LITERARY TREND AND AUTHOR CANON
During her lifetime and throughout the 19th century, Austen was less appreciated than other novelists, as her writing did not conform to Romantic and Victorian expectations. Later, her style was defined as representative of the classical English novel.
Post-Romanticism in Austen’s novels
- Satirizes the excesses of the Gothic novel;
- Satirizes the Romantic sensibility and exaggerated emotion;
- Lack of Romantic imagination and sentimentalism.
Realism in Austen’ novels
- Main setting: rural England;
- Theme: the relationship between individuals and families belonging to the middle and upper classes, with their worries and problems.
- Traditional values of the middle and upper classes:
Classicism in Austen’s novels
- Structured form;
- Clear-cut characters, with “flat” psychology (there is little psychological development);
- Chronological plot.
PRIDE AND PREJUDICE (published 1813)
- Genre: a novel of manners
- Late 18th century – early 19th century England;
- London, Brighton, and the countryside.
Main theme: Love and marriage. The story follows the courtship between Darcy and Elizabeth. The lovers must elude and overcome stumbling blocks, mainly their own pride and prejudice.
The Bennet family is anxious to see all their five daughters married. Jane is infatuated with Charles Bingley, but Elizabeth shuns Darcy, considering him a snob. Elizabeth refuses Collins (the man who would inherit her father’s estate), so Collins becomes engaged with her friend Charlotte. Elizabeth is attracted to George Wickham, who further deepens her dislike for Darcy. Darcy proposes to her, and she refuses, accusing her that he was responsible for Jane’s breakup with Bingley. Darcy discloses Wickham’s character, and Elizabeth starts trusting him. Lydia, Elizabeth’s younger sister, elopes with Wickham. Bingley becomes engaged with Jane, and Elizabeth with Darcy.
Characters presented in the analysis of the literary fragment should be adapted to the fragment itself.
The characters are depicted realistically, presented with all their faces, grimaces, gestures, and obsessions.
- Elizabeth Bennet – protagonist, the second daughter of Mr. Bennet. She is the most intelligent and sensible of the sisters. Educated and quick-witted, she sometimes becomes too judgemental or sarcastic towards others. She is prejudiced against Darcy in the beginning, but eventually perceives him objectively and understands that he is a good person.
- Jane Bennet – the eldest and most beautiful Bennet sister. She is reserved and gentler than Elizabeth and interacts with Bingley pleasantly.
- Fitzwilliam Darcy – a wealthy man, master of the Pemberly estate. He is intelligent and honest but displays an excess of pride which sometimes makes him seem arrogant towards his social inferiors. He learns to temper his pride and admires Elizabeth for her strong character.
- Charles Bingley – Darcy’s best friend, a very wealthy man. He purchases Netherfield, an estate near the Bennets. He is easygoing and well-intentioned.
POINT OF VIEW
- Third-person, omniscient narrator;
- The narrator often adds commentary about the characters and their actions and shapes the reader’s perception ( the technique is called free indirect discourse – narrative strategy in which the character’s thoughts and feelings are presented to the reader without verbs like “she thought”).
- Light-hearted tone;
- Although it is a love story, the narrator’s attitude towards some characters is sarcastic;
- Criticized aspects:
- Pretensions about social class;
- Simple language;
- The dialogue is witty, lively, very polished (no repetition or incomplete sentence, even in very passionate arguments), and full of humour;
- Ironic style: the narrator makes a remark that seems to mean one thing, but means another;
- The ironic style is a point of appeal for the novel, but it is also linked to miscommunication and misunderstanding, two themes of the novel.