Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
Pride and Prejudice Jane Austen
The following entry presents criticism of Austen's novel Pride and Prejudice. See also, Jane Austen Criticism, Northanger Abbey Criticism, and Mansfield Park Criticism.
One of the world's most popular novels, Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice has delighted readers since its publication with the story of the witty Elizabeth Bennet and her relationship with the aristocrat Fitzwilliam Darcy. Similiar to Austen's other works, Pride and Prejudice is a humorous portrayal of the social atmosphere of late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century England, and it is principally concerned with courtship rituals of the English gentry. The novel is much more than a comedic love story, however; through Austen's subtle and ironic style, it addresses economic, political, feminist, sociological, and philosophical themes, inspiring a great deal of diverse critical commentary on the meaning of the work.
Plot and Major Characters
Pride and Prejudice focuses on Elizabeth Bennet, an intelligent young woman with romantic and individualistic ideals, and her relationship with Mr. Darcy, a wealthy gentleman of very high social status. At the outset of the novel, Elizabeth's loud and dim-witted mother, her foolish younger sisters, and her beautiful older sister Jane are very excited because a wealthy gentleman, Mr. Bingley, is moving to their neighborhood. The young women are concerned about finding husbands because if Elizabeth's father, a humorous and ironical man, were to die, the estate would be left to their pompous cousin Mr. Collins. Mr. Bingley soon becomes attached to Jane while Elizabeth grows to dislike his close friend Mr. Darcy, whom the village finds elitist and ill-tempered. Under the influence of his sisters and Mr. Darcy, Mr. Bingley eventually moves away to London. Mr. Collins, an irritating clergyman, then proposes to his cousin Elizabeth, who refuses him. He marries her friend Charlotte instead, and Elizabeth visits the couple at their estate, where she and Mr. Darcy meet again at the house of his aunt, also Mr. Collin's patroness, Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Mr. Darcy proposes to Elizabeth but she refuses him, partly based on her belief that he dissuaded Mr. Bingley from pursuing a relationship with Jane. In a letter to Elizabeth, Mr. Darcy explains his actions regarding Jane and Mr. Bingley, as well as the way in which he has treated his estranged childhood companion, Mr. Wickham. The next time Elizabeth sees Mr. Darcy, at his estate, she is better disposed toward him, but they are interrupted by a scandal involving Elizabeth's sister Lydia, who has eloped with Mr. Wickham. Mr. Bennet and his brother-in-law Mr. Gardiner attempt to resolve the situation, but it is actually Mr. Darcy who resolves the situation by paying Mr. Wickham and convincing him to marry Lydia. Mr. Bingley then returns to his estate in the Bennets' neighborhood and soon becomes engaged to Jane. Afterward, despite Lady Catherine's attempt to prevent the engagement, Elizabeth marries Mr. Darcy.
Austen's novel is principally concerned with the social fabric of late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century England, a patriarchal society in which men held the economic and social power. In an often satirical portrait of the men and women attempting to gain a livelihood, Austen subtly and ironically points out faults in the system, raising questions about the values of English society and the power structure of the country. Pride and Prejudice contains many elements of social realism, and it focuses on the merging of the bourgeoisie and the aristocracy during the era of the Napoleonic wars and at the beginning of the industrial revolution. The novel is also engaged in an ideological debate that drives its plot and defines the essence of its main character. Interested in the balance between pragmatism, or the necessity of securing a marriage, and idealism, particularly Elizabeth's romanticism and individualism, Austen dramatizes her heroine's struggle to find a place within the conservative social institution of marriage. The precise nature of this balance is not necessarily clear, and despite what seems to be a happy marriage, it may not be entirely possible to reconcile Elizabeth's independence and naturalness with Mr. Darcy's conservatism and conventionality. Nevertheless, the novel seems to work toward an ideological balance and an alteration in the fundamental aspects of these characters that will lead to a reconciliation of the themes that they represent.
