Does Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice follow the conventions of a romantic novel?
A conventionally romantic novel usually focuses on the relationship between a physically attractive man and woman. The hero and heroine usually meet early in the story and fall in love at first sight. The two lovers may, more often than not, have to overcome obstacles in order to be together, but in the end, it seems that love conquers all. Pride and Prejudice does fall into this 'romance' category; it's often considered the most romantic novel of all time. But there are certainly elements of this novel that drive completely against the cliches of a conventional romance novel, and this essay will attempt to pinpoint those 'elements', and argue whether or not Pride and Prejudice follows the conventions of a romantic novel. Elizabeth, in herself, is not a particularly conventionally romantic character. She is 'not half so handsome as Jane', although she 'has something more of quickness than her sisters'. She is, however, the heroine of the story, and has the rational view of men and relationships that are inverted from the conventional stereotypes found in typical romantic novels. When holidaying with her aunt and uncle, she says 'Adieu to disappointment and spleen. What are men to rocks and mountains?', using the words 'disappointment' and 'spleen' in the same sentence as she is describing men. This is not 'romantic' language, and does not describe men or love in a particularly positive way. Elizabeth Bennet is also used as a literary device to represent Austen’s values and attitudes on the importance of marrying for love enables us to see this world through Elizabeth’s eyes and we are positioned to empathize with her opinion on the absurdity of marrying for reasons other than love.
Elizabeth is a free-spirited individual who differs substantially from the other female characters of the novel, and she refuses to be wed to a man to whom she does not love. Her differentiation from the other characters means that readers can empathise with her, as she isn't the pretty, popular, favourite child. Elizabeth, although often guilty of prejudiced attitudes, always acknowledges and learns from her mistakes. Her clear thinking and resolution lead her to make the only truly happy marriage in the novel.
Elizabeth really doesn't think she, for want of a better word, deserves Darcy; she 'hardly knew how to suppose that she could be an object of admiration to so great a man (Darcy)', which adds to the lovability of Elizabeth, and makes her an interesting character to follow.
Darcy, on the other hand, is dark, handsome and wealthy- a conventionally romantic character. However, I think Austen thought this to be too boring, and gave Darcy rather undesirable characteristics. He is described as a 'most disagreeable, horrid man, not at all worth pleasing', however, towards the end of the book, it turns out that actually, he is a rather nice person, and helped out with the Lydia and Wickham situation. This is also fairly conventional; though the journey it takes to get there is far from it, Elizabeth's final realisation of Darcy is romantic. Together, Elizabeth and Darcy are the most unconventionally romantic couple in the novel - this is what makes them interesting to follow throughout the book. However, the marriage between Darcy and Elizabeth portrays the characteristics which Austen constitutes a successful marriage. One of these characteristics is how love cannot be brought on by appearances, and must gradually develop between the two people as they get to know one another. Darcy's immediate opinion of Elizabeth is that she is 'tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me'. But, the two finally realise their love for one another, and Darcy shows his softer side, and says that Elizabeth 'must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you'. To a certain extent, I think Jane Austen satirises conventional romantic expectations with...
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