Pride and Prejudice and Aunt Fay

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Explore social, cultural and historical context influences aspects of texts, or the ways in which changes in context lead to changed values being reflected in texts.

Weldon’s Letters to Alice: On First Reading Jane Austen (Letters to Alice) is an epistolary novel containing a series of letters from Aunt Fay to her niece Alice who is currently studying English Literature at college. Alice has been told to read Jane Austen but thinks that Austen is “boring, petty and irrelevant” (Letters to Alice, Page 7). Aunt Fay attempts to convince Alice to read Jane Austen by talking about the life and work of Jane Austen, and tries to explain Literature to Alice. She encourages Alice to put off writing her own novel until she is more familiar with proper Literature. Aunt Fay then creates the metaphor of the City of Invention where writers create their “Houses of Imagination” (Letters to Alice, Page 11) and readers come and go. Alice finally creates her novel ‘The Wife’s Revenge’ which becomes a bestseller and manages to sell more copies of it in three months than Aunt Fay has done with all of her novels. However, Aunt Fay still offers advice on what to do and read. This series of letters are similar to the letters which Jane Austen wrote to her own niece. Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is about Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy who are ‘blinded’ by pride and prejudice.

Letters to Alice - the 'explosion' of change that was occurring at this time with respect to the roles of women within society and the fact that they could now partake in the workforce. Pride and Prejudice - there was not much change occurring during this time which involved the characters of this novel. Letters to Alice – the City of Imagination is the world which is created by writers and that this Literature is “the very essence of civilisation” (Letters to Alice, Page 9). ‘Romance Alley’ which is described by Weldon in Letters to Alice; many of Austen’s novels would be found in this alley in which “[e]verything is lavender-tinted, and the cottages have roses round the door, and knights ride by in shining armour, and amazingly beautiful couples stroll by under the blossoming trees…”(Letters to Alice, Page 20). The changing positions of authority within the family unit - Lady Catherine deBourgh has the most influence in this society, compared to Elizabeth who is of a lower class. In this society, family relations were extremely important when considering who to have relationships with.

In Letters to Alice, Alice is somewhat more equal to her Aunt Fay and Alice demonstrates a lack of respect for persons of authority and the disregard for those who have, in the past, had a considerable influence over your life. I am referring to Alice's relationship with her parents and, to a lesser extent, her Aunt. Towards the end of the novel we can begin to imagine Alice disregarding any advice given by her Aunt due to the fact that her novel's success has surpassed any of her Aunt's minor successes. Her Aunt however still clings to her sense of superiority by patronising Alice and recommending that she read a few of the books she has prescribed which shall make her a better writer, even though this reading has clearly not benefited Aunt Fay.

Lady Catherine deBourgh can be described as rude, intrusive and insensitive. She takes pleasure in interfering in the lives of those that she views as beneath her and shows no hesitation in delivering her opinion on every subject discussed in a decisive way. She also dictates to others and expects that her requests will always be followed. An example of this would be Lady Catherine deBourgh’s request that “a clergy man like [Mr Collins] must marry”. Aunt Fay and Lady Catherine deBourgh are similar in nature, with both of them giving advice and influencing people who they know. Aunt Fay also shares her views on many subjects with her niece Alice and encourages her to take the same view.

Family is shown to be of the greatest of...
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