Probably Austen's most widely read novel, Pride and Prejudice, which has been continuously in print since its publication in 1813, has been the subject of volumes of diverse critical reactions. Evaluations of this work have included condemnatory dismissals such as that of Mark Twain, measured praises of Austen's sophistication and wit, and plaudits for the novel as the author's masterpiece. Many early critics focused on the social realism of the novel, commenting on the depth, or lack of depth, of Austen's characters. Criticism of the novel from the nineteenth century through the early twentieth century also tended to regard Austen as a moralist, discussing the value system that Pride and Prejudice establishes. Critics from the 1920s through the 1950s focused on Austen's characteristic themes and stylistic devices, as well as discussing her choice of subject matter and the moral and ideological journey that Elizabeth undertakes throughout the course of the novel. During the 1960s and 1970s, commentators offered contextual criticism that evaluated Pride and Prejudice within the literary and social world in which Austen wrote. It was also during this period that new directions in criticism of the novel began to be explored. Since the late 1960s, for example, critics have approached Austen's novel from a variety of linguistic standpoints, such as Mikhail Bakhtin's theory of dialogism, as well as analyzing the work in terms of postmodern theory and applying new developments in psychology to the text. There has also been increased attention given to the political subtext of the novel, suggesting new ways of interpreting its relationship to the historical context of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. In the later decades of the twentieth century and into the early years of the twenty-first century, the most prominent trends in criticism of Pride and Prejudice have derived from the perspectives of literary feminism, including analysis of the novel's view of female oppression, its portrayal of the patriarchal society of the time, and its treatment of the possibility, fantasy, and reality of female power. Feminist critics such as Judith Lowder Newton have envisioned the novel as a triumphant fantasy of female autonomy, while Jean Ferguson Carr warns that Austen's exclusion of Mrs. Bennet from the social world reveals a persistent subjugation of women throughout the novel. In addition to strictly feminist readings of Pride and Prejudice, many essays not associated with this school of social and literary thought either incorporate or challenge various feminist claims in relation to Austen's work.
Sense and Sensibility. 3 vols. (novel) 1811
Pride and Prejudice. 3 vols. (novel) 1813
Mansfield Park. 3 vols. (novel) 1814
Emma. 3 vols. (novel) 1816
Northanger Abbey and Persuasion. 4 vols. (novels) 1818
Lady Susan (novel) 1871
The Watsons (unfinished novel) 1871
Love and Friendship and Other Early Works, Now First Printed from the Original MS (juvenilia) 1922
[Sanditon] Fragments of a Novel (unfinished novel) 1925
Volume the First (juvenilia) 1933
Volume the Third (juvenilia) 1951
Volume the Second (juvenilia) 1963
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SOURCE: Wiesenfarth, Joseph. “The Plot of Pride and Prejudice.” In The Errand of Form: An Assay of Jane Austen's Art, pp. 60-85. New York: Fordham University Press, 1967.
[In the following essay, Wiesenfarth defends the aesthetic greatness of Pride and Prejudice, arguing that its plot is a sophisticated method of erecting an ideal value system.]
Pride and Prejudice has long been considered a classic by the general reader,1 but it no longer enjoys that distinction with many professional critics. To the latter, in the post-James and anti-plot era,2 it seems too elegantly dressed in a strait jacket of form. “Exactness of symmetry,” writes Mary Lascelles, “… carries with it one danger. The novelist's subtlety of apprehension may be numbed by this other faculty of his for imposing order on what he apprehends.”3 The question, of course, is whether this is truly the case with Pride and Prejudice. Has the form of the novel been preserved at the expense of the life of the characters it presents? Miss Lascelles herself objects to Darcy's letter: “The manner is right, but not the matter: so much, and such, information would hardly be volunteered by a proud and reserved man—unless under pressure from his author, anxious to get on with the story.”4 But the same proud and reserved man, we remember, rather loudly refused to...
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SOURCE: Moler, Kenneth L. “Pride and Prejudice and the Patrician Hero.” In Jane Austen's Art of Allusion, pp. 74-108. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1968.
[In the following essay, Moler discusses the relationship between Pride and Prejudice and the novels of Fanny Burney and Samuel Richardson.]
