Homework Help

What literary effects are in Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen?

user profile pic

nofontrans | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted July 14, 2011 at 5:59 PM via web

dislike 1 like

What literary effects are in Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen?

1 Answer | Add Yours

user profile pic

K.P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted September 9, 2012 at 1:10 AM (Answer #1)

dislike 1 like

Interestingly, "literary effects" is used four different ways in literary discussion. Literary effect is:

  1. synonymous with "literary devices"
  2. the effects of something external on contemporaneous literature, e.g, war's effect on literature (For Whom the Bell Tolls, Hemingway)
  3. the effects of literature on something external; e.g., on learning writing skills
  4. the effects of the narrative on the reader's consciousness, reason or emotions; e.g., social action, enlightenment, depression.

The use of the preposition "in" for "effects are in Pride and Prejudice" strongly suggests you mean the first usage: literary effects: synonymous with "literary devices." Therefore, I'll briefly describe some important literary effects/devices Austen uses in Pride and Prejudice.

Aside from Austen's famous ironic narratorial voice, she employs situational irony to good effect. In the first chapter, where a skilled author develops literary effects that carry throughout the narrative, Mrs. Bennet ironically wishes one of her daughters to be "happily settled at Netherfield" thus leading the way for "the others to be equally well married." This is ironic because of all the nearby mothers who were wishing the identical thing, Mrs. Bennet's wish came true.

To be fond of dancing was a certain step towards falling in love; and very lively hopes of Mr. Bingley's heart were entertained [by all].

Another situational irony also involves Mrs. Bennet. In Chapter 2, Mrs. Bennet, ironically speculates that it will be Lydia who dances with Bingley, suggesting it will be she whom he chooses for marriage. This is ironic because Lydia ends up ill-married, not at Netherfield and not to Bingley! She marries the villain Wickham.  

"Lydia, my love, though you are the youngest, I dare say Mr. Bingley will dance with you at the next ball."

Austen also uses Mrs. Bennet's foolishness to help develop the plot through foreshadowing. Ironically, both examples of situational irony develop foreshadowing. The first instance above foreshadows that, indeed, one of Mrs. Bennet's daughters will come to be "happily settled at Netherfield," although it is not Lydia, who is later shown to be even more vainly foolish than Mrs. Bennet herself. Mrs. Bennet's later wishes for Lydia turn out to be reverse foreshadowing: Lydia does not wind up happily married to anyone, in fact, she barely escapes social infamy when she throws her affections on Wickham's mercy and runs away with him, neither with any intention to marry in Gretna Green.

Another very famous literary effect is the participatory, subjective narrator of Austen's narrative mode. Through this literary effect, the engaging ironic narrator is introduced. Fielding uses this effect in Tom Jones and Austen employs it in a similar vein here: her narrator makes comments about characters to enlarge our perception of their inner qualities. An example of this occurs at the Meryton assembly in Chapter 3. Austen's narrator censures both the townspeople and Darcy at one blow. The narrator shows the townspeople to be vain and changeable while simultaneously showing Darcy to be proud and aloof. An objective narrator, refraining from value judgements against characters, could not have so easily accomplished this with one sentence:

[Darcy's] manners gave a disgust which turned the tide of his popularity; for he was discovered to be proud; to be above his company, and above being pleased; and not all his large estate in Derbyshire could then save him from having a most forbidding, disagreeable countenance, and being unworthy to be compared with his friend [in the town's opinion].

Sources:

Join to answer this question

Join a community of thousands of dedicated teachers and students.

Join eNotes