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Pride And Prejudice By Jane Austen: Summary And Analysis

June 23, 2022 by Essay Writer

Taking place over a year, Pride and Prejudice tells the story of how Elizabeth Bennett learns not to judge a person by first impressions and the stories of those who have ‘suffered’ by them. Elizabeth Bennett is the second of five sisters, born to a Regency Era English family. The entailment of Mr. Bennett’s estate means that Elizabeth and her sisters need to marry, as having a job is below their social class in England circa 1800. Mrs Bennett dispares at any of her daughters marrying ‘well’, while simultaneously throwing them all at any unmarried man, especially those men who have “five thousand a year” or more. Elizabeth and her sisters are introduced to a Mr. Bingley, a Mr. Darcy and a Mr. Wickham – one considered arrogant and prideful, one considered very handsome and trustworthy, one considered sorely put-upon by an arrogant friend. Elizabeth learns it’s best not to believe in first impressions or pretty words.

First published in 1810, Pride and Prejudice embodies the Regency Era through its lengthy syntax and slightly archaic diction. Right from the beginning of the story, the use of compound-complex sentences can, on occasion, create an overwhelming sense of confusion. “However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered the rightful property of someone or other of their daughters.” This example, of a compound-complex sentence found within the text, shows how it can take several times reading through to gain understanding of what is happening in the sentence. By beginning the sentence with an extended modifier, there is also a sense of inverted syntax which continues throughout the text. This is reminiscent of the style of writing of the Regency Era, further reflected in the formal diction Austen uses.

The diction of the text comes across as highly formal, mostly due to the way the language is used; regular use of archaic terms compared to the language of today. Austen’s use of words such as “Michaelmas”, “over-scrupulous”, “vexing” and “assemblies” would have been commonplace nouns and adjectives when she wrote the story, but have since either fallen out of use (“Michaelmas”), or been replaced with the likes of “annoying”, “moral” and “parties”. The majority of the diction is polysyllabic and while the words themselves are not overly complicated nor specific to Regency England, the combinations used are less common in writing today. The effect of this is the impression of elevated language, which can be true depending on the level of understanding of the reader.

The combination of the diction and syntax reflect that Pride and Prejudice was written over 200 years ago, and is evidence of how language changes over time.

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