In Pride and Prejudice, it is generally agreed, one encounters a variant of the eighteenth-century “art-nature” contrast when Elizabeth Bennet's forceful and engaging individualism clashes with Darcy's by no means indefensible respect for the social order and his class pride. Most critics agree that Pride and Prejudice does not suffer from the appearance of one-sidedness that makes Sense and Sensibility unattractive. It is obvious that neither Elizabeth nor Darcy embodies the moral norm of the novel. Each is admirable in his way, and each must have his pride and prejudice corrected by self-knowledge and come to a fuller appreciation of the other's temperament and beliefs. Ultimately their conflicting points of view are adjusted, and each achieves a mean between “nature” and “art.” Elizabeth gains some appreciation of Darcy's sound qualities and comes to see the validity of class relationships. Darcy, under Elizabeth's influence, gains in naturalness and learns to respect the innate dignity of the individual.1
This essay is...
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SOURCE: Newton, Judith Lowder. “Pride and Prejudice: Power, Fantasy, and Subversion in Jane Austen.” Feminist Studies 4, no. 1 (February 1978): 27-42.
[In the following essay, Newton examines the power dynamic in Pride and Prejudice, arguing that although men dominated Austen's society in economic and social privilege, Elizabeth Bennet represents a fantasy of female autonomy.]
To read Jane Austen's letters—with their steady consciousness of bargains, pence, and shillings—is to be aware of one small but nagging way in which she experienced the restrictions of being an unmarried middle-class woman: she had little money, and she had almost no access to more. In 1813, for example, the year Pride and Prejudice was published, Jane Austen, her mother, and her sister, Cassandra, were dependent for their living on three sources: a small income of Mrs. Austen's, a small legacy of Cassandra's, and the £ 250 provided annually by four of the Austen brothers.1 The sum was enhanced to some degree by the money Jane earned through writing, for in July of that year she reports that “I have now … written myself into £ 250—which only makes me long for more.”2 But the £140 brought by Sense and Sensibility and the £110 by Pride and Prejudice did not go far, and Austen's letters for that year, as for every year, are full of reference to small...
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SOURCE: Litz, A. Walton. “The Picturesque in Pride and Prejudice.” Persuasion, no. 1 (16 December 1979): 13, 15-24.
[In the following essay, Litz discusses Austen's use of landscape in Pride and Prejudice, focusing on how she employs “picturesque moments” to establish meaning and form.]
When I learned that Donald Greene would be talking this evening about possible models for Pemberley, it set me thinking again about the role of landscape—both natural and “improved”—in Jane Austen's fiction. Over the past few years, following the early lead of E. M. Forster, a number of critics have examined Jane Austen's uses of landscape, and have discovered that she was affected far more profoundly than one might have thought—given her essentially classical mind—by the great shifts in taste and feeling that we call Romanticism. In the later novels landscape is used to express “states of feeling,” and in Persuasion especially the intensely physical nature of Anne's life—her loss and recovery of “bloom,” as Jane Austen calls it—is movingly imaged in the rhythms and moods of the changing seasons, which finally bring Anne “a second spring of youth and beauty.”
Tonight, however, I want to build on Donald Greene's remarks by focusing on landscape in Pride and Prejudice. You might call my little talk, in imitation of the title-pages affixed to...
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SOURCE: Kelly, Gary. “The Art of Reading in Pride and Prejudice.” English Studies in Canada 10, no. 2 (June 1984): 156-71.
[In the following essay, Kelly explores the role of reading in Pride and Prejudice, drawing a parallel between Elizabeth's inclination to read her world like a book and the reader's epistemological approach to the novel.]
It is by now well established that Pride and Prejudice is about perception and judgement as acts of the whole mind, with important ethical consequences in domestic and social life.1 The story deals with characters who are, in varying degrees, good or bad observers and judges of themselves and the world around them, and the plot shows how some of these characters, and especially the heroine, can learn to be better observers and judges by learning to avoid the enemies of good judgement, namely prejudice, ignorance, and habit or convention. Luckily (for this is a providential given in Austen's plot),2 the heroine also has the courage, the curiosity, and the right combination of circumstances to be able to express her improved competence as an observer and judge to others; therefore, she wins the appropriate reward, a marriage of true minds. What has not been much commented on, I think, is the central place that reading has, in Pride and Prejudice as in all of Austen's novels, in the plot of improved observation and...
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SOURCE: Zelicovici, Dvora. “Reversal in Pride and Prejudice.” Studies in the Humanities 12, no. 2 (December 1985): 106-14.
[In the following essay, Zelicovici concentrates on the third volume of Pride and Prejudice, contending that it is vital in developing Mr. Darcy's and Elizabeth's reversals of conviction.]
