The Role of Letters in Pride and Prejudice

March 18, 2021 by Essay Writer

During the Regency society, letters were extremely essential as they were the only method to send information to someone. This meant that letters were used frequently and became heightened in the use of novels. Jane Austen’s novel, ‘Pride and Prejudice’, was written during this period which is why the usage of letters are so critical. Austen uses these letters in ‘Pride and Prejudice’ to show relationships between her characters and develop the characters’ personalities. Letters are useful since a characters reactions to the information from the letters are not fake since when they are reading, the sender is not with them. Also, with the use of letters, news can be delivered from far away. Additionally, information can also be easily deferred to suit the novel’s purpose. Overall, letter writing became an indispensable form of communicate. Jane Austen’s epistolary novel includes written messages from one character to another. Such epistolary novels can add greater realism to a story as it mimics the workings of real life. In ‘Pride and Prejudice,’ epistolary also allows for character development and advancement in plot.

Throughout the novel, Jane writes letters when she is in distress and needs advice. Specifically, when Jane falls ill at Netherfield and also when she cannot see Mr. Bingley in London and fears that he is deliberately avoiding her. She also writes to Elizabeth explaining the details and her reaction to Lydia’s unforseen elopement. In the letter she exclaims, “shall I own that I long for your return?” (Austin 190). This demonstrates that although Jane is the elder sister and should be the more responsible, she views Lizzy as someone who is reliable and is able to help her; someone of equal place. Jane’s letters give a greater understanding of her character compared to her dialogue as she does not say much to reveal any of her qualities.

Caroline Bingley is seen manipulating people both when conversing and through her letters, especially to Jane. She invites Jane to Netherfield, in order to befriend her yet she tries to damage the relationship of her brother and Jane, in her letter informing Jane that they parted to London. She writes, “my brother admires her greatly” (Austin 84) to attempt to convince Jane that Mr. Bingley was uninterested in her. Her motives in these letters show that Caroline does not consider Jane to be a friend nor as an equal status. Jane’s reaction is also important since she is very saddened by these letters thus suggesting that she either viewed Caroline as a true friend or wanted to in the future.

One assertion that can be made about Mr. Darcy is that he struggles when expressing any emotion or sentiment. Darcy’s first letter, which is to his sister, gives is composed with such upmost care that it shows intricacies of his character. Such as being arrogant and snobbish. (Letters as Literary Devices in Pride and Prejudice 4). Another of Darcy’s letter which was to Elizabeth explained his prejudiced actions is the most important and impactful letter in the novel as well as the pivotal point in the novel where both the audience’s and Lizzy’s perceptions are changed. HIs thoughts needed to be written because in order for Elizabeth to change her opinions so thoroughly on Darcy and Wickham she needed to be able to reread the letter to. The letter is also almost an argumentative essay in which Darcy clearly explains his motives and explanations for why he had behaved so badly because he realizes that Elizabeth, while a romantic, is a creature of logic and reason and would have to accept what he wrote, as long as it was true.

Elizabeth, the primary protagonist in the novel does not write a single quoted letter, although she is mentioned writing or thinking about writing letters several times. This is probably because as we see her thoughts most often,either directly or through free indirect speech, and Austen feels that we do not need further insights into Elizabeth’s character. Also, another role of letters in ‘Pride and Prejudice’ is to advance the plot and introduce new information to the story. As the reader sees mostly from Lizzy’s viewpoint or from a viewpoint that is biased towards her opinions, showing one of Lizzy’s letters would only be retelling what has already happened.

Austen uses Mr. Collins’ first letter to the Bennets to introduce him to the readers and to inform the reader of his character. The letter also introduces several important plot elements to the novel such as the fact that Longbourn had been entailed away from the Bennet sisters and also Collins’ visit to Longbourn. His two letters later use how they feel about Lydia’s elopement to portray how society feels about it and the rumours of Darcy’s proposal to Elizabeth. Mr. Collins writes his first letter to introduce himself to the Bennets. However he doesn’t succeed in the way he probably had hoped to. Mrs. Bennet is the only person who is impressed, though more in an amused matter, while the rest of the Bennet family are all seen to immediately dislike him. The other letters sent to the Bennet family are sent to advise them even though it rebukes them. However, the Bennet sisters react to these letters with contempt, finding that they were ill judged and unsympathetic. Mr. Collins’ letters give an extremely different and unusual view on the novels events and are useful reference points for how those outside of the Bennet family may view the events in ‘Pride and as well as advancing the plot.

Elizabeth, the primary protagonist in the novel does not write a single quoted letter, although she is mentioned writing or thinking about writing letters several times. This is probably because as we see her thoughts most often,either directly or through free indirect speech, and Austen feels that we do not need further insights into Elizabeth’s character. Also, another role of letters in ‘Pride and Prejudice’ is to advance the plot and introduce new information to the story. As the reader sees mostly from Lizzy’s viewpoint or from a viewpoint that is biased towards her opinions, showing one of Lizzy’s letters would only be retelling what has already happened.

Austen uses letters in ‘Pride and Prejudice’ to show many things including character interaction and to advance the plot. The significance of letters in the novel is shown by how many important moments in the book are instigated or explained in a letter. These include the letter that tells of Lydia’s elopement and the letter from Mr. Collins to Mr. Bennet foreshadowing Elizabeth’s engagement. Letters were just how news and gossip spread in Regency society. However, the letter from Mr. Darcy to Elizabeth was the most important letter because it completely changes the direction of the novel and is the first step to Elizabeth growing to love Darcy.

Critic Hannah Fulford agrees with the idea that letters present an intimate observation of a character’s thoughts without the author’s comments intervening. This way the audience can create their own idea of the characters and events. The author also claims that these letters provide drama of anticipation since they are always followed by some sort of action which indicates a new direction in the plot. The author also claims that the letters are meant to show the reader that what seem to be insignificant information is actually the things that would shape someone which is supported when Elizabeth is informed that Lydia runs away with Wickham in a letter from Jane. This information from the letter moves the story from London to Longbourn and acts as a turning point.

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