Domestic Chronotope in 'Pride and Prejudice'

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The Russian philologist and literary philosopher Mikhail Mikhailvoch Bakhtin (1895-1975) uses the term “Chronotope” to designate the Spatio-Temporal matrix, which governs the base condition of all narratives and other linguistic acts. The term itself can be literally translated as “Time-Space”. The term is developed in Bakhtin’s essay, “Forms of Time and Chronotope in the Novel”.

Bakhtin in his essay says that “a literary work’s artistic unity in relationship to an actual reality is defined by its Chronotope. He further says that “Chronotopes are the organizing centers for the fundamental narrative events of the novel. The Chronotope is the place where the knots of narrative are tied and untied.” So, Chronotope is a category that deals with organization of Time-Space model. It enables one to follow shifts in the presentation of the human relation to Space and Time in Literature; it functions as a force giving body to the entire novel, because the organization of time cannot be done without the implication of space organization and vice-versa.

In his essay, Bakhtin mentions various major Chronotopes in the novel, like, the Chronotope of Encounter, which he further connects it with Chronotope of Road, as Encounters in a, especially in picaresque novels, usually take place “on the road”. Representatives of all classes, ages, nationalities meet on road, thus their temporal and spatial paths intersect. Further, he talks about Gothic Chronotope, sub-divided into Chronotope of castle where we see historical Space and Time intersecting with each other. In the same essay, Bakhtin also mentions Chronotope of Salon and Parlour, and Chronotope of Threshold, where he gives theory of interwining of spatio-temporal relation in those Chronotopes.

In this paper, I would merely touch upon one more example of the spatial and temporal sequences. In Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice”, the domesticity of country-side life serves as the locus of action. The country-side of London with its stagnant life is represented in “Pride and Prejudice”. Here there are no fast-paced events, no advancing historical movement of time; infact time rather moves in narrow circles: the circles of the day, of the month, of the person’s entire life. This ‘everyday’ pace can be categorized under the ‘Domestic Chronotope’ which is nothing but one of the many ways in which we can organize time-space relationship.

Time and Space are quite small in Pride and Prejudice. Time represented in the novel is just of about few months, where there is no space for past and future, though the present actions would determine future of the characters. Distance or space can be covered in a few hours coach ride between London and a country village or Estate. Austen’s major characters move away time to time from their homes and villages as well, but it is within these settings that their future lies. The characters in the novel just have time to find suitable partners for their marriage, and almost all events in the novel interwine together to get its characters husbanded and wived. The novel, “Pride and Prejudice” contains vivid and realistic pictures of the social life of the author’s time. The conventions, the manners, and the mode of living of the era are depicted in the novel in a most graphic manner. Courtship is relegated to the central position in Pride and Prejudice. The subject is introduced by the novel’s famous opening sentence: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife”. And it remains in the forefront throughout the first chapter which is given over entirely to Mrs. Bennet ‘the business of whose life was to get her daughters married’. As Alistair Duckworth says that “Pride and Prejudice moves from an initial condition of potential social fragmentation to a resolution in which the grounds of society are reconstituted as the principal...
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