The third volume of Pride and Prejudice has frequently been regarded as not merely different from but also inferior to the previous two volumes. Marvin Mudrick sees it “diminish suddenly in intensity and orginality,”1 and Reuben A. Brower argues that the perfect harmony achieved between the ironic dialogue and the movement toward the climactic scenes ceases when Elizabeth arrives at a new view of Darcy. Brower writes, “once we have reached the scenes in which the promise of the introduction is fulfilled, the literary design both ironic and dramatic is complete. Thereafter Pride and Prejudice is not quite the same sort of book.”2 Such a view derives from a misconception of the book's literary design and its overall thematic and dramatic structure.3 The misconception also leads to adverse aesthetic judgments of Volume III. If Austen had intended to compose a novel, in which, as Tony Tanner puts it, “the most important events are the fact that a man changes his manners and a lady changes her mind,”4 then the...
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SOURCE: Neumann, Anne Waldron. “Characterization and Comment in Pride and Prejudice: Free Indirect Discourse and ‘Double-voiced’ Verbs of Speaking, Thinking, and Feeling.” Style 20, no. 3 (fall 1986): 364-94.
[In the following essay, Neumann studies the speech and thought of Pride and Prejudice, calling attention to Austen's use of “double-voiced verbs,” or verbs that “conflate narration with reported discourse.”]
Since so much of an Austen novel is apparently “shown” or dramatized rather than “told” or narrated, it becomes of particular interest not just to trace how Austen reports the speech and thought of her characters but also to consider when and how judgments on the characters' consciousnesses are implied as well as stated. The following study uses Pride and Prejudice to illustrate one aspect of how Austen creates consciousnesses for her characters by rendering and describing their speech and thought in what Mikhail Bakhtin, in his “Discourse Typology in Prose,” calls “double-voiced utterances”—that is, sentences which combine a character's reported voice with the narrator's reporting voice, sentences in which the narrator can both render, and comment on, the utterance reported (181). This study offers an improved taxonomy of reported discourse, applicable to other English novelists, and, in...
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SOURCE: Stovel, Bruce. “‘A Contrariety of Emotion’: Jane Austen's Ambivalent Lovers in Pride and Prejudice.” The International Fiction Review 14, no. 1 (winter 1987): 27-33.
[In the following essay, Stovel asserts that Austen's novel allows for the interpretation that Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy's relationship is an example of ideal love, as well as the view that it is an “immediate and magnetic attraction.”]
The Oxford English Dictionary defines “ambivalence” as “the coexistence in one person of the emotional attitudes of love and hate, or other opposite feelings, towards the same object or situation,” and this concept would seem to apply precisely to Pride and Prejudice. During the first half of the novel, the central couple, Elizabeth and Darcy, are held together by just such contradictory feelings. Like Beatrice and Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing, each is the one the other loves to hate—and hates to love. And, like Beatrice and Benedick, the two lovers are matched in every way, including disdain for the other, and each finds the other a fascinating and inescapable object of attention. Yet that unwilling attraction to the other makes each hate the other as a threat to his or her pride and emotional independence. But one lover's expression of this hatred only increases the other's fascination; the power of the fascination increases the threat, which...
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SOURCE: Brownstein, Rachel M. “Jane Austen: Irony and Authority.” Women's Studies 15, nos. 1-3 (1988): 57-70.
[In the following essay, Brownstein focuses on several of Austen's novels, including Pride and Prejudice, to support her argument that Austen uses irony to convey a “discursive authority” from which women can derive pleasure in a patriarchal society.]
It is a truth universally acknowledged, right now, that language is involved in giving and taking both power and pleasure. Whether we begin by asking if the pen is a substitute for the penis, or think about why we read stories of love and adventure, or consider, from any point of view, pornography or psychoanalysis, we end by analyzing ways people please themselves and assert authority over others by using words. (To observe that critics writing about pleasure and power have managed to get what measure of the good stuff they can is to state the merely inevitable.) Claiming that women writers are powerful—i.e. effective and influential—has been a focus of feminist critics concerned to dispute the canon, to rehabilitate forgotten writers, and to revise women's relation to the languages of power. That Jane Austen, unforgotten, canonized, and stunningly authoritative, has been a problem for feminists is not surprising: in the struggle for power between politically radical and conservative critics, she has for years been claimed...
