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Realism In Pride And Prejudice

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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,

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