What narrative techniques does Jane Austen employ in Pride and Prejudice?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Jane Austen makes use of very many different types of narrative techniques. One technique she uses is referred to as Free Direct Speech, in which the author leaves off the dialogue tag, or reporting clause to show which character is speaking. We see an excellent example of this in the first chapter when Mr. and Mrs. Bennet have their teasing back and forth exchange about Bingley taking Netherfield and what it will mean for the girls.

She also quite frequently uses Direct Speech, in which the dialogue tag is employed to identify the speaker. Here is one good example: "'Now, Kitty, you may cough as much as you chuse,' said Mr. Bennet; and, as he spoke, he left the room, fatigued with the raptures of his wife" (Ch. 2, Vol. 1).

Austen also quite frequently makes use of what we call a Narrative Report of a Thought Act, in which she shows the character's thoughts through the standpoint of the narrator. A good example can be seen when Elizabeth is reading 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" (Ch. 13, Vol. 2).

Austen also makes use of Narrative Report of an Act, in which the narrator tells us the character's actions. One good example can be seen when Darcy and Bingley return to Longbourne once the awful business with Lydia has been completed. The narrator reports: "The colour which had been driven from her[Elizabeth's] face, returned for half a minute with an additional glow, and a smile of delight added lustre to her eyes, as she thought for that space of time that his[Darcy's] affection and wishes must still be unshaken" (Ch. 11, Vol. 3).

During the denouement, Austen even made use of Direct Thought to show the reader Elizabeth speaking outloud her agonizing thoughts about whether or not Darcy still loved her: "'Why, if he came only to be silent, grave, and indifferent,' said she, 'did he come at all?'" (Ch. 12, Vol. 3).