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Realism In Pride And Prejudice

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Autor:  jon1269  11 November 2009
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Discuss the features that make a novel you have studied this year seem realistic and explain why realism is appropriate to the main themes of the novel.
Sara Perley


Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen is a complex novel mixing romance with comedy with an unprecedented quality of realism. Austen’s techniques require the reader to pay close attention and to actively interpret what it is they are reading unlike other light novels which you can passively work your way through. Pride and Prejudice is centrally concerned with the ideals and necessities of marriage in the early nineteenth century.
Austen used a variety of features to make the novel Pride and Prejudice seem more realistic and relevant to the period of the nineteenth century. Some of the features used in the writing of this novel are contrast, irony, and the devices used such as letters. The realism created by these features enhances and addresses the main issues of the period and through this the main themes in the novel.
One of the most prominent features used in the novel Pride and Prejudice in contrast, contrast of the characters, their beliefs and the situations that the characters are put in.
The characters are contrasted in many different ways and each of these contrasts are used too express a different issue or idea. Such as the contrast of Mr Collins and Elizabeth Bennet, Mr Collins believes and expresses the common ideals that middle class women of the period were best to be submissive and obedient and under the dominion of men, hence the reason he uses words like “modesty” and “economy” when he is complimenting Elizabeth and her nature and his belief that Elizabeth’s rejection of his marriage proposals are ladylike modesty “I must therefore conclude that you are not serious in your rejection of me…according to the usual practice of elegant females.”. This shows that Mr Collins is essentially the personification of the early nineteenth century beliefs for the nature and personality of a woman and her ideas about marriage and society. Elizabeth on the other hand is the opposite of these ideals she speaks her mind and expresses her opinion openly in an often “unladylike” manner, such as when Elizabeth rejects Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy’s proposal of marriage, instead of acting demure and modest she attacks his characters making him blush “As she pronounced these words, Mr Darcy changed colour.” Thus Elizabeth Bennet is like a personification of early feminist beliefs of equality for women and the personification of the beliefs of Austen herself. Austen uses the conflict between Elizabeth and Mr Collins to emphasis the situation that the majority of women had to deal with in Georgian England relating to financial security, independence and inheritance. Austen’s critical attitude toward the limitations faced by the women of her period possibly influenced her choice of characters such as Mr Collins, who will inherit Longbourn house in the future, and the way they are portrayed in Pride and Prejudice. Austen makes Mr Collins seem annoying and unsuitable from the beginning thus Austen is trying to influence our ideas about the situation faced by most women in the period.
Another Important contrast portraying realism is the contrast between Elizabeth and Charlottes’ ideas of marriage. These separate ideas highlight the dilemma faced by women of the early nineteenth century to wait for love , or to marry at the first proposal to prevent themselves from being spinsters and having to rely on their parents’, brothers’ or married sisters’ for their livelihoods. Also that women had to compromise in order to get married well as it was in the women’s’ best interests to get married. Charlotte has pragmatic views about marriage believing that security is more important than actually affection let alone love as these things can be feigned. Her beliefs would be good to follow if your only purpose was to be married. “Happiness in marriage is entirely up to chance…It is better to know as little as possible of the defects of the person with whom you are to pass your life.” Elizabeth’s views on marriage focus more on the happiness and affection side of things.
The contrasts shown in the novel Pride and Prejudice show the realistic view of differing opinions and beliefs which are portrayed by most people.
Irony is an equally important feature in portraying realism in the novel. Irony is used to express the ideas about the reality which is the characters of people, how no one can understand every subtle thing about every situation.
The novel Pride and Prejudice uses irony a lot to express the beliefs of Austen and to help her subtly mock the society which many people wish to belong to.
Unconscious irony is used to mock the person using it, such as Mrs Bennet. She spends her time criticising other peoples “scandalous” doings believing it makes herself seem better. Mrs Bennet believes that her comments are intelligent and sophisticated when in all reality she is being a hypocrite. As she criticises Mr Collins for his service to Lady Catherine De Bourgh stating that she would never accept favours and property from someone else yet in reality we know that she would. This exposes Mrs Bennet’s foolishness and hypocrisy. Another example when Mrs Bennet is talking about the intelligence and senses of her daughters it is ironic because she refers to the sense of their mother and father yet their mother has no sense. “My dear Mr Bennet, you must not expect such girls to have the sense of their father and mother.”
Austen also expresses her own ironic opinion through characters mainly Elizabeth and Mr Bennet. Near the end of the novel when Mary is the only daughter living at home and is no longer having to live with the comparisons to her prettier sisters any longer Austen says “It was suspected by her father that she submitted to the change without much reluctance” Thus in this circumstance Mr Bennet is being used to express the ironical opinion of Austen.
Irony is also created in situations where the reader knows something that the character does not. Such is the case with Elizabeth and her ignorance about Darcy’s feelings. The reader is aware of these but Elizabeth does not come to realise until she has been proposed to and told in that proposal. “Elizabeth’s astonishment was beyond expression. She stared coloured, doubted, and was silent”
The irony helps the character come more alive as it makes us realise that they are dealing with actual issues. The characters have open faults and do not presume to have knowledge about everything that is going on around them as no real person does.
Another feature used is that of letters. They are dealt with in the same way that letters are dealt with, or were dealt with at the time. They create and idea of realism as they emphasis the fact that time still passes in the world outside the setting which the story is currently taking place, such as when Elizabeth is in Pemberly with her aunt and uncle and letters arrive from Jane telling of events that have happened in the past but we were not aware of. The fact that time passes is enforced by the receiving of multiple letters at once which had been written after each other. “Justified by the receipt of two letters”
Many other features are used to express realism in the novel Pride and Prejudice.
The main theme in this novel is that of marriage. Realism is vitally important and appropriate to this theme as marriage is one of the oldest customs of our world completed for different reasons throughout history from religion to security and benefits. In the period when this book was written it was common practise for females is be married if they wanted to lead a secure safe life without having to work as governesses or be dependent upon married relations. This was a very controversial issue later in the nineteenth century as women fought for the right to gain inheritance, rightful property and benefits for themselves and their children in the case of divorces due to cruelty.
The features in this novel Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen are used effectively to portray realistic issues and relevant ideas of Austen’s period. This realism is appropriate to the novels main themes as its main themes are realistic topics unlike some other light romantic stories.

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