In Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, what are some of the examples of focalization shifts? 

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Focalization refers to the point-of-view or perspective through which a story is told. Pride and Prejudice is a highly focalized novel, with most of the story unfolding through the eyes of Elizabeth Bennet. However, the story is not told entirely from her perspective, and the narrative shifts can be fascinating: although we travel with Elizabeth from place to place and primarily see what she sees, there are moments when the narration is either omniscient or from another character's point of view. This includes the opening two chapters. Elizabeth is not present in Chapter 1 of the novel, in which Mr. and Mrs. Bennet discuss the arrival of Mr. Bingley. This chapter is normally seen as omniscient, though a recent article in the journal Persuasions, a publication devoted to Jane Austen studies, argues that it is told from Mr. Bennet's point of view. In any case, it is not from Elizabeth's perspective.

Chapter 2 opens from the point of view of the narrator, as we are informed that Mr. Bennet was one of the first to visit Mr. Bingley. Then, as is often the case with Austen, we most likely are sliding into a character's, in this instance, Mr. Bennet's, thoughts, an example of free indirect discourse, in which Austen moves almost invisibly from omniscient narration into one character's point of view: we learn that "He had always intended to visit him." Whether or not these are Mr. Bennet's thoughts or the narrator's (and Austen leaves us to decide), they are not Lizzie's. We also see through Mr. Bennet's eyes in this paragraph as he "observ[es] ... his second daughter [Elizabeth] employed in trimming a hat ..."

Another place in the novel where Austen clearly departs from Elizabeth's point of view is the point in Chapter 22 when we are entirely inside Charlotte's thoughts, and Elizabeth is not on scene. Charlotte has just accepted Mr. Collins' marriage proposal and is reflecting with "general" satisfaction on her lot. She notes her future husband is "neither sensible nor agreeable ... But still he would be her husband ...[her] preservation from want." She goes on to think about "the surprise" the news will give Elizabeth: Elizabeth "probably would blame her." This is one of the times in the novel when the focalization markedly shifts to outside of Elizabeth's line of vision. 

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Pride and Prejudice

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