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SOURCE: Carr, Jean Ferguson. “The Polemics of Incomprehension: Mother and Daughter in Pride and Prejudice.” In Tradition and the Talents of Women, edited by Florence Howe, pp. 68-86. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1991.
[In the following essay, Carr analyzes the role of the mother in Pride and Prejudice, focusing on Mrs. Bennet's exclusion from the social world.]
She was a woman of mean understanding, little information, and uncertain temper.
—Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
Stupidity (incomprehension) in the novel is always polemical: it interacts dialogically with an intelligence (a lofty pseudo intelligence) with which it polemicizes and whose mask it tears away … at its heart always lies a polemical failure to understand someone else's discourse, someone else's pathos-charged lie that has appropriated the world and aspires to conceptualize it, a polemical failure to understand generally accepted, canonized, inveterately false languages with their lofty labels for things and events.
—Mikhail Bakhtin, “Discourse in the Novel”
My first epigraph depicts the fictional mother, Mrs. Bennet in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice (1813), who is identified by her exclusion from the realms of sense and power, and is...
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SOURCE: Litvak, Joseph. “Delicacy and Disgust, Mourning and Melancholia, Privilege and Perversity: Pride and Prejudice.” Qui Parle 6, no. 1 (fall-winter 1992): 35-51.
[In the following essay, Litvak explores the ideas of disgust and pleasure in the various contexts in which they are presented in Pride and Prejudice.]
Let it be understood in all senses that what the word disgusting de-nominates is what one cannot resign oneself to mourn.
In a well-known passage from one of her letters to her sister Cassandra, Jane Austen records her own response to Pride and Prejudice (1813):
I had some fits of disgust. … The work is rather too light, and bright, and sparkling; it wants shade; it wants to be stretched out here and there with a long chapter of sense, if it could be had; if not, of solemn specious nonsense, about something unconnected with the story; an essay on writing, a critique on Walter Scott, or the history of Buonaparté [sic], or anything that would form a contrast, and bring the reader with increased delight to the playfulness and epigrammatism of the general style.1
That Austen can be driven to disgust not just by her own writing, but by its very refinement, by what is most “light, and...
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SOURCE: Hirsch, Gordon. “Shame, Pride, and Prejudice: Jane Austen's Psychological Sophistication.” Mosaic 25 (winter 1992): 63-78.
[In the following essay, Hirsch discusses Pride and Prejudice in the light of modern psychology, focusing on the role of shame in the novel.]
Elizabeth Bennet's great moment of psychological insight in Pride and Prejudice comes soon after she reads Darcy's letter:
She grew absolutely ashamed of herself. Of neither Darcy nor Wickham could she think without feeling that she had been blind, partial, prejudiced, absurd.
“How despicably have I acted!” she cried. “I who have prided myself on my discernment. … How humiliating is this discovery!—Yet, how just a humiliation!—Had I been in love, I could not have been more wretchedly blind. But vanity, not love, has been my folly. Pleased with the preference of one [Wickham], and offended by the neglect of the other [Darcy], on the very beginning of our acquaintance I have courted prepossession and ignorance, and driven reason away, where either were concerned. Till this moment I never knew myself.”
Elizabeth's “prepossession” in favor of Wickham and against Darcy—her “prejudice,” in other words—stems from her feeling slighted...
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SOURCE: Schneider, Matthew. “Card-playing and the Marriage Gamble in Pride and Prejudice.” Dalhousie Review 73, no. 1 (spring 1993): 5-17.
[In the following essay, Schneider argues that card-playing serves as an apt metaphor for the courtship ritual in Pride and Prejudice.]
Henry Austen's casual observation that his novelist sister “was fond of dancing, and excelled in it” (Pride and Prejudice 308) has in recent years been invested by critics with a far-reaching metaphoric significance. Dancing, the argument goes, both figures the particular charm of Austen's style and provides an elegant symbolic matrix for much of the social interaction around which the novels are structured. A love of dancing was “the sort of thing one might expect,” writes Stuart Tave, “that enjoyment and ability in moving with significant grace in good time in a restricted space” (1); and Langdon Elsbree observes that dancing provides a primary source for “action and speech in Jane Austen's fictional world and dramatize[s] the theme of courtship and marriage” (114). Celebrating the sexual passions in a ceremony that hints “at their power while keeping them safely contained in art” (Mansell 9), dancing embodies the tension between the struggle for individuality and polite society's prescribed gender identities and roles. As Henry Tilney tells Catherine Morland in Northanger Abbey:...
