The development of language in Pride and Prejudice.

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mstultz72 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Walker Gibson says there are three types of style: plain, sweet, and stuffy.  A plain/tough style is like Hemingway's: simple sentences, focuses on the individual, and is devoid of ornamentation.  A sweet style uses dialect, colloquialisms, slang, and use of direct address/2nd person.  Stuffy style uses long, complex sentences, a formal tone, and elevated vocabulary (jargon).  A good novel and a good novelist will incorporate all three.  Jane Austen indeed uses all three in Pride and Prejudice: stuffy language in narration; sweet style in conversation; and plain style in her lack of figurative language.

You should read Mary Lascelles' definitive work on Jane Austen's style, Jane Austen and Her Art.  She says:

Jane Austen's narrative style seems to me to show (especially in the later novels) a curiously chameleon-like faculty; it varies in colour as the habits of expression of the several characters impress themselves on the relation of the episode in which they are involved, and on the description of their situations."


I suspect that Jane Austen's practice of denying herself the aid of figurative language which, as much as any of her other habits of expression, repelled Charlotte Brontë, and has alienated other readers, conscious with a dissatisfaction with her style that they have not cared to analyse.

It is this last quote that separates Austen from her contemporaries and, I think, adds to her singularity as the greatest female novelist of all.  Her language and narrative style are deceptively simple for her late Romantic/early-Victorian audiences.  She seems to have anticipated the shift toward realism better than her peers.  Her overall structure in her social satire is so subtle that it seems a defect, when, in fact, it is the genius of her art.

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Pride and Prejudice

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