Epistolary Study of Austen

May 9, 2019 by Essay Writer

Some of the greatest novels in history were masterfully written with twists and turns often achieved through the existence of complex characters that are either unpredictable or clever at disguising their true motives or desires. Just as a child loves piecing together a puzzle, so does an adult enjoy piecing together clues gathered throughout a story that lead to a well-rounded picture of a character. What makes Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice so popular and appealing to many readers are her unique methods of providing them with information that assists in the development of the plot and the personalities of her characters . One important way in which Austen does this is through the ancient art of letter writing. Through letters that are written between various characters, the reader becomes fully engrossed in the affairs of the parties involved. By following closely, the reader can try to determine the end results of the story as well as attain true understanding of the characters in eager anticipationSet in early nineteenth century England, the story’s primary focus is on the Bennets, a modest upper class family with five daughters and no male heirs. Through Mrs. Bennet’s incessant prattling, the reader can see that the mother’s apparent goal in life is to have all of her daughters married off in quick succession, and she gropes at every opportunity that comes within reach. At the outset, the Bennets learn that they have new neighbors, the Bingleys. Through them, the Bennets meet Mr. Darcy, who originates from a very rich family. The story now proceeds to unfold the nature of the lives of these characters and their relationships with each other.The first letter mentioned is from Miss Caroline Bingley to the eldest and most nubile of the Bennet daughters, Jane, inviting her to dine with the Bingleys at their estate. Significantly, it hints to the reader of a budding romance between Jane and Mr. Charles Bingley, Caroline’s brother. The event of a rainfall during Jane’s stay with the Bingleys causes her to fall ill, prompting the next letter informing Elizabeth, the second Bennet daughter in age and beauty, of her sister’s condition. The news motivates her to trek three miles through muddy roads to the Bingleys’ estate to assist in caring for her sister. Elizabeth’s journey through the night and unaccompanied in bad weather exposes to the reader her headstrong and independent attributes. Such traits were not common to the “proper woman” who was deemed as becoming, discreet, and beauty-conscious. As a result, Elizabeth’s character becomes a topic for animated discussion, particularly between Caroline Bingley and Mr. Darcy, a future admirer of Elizabeth.The next letter introduces a significant character, Mr. Collins, the much despised cousin of Mr. Bennet. Right from the start, one questions the sincerity of Collins and his true intentions. A superficial quality of benevolence is rampant throughout the letter, causing the reader to be skeptical of the genuineness of Mr. Collins’ apparently kind nature. For example, despite mentioning the desire to make amends with the Bennet family, he adds that he fears disrespecting the memory of his father by being “on good terms with any one with whom it had always pleased him [the father] to be at variance.” The fact that he gives notable consideration to his late father’s opinions–which should be irrelevant–of the Bennet family shows the insincerity of his wish to heal the breach between the households. Additionally, he boasts of being in favor with high nobility as well as with the clergy, suggesting that he is superior to the Bennets. He insinuates that his including them in his clerical duty of establishing “the blessing of peace in all families” within reach is an act of mercy and kindness on his part. Thus, this letter is important in that it already gives the reader the correct impression that Mr. Collins and the Bennets will never make amends.Thus far, one can see that letters provide not only a means of communication, but also a means of introducing and even foreshadowing future events. The next letter is sent by Caroline Bingley to Jane informing of the Bingleys’ move to London with no intention of coming back. Miss Bingley writes another letter that confirms the contents of the previous one and which provides the wood for a key argument that will flare up between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy. The relationship between Jane and Mr. Bingley seemed so promising that the Bingleys’ sudden departure did not seem right. Therefore, Elizabeth begins to suspect that Miss Bingley and Mr. Darcy somehow masterminded the move in order to sever all ties between Jane and Mr. Bingley, for some cruel and unjust reason. From those suspicions, the reader anticipates that something major will occur later in the story.As the plot thickens, the reader now finds Jane in London with her uncle and aunt, Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner. Three letters are sent home by her to Elizabeth. The “London Trilogy” starts off with the first letter informing of Jane’s safe arrival in town. The second discusses Jane’s encounter with Miss Bingley and reveals that Jane had not seen and probably would not see Mr. Bingley. A possible explanation of the Bingleys’ quick move to London is revealed in the third letter, where Jane discloses to Elizabeth Miss Bingley’s plan to make Mr. Bingley and Miss Darcy, Mr. Darcy’s sister, a permanent pair. Indeed, much information has been uncovered, leaving the reader ample opportunity to mull over where the plot is going.The next significant letter is from Elizabeth to Aunt Gardiner concerning a previously introduced young officer, Mr. Wickham, who seemed to be attracted to Elizabeth. Thus far, the reader has an impression of Wickham as an honorable, veritable, and thoughtful man with exemplary manners. However, Elizabeth’s letter speaks of Wickham switching his partiality to a Miss King, who had recently acquired ten thousand pounds. Elizabeth