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SOURCE: Brown, Julia Prewitt. “The ‘Social History’ of Pride and Prejudice.” In Approaches to Teaching Austen's Pride and Prejudice, edited by Marcia McClintock Folsom, pp. 57-66. New York: The Modern Language Association of America, 1993.
[In the following essay, Brown discusses the ways in which Austen's novel depicts early nineteenth-century society, arguing that Austen explores the defining historical realities of her era.]
In what sense are Jane Austen's novels historical? This is often the first question students ask when they read Austen. It may be posed in the form of the familiar question, Where are the Napoleonic Wars, the decisive historical event of her time? Or, more frankly, Why did Austen choose such limited subject matter? Why did she focus exclusively on personal relations? A reminder that “ordinary life” constitutes the blood and bone of the novel genre usually does not satisfy the eighteen-year-old who seeks in works of literature some grandeur of human purpose—and why should it? “Don't begin with proportion,” urges a wise character in E. M. Forster's Howards End. “Only prigs do that. Let proportion come in as a last resource, when the better things have failed” (73). The student who begins by hating Jane Austen, I have discovered, usually ends by learning more from her than does the budding Janeite.
As for the historical...
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SOURCE: Christie, William. “Pride, Politics, and Prejudice.” Nineteenth-Century Contexts 20, no. 3 (1997): 313-34.
[In the following essay, Christie finds that in Pride and Prejudice, a novel deeply concerned with the pressing political issues of the day, Austen's compromise between conservatism and progressivism is ultimately a “collapse of the progressive position.”]
Progressively more preoccupied with the individual sensibility and with the individual as a morally autonomous consciousness, the social phenomenon of the novel reflected that ultimately indefinable manifold of changes in the details and structures of scientific, philosophical, and psychological thinking that is “universally acknowledged” to have altered the personal and social construction of the Self in the eighteenth century. The changes themselves invariably led to the question of authority: of who should rule over, or overrule, whom; of what entitled or empowered someone—more ethically, what qualified someone—to rule at all.
Once upon a time the answers, certainly to the first of these questions, had appeared self-evident: nominally, at least, men were to rule over women and parents to overrule their children; in society as a whole, “land was the most important single passport to social and political consideration,” representing “not merely wealth, but stability and continuity, a fixed...
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SOURCE: Cervel, Sandra Peña. “Pride and Prejudice: A Cognitive Analysis.” Cuadernos de Investigación Filológica, nos. 23-24 (1997-98): 233-55.
[In the following essay, Cervel analyzes Pride and Prejudice from the perspective of Cognitive Linguistics, a conceptual model for reality that, Cervel argues, Austen's novel exhibits.]
An analysis of literary works can be carried out from different points of view which will vary with the critic's aims and ideology. An analysis along the lines provided by specific linguistic theories has seldom been attempted. I shall try to show that this type of analysis sheds light on the understanding of a literary work. In this connection, this paper attempts to be a demonstration of the applicability of an analysis of literary works by means of some of the conceptual tools provided by Cognitive Linguistics1. This linguistic school appeared around the mid 1970s. Since its inception, studies on the way our conceptual systems are organized have been given special prominence. With the mentioned aim in mind, it is our intention to analyze from a cognitive perspective some of the aspects of Jane Austen's 18th century novel Pride and Prejudice2.
According to Cognitive Linguistics, we conceptualize reality in terms of a number of cognitive constructs called Idealized...
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SOURCE: Reilly, Susan. “‘A Nobler Fall of Ground’: Nation and Narration in Pride and Prejudice.” Symbiosis 4.1 (April 2000): 19-34.
[In the following essay, Reilly stresses that, through her portrayal of the ideal and picturesque private estate at Pemberley, Austen reinforces English nationalism and decries the “dangerous enthusiasms of New World democratic ideals.”]
