Understanding Pride and Prejudice through Letters
In Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice, there are very little explicit descriptions of characters’ true personalities. Instead she gives insight into character through their words, actions and a few thoughts. However, Austen also uses characters’ written letters and the reaction of those who receive them to convey information, reveal characters, advance plot and show personal view points.
As a practical purpose, letters written from one character to another provide information about what is happening in their lives and the context for certain events. For example, the letter from Mrs. Gardiner to Elizabeth explaining Mr. Darcy’s critical role in the marriage between Lydia and Wickham, is a long account of events with a purpose of revealing what part Darcy has played. Because Pride and Prejudice is written in a way that mostly follows Elizabeth’s point of view and thoughts, had this information not been conveyed in a letter, it would have been difficult for the story to find a way of exposing Darcy’s actions. What certain characters say in their letters reveal their personalities. The letter at the beginning of the novel from Mr. Collins to Mr. Bennet expressing his wishes to stay with them, gives insight into Mr. Collins’ pretentious character. Additionally, the reactions from the Bennet family members expose their individual ways of judging character. As Jody Devine states, Mr. Collin’s first letter “reveals to the recipients character traits that do not reflect his class. His tone is pompous and condescending to Mr. Bennet, a man of equal class and status.” In this letter Mr. Collins writes, “I cannot be otherwise than concerned at being the means of injuring your amiable daughters, and beg leave to apologise for it… [and make] amends (43). The reaction of Elizabeth to this phrase illustrates her curiosity in finding out what kind of a man Mr. Collins is. Her desire to make judgements on...
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