted August 31, 2012 at 9:40 PM via web

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How does Jane Austen use contrast within any one character to create interest?

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lhc | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted August 31, 2012 at 10:45 PM (Answer #1)

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Jane Austen used contrasting qualities, or what is sometimes called "complex characterization" to create one of the most delightful characters in literature, Elizabeth Bennet, heroine of her classic novel Pride and Prejudice.  In many ways, Elizabeth is a lovely girl; she is intelligent, has a sense of humor that vacillates between being charmingly witty and wickedly dry.  However, perhaps what makes her just as lovable as these things is her assessment of those around her, because while she is often correct (her own mother's behavior is often inappropriate and just plain silly, and Lady Catherine De Bourgh is in fact a control freak), often times her perceptions and judgements are harsh, and in the case of Wickham and Darcy, completely incorrect.  Sometimes her observations even border on the arrogant:

There are few people whom I really love, and still fewer of whom I think well. The more I see of the world, the more am I dissatisfied with it; and every day confirms my belief of the inconsistency of all human characters, and of the little dependence that can be placed on the appearance of merit or sense.

These characteristics, both positive and negative, combine to make Elizabeth real to the reader, a human being with flaws just like the rest of us.  The central conflict, her relationship with Darcy, revolves around her incorrect perception of him, and this error nearly costs her what will ultimately likely be a happy match for them both. 

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