reveals a mature attitude by the way she accepts the new situation without any ill feelings toward Mr. Wickham. However, to the reader, the letter enables him to detect imperfections in Wickham’s personality and, perhaps, misconceptions Elizabeth may have concerning this man’s character.The most critical letter in the novel is probably the one sent by Mr. Darcy to Elizabeth. Mr. Darcy recently had his pride wounded by Elizabeth’s vehement rejection of his marriage proposal, which was accompanied by a downpour of accusations. As the reader predicted, this letter is Darcy’s attempt to respond to the two charges that Elizabeth had hurled against him. The first was his role in separating Mr. Bingley from Jane. According to Darcy’s observations, Mr. Bingley had an unusual attachment to Jane and it appeared that Jane seemed indifferent, not returning any of his attentions. Darcy did not want his friend to make what appeared to be a mistake and objected to any union between Jane and Bingley. Elizabeth later admits that Jane’s true, sincere feelings are not always exhibited by her countenance. Darcy also opposed the relationship because he had a bad impression of Mrs. Bennet and her three youngest daughters. The reader can easily sympathize with Darcy after reading much about the improper manners and the immaturity exhibited by those four characters. In reference to the second charge of having eliminated all chances of prosperity of Mr. Wickham, Darcy truthfully reveals the officer as being nothing more than a capricious, insatiable, and conceited profligate and a good actor. Insincere about his diligence in studies concerning the clergy and law, he only took advantage of the support he had attained from Darcy to lead an indolent life. Full of avarice, which explains his prior turn of attentions towards Miss King, he seduced Miss Darcy to marry him just for her monetary worth, though his iniquitous scheme failed. Overall, one finds out much about Mr. Darcy in this pivotal letter, realizing that he is quite misunderstood by many; in a sense, one rediscovers Mr. Darcy’s character from here on. Elizabeth’s impression of an arrogant, conceited Darcy ebbs after reading this letter; she is able to rid herself of prior prejudices against Darcy and to observe his behavior more objectively. Thus, as the saga continues and each piece of truthful information falls into place, the reader, along with Elizabeth, constantly adjusts and refines his views with regards to the characters involved. The next stream of letters from Jane to Elizabeth informs the latter of an unfortunate situation involving Wickham and the youngest and most extravagant of the Bennet daughters, Lydia. Having been permitted to spend time in Brighton to stay with the soldiers stationed there, the fickle girl complicates matters by running away with Mr. Wickham. (This letter also sets the stage for a significantly noble deed performed by Mr. Darcy that plays an important role in uniting him and Elizabeth.) At this stage, the reader is fully absorbed in the family affairs.By the time the two fugitives are found, marriage plans have already been settled and only require Mr. Bennet’s approval. Notably, the terms of the marriage were quite mild on the Bennets, for Wickham had previously acquired a considerable debt. At this point, the soldier’s reputation has degraded so that it seemed strange for him to run away with a girl who obviously did not have a wealthy inheritance; this fact leads one to conclude that someone had to have paid off Wickham’s debts. Initially, everyone credits Mr. Gardiner with the good deed. However, Elizabeth accidentally stumbles upon information that suggests a link between Mr. Darcy and the benevolent act, and she writes a letter to Mrs. Gardiner, hoping that her aunt can shed light on the matter.The letter Elizabeth receives in response to hers can be considered as one of the more important of the many letters found in the novel. Mrs. Gardiner reveals that it was really Mr. Darcy who located Lydia and Mr. Wickham and paid off Wickham’s debts. By doing so, Darcy tied up all loose ends resulting from the profligate life of an irresponsible soldier, enabling the couple to marry and to have a fresh start together. Such a maneuver on the part of Mr. Darcy is completely unexpected by the reader; there is no clear motive for his actions, though one could surmise that he desired to assist the family of the one he loved, Elizabeth. However, all of Darcy’s actions were done in secret which would mean that no one would ever thank him for this generous deed, nor would he get any credit for it. This letter clearly expresses the true nature of Mr. Darcy and his invaluable role in the recent matter. To the reader’s delight, Elizabeth is now more clear about Mr. Darcy’s emotions and is more prepared to accept him if he ever proposes to her again. Thus, the reader waits in eager anticipation for exactly what is going to happen to this special couple.Letter writing certainly plays a crucial role in Pride and Prejudice. Without it, the story would not be nearly as exciting, nor would the plot be as masterfully designed. The plots, subplots, and character revelations that the letters unveil throw the avid reader amidst the fray of early nineteenth century social gossip, immediately arousing and maintaining interest. By linking different parts of the story together, the letters enable the reader to anticipate and predict events at will, perhaps changing his view of the end result countless number of times. Furthermore, with the invaluable assistance of pen on paper between Elizabeth and Mrs. Gardiner, the novel has a happy ending–Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy were finally able to admit and accept the love they really felt for each other. Perhaps, in time, there would be more who can ignore the pride and prejudices conditioned in their hearts by society today and will, perhaps through the use of letters written in all honesty and sincerity, find their own Elizabeth Bennet or Mr. Darcy.

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