Elizabeth, as they drove along, watched for the first appearance of Pemberley Woods with some perturbation; and when at length they turned in at the lodge, her spirits were in a high flutter. The park was very large, and contained great variety of ground. They entered it at one of its lowest points, and drove for some time through a beautiful wood, stretching over a wide extent. Elizabeth's mind was too full for conversation, but she saw and admired every remarkable spot and point of view. They gradually ascended for half a mile, and then found themselves at the top of a considerable eminence, where the woods ceased, and the eye was instantly caught by Pemberley House, situated on the opposite side of a valley, into which the road with some abruptness wound. It was a large, handsome, stone building, standing well on rising ground.
—Pride and Prejudice, Volume III, Chapter I.1
Pemberley Woods is a likely enough spot from which to...
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SOURCE: Seeber, Barbara K. “We Must Forget It: The Unhappy Truth in Pride and Prejudice.” In General Consent in Jane Austen: A Study of Dialogism, pp. 85-92. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2000.
[In the following essay, which applies Mikhail Bakhtin's linguistic theory of dialogism to Austen's works, Seeber concludes that Pride and Prejudice remains “haunted” by the narrative of Wickham and Georgiana despite the main narrative's repression of this material.]
Pride and Prejudice, Austen's “own darling Child” (Austen 1995, 201), is often considered the quintessential Austen novel, certainly the most widely read and most widely taught in schools and at the undergraduate level. As Marilyn Butler points out, “the general public has liked Pride and Prejudice the best of all Jane Austen's novels, and it is easy to see why” (1987, 217). Susan Morgan agrees that the novel “has a charmed place as the most popular of Austen's novels” (1980, 78). In criticism, too, the novel has held a privileged position: A. Walton Litz, for example, calls it “a summing up of her artistic career, a valedictory to the world of Sense and Sensibility and a token of things to come” (1965, 99).
In this discussion Pride and Prejudice has been far less central, giving way to the novel often considered its diametric opposite: Mansfield...
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SOURCE: Foster Stovel, Nora. “Famous Last Words: Elizabeth Bennet Protests Too Much.” In The Talk in Jane Austen, edited by Bruce Stovel and Lynn Weinlos Gregg, pp. 183-203. Edmonton, Canada: University of Alberta Press, 2002.
[In the following essay, Foster Stovel examines Elizabeth's first impressions of Mr. Darcy, claiming that the reader knows they are destined for each other from the beginning because of Austen's “classic comic structure.”]
“I believe, Ma'am, I may safely promise you never to dance with him” (PP 20). So Elizabeth Bennet declares to her mother in Pride and Prejudice. These are famous last words indeed. The astute Austen reader suspects the lady protests too much and anticipates witnessing her eat her words. The fact that she does protest too much, however, suggests that Elizabeth is impressed with Darcy from the outset, a theory that we will see borne out later in the book.1 In fact, I suggest that we know all along that Darcy and Elizabeth are destined to be united at the end of the novel because the reader recognizes classic comic structure and Janeites recognize Austen's methods.2 In order to make the plot intriguing, however, the author must place obstacles in the lovers' primrose path. So our pleasure lies in observing the skill with which the novelist overcomes these obstacles.
The occasion of this...
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Clark, Robert. “Further Reading.” In Sense and Sensibility, edited by Robert Clark, pp. 213-15. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1994.
Offers a reading list on Austen arranged by topic.
Wright, Andrew H. “Annotated Bibliography.” In Jane Austen's Novels: A Study in Structure, pp. 197-205. London: Chatto & Windus, 1953.
Provides an annotated bibliography of secondary sources dating from the earliest critical responses to Austen's work through the early twentieth century.
Bloom, Harold. “Chronology.” In Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, edited by Harold Bloom, pp. 127-28. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1987.
Provides a useful chronology of Austen's life and career.
Anderson, Walter E. “Plot, Character, Speech, and Place in Pride and Prejudice,” Nineteenth-Century Fiction 30, no. 3 (December 1975): 367-82.
Succinctly summarizes Austen's development of dramatic action, which determines this work's essential form, power, and interest.
Damstra, K. St John. “The Case against Charlotte Lucas.” Women's Writing 7, no. 2 (2000): 165-74.
Posits that Charlotte Lucas deceptively manipulates Elizabeth...
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