Illustration of Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy with neutral expressions on their faces

Pride and Prejudice

by Jane Austen

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What is the narrative style of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice?

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It is clear that the narrative style of this classic is distinctive to Austen. She writes using the omniscient point of view, which means that she as a narrator takes a God-like perspective, and can see the actions and thoughts and motives of all characters and presents to us a carefully selected amount of detail. One example of this is the way that the narrator chooses not to reveal Wickham's true nature to us and information regarding his background. The narrator focuses on Lizzie and her response to him, and the way that she is taken in by first impressions.

The narration also includes lots of examples of direct characterisation. In this respect, it is not exactly subtle. We are told very clearly what characters are like and, therefore, we can obviously see the author's sympathies and pet hates. For example, note the description that we are given of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet at the end of Chapter One that leaves little to the imagination:

Mr. Bennet was so odd a mixture of quick parts, sarcastic humour, reserve, and caprice, that the experience of three and twenty years had been insufficient to make his wife understand his character. Her mind was less difficult to develop. She was a woman of mean understanding, little information, and uncertain temper. When she was discontented she fancied herself nervous. The business of her life was to get her daughters married; its solace was visiting and news.

Note the way that the author makes clear her own views on the various characters. We are left with no confusion regarding her feelings towards Mrs. Bennet, for example! Thus the style of narration is one that is omniscient and which the author herself clearly tells us her feelings about characters and situations.

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Describe the narrative technique employed by Jane Austen in Pride and Prejudice.

In this novel, the author takes on the "persona" of the narrator, Elizabeth Bennet. In this way, the narrative technique combines first person narrative with omniscient narrator - but omniscient narrator only for the other characters, not Elizabeth herself. One of the great ironies of this novel is that the discerning Elizabeth cannot get the plank out of her own eye and realize her own "prejudices." This is why she totally misreads Darcy and is too quick to presume that there is nothing deeper behind his facade of pride.

The witty and clever way in which this novel is narrated is one of its very strong points. You can read a good analysis of the novel here on eNotes at the link below.


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

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).

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