What Do We Learn About the Characters in Pride and Prejudice from Their Epistolary Style?

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Letters play an extremely important role in the plot of Pride and Prejudice. They help communicate important information that would’ve taken much longer if written in narrative form. Some are used as turning points in the novel such as Darcy’s letter to Elizabeth after she refuses his first marriage proposal. Others reveal the character and personality of the letter writer. They allow the narrative to intensify quickly without spending many pages describing the events. It also allows changes in the character’s views of one another, for example Miss Bingley’s feelings about Jane, and helps the reader understand the motivations behind many of the characters’ actions because of the background information. Letters are used as a dramatic device to further the plot, link the story and to inform the readers of the character’s personalities. The letters that I am going to compare with each other are Mr Collins’ letter to Mr Bennet in chapter 48, and Lydia’s letter to Mrs Forster in chapter 47.

In chapter 48, it is difficult to count the number of ways in which Mr Collins manages to be offensive, apparently without being aware of it. He begins by saying ‘I feel myself called upon...to condole with you...’ He almost deliberately chooses not to be discreet about the exact source from which he heard the news, and does not avoid the implication that he has spread the scandal. Instead he tells on the Lucases for spreading the news of the scandal to Hunsford. He then goes on to say that he and Charlotte have been discussing the Bennet’s private affairs, as has he been doing with the De Bourghs. Mr Collins then ridiculously “comforts” Mr Bennet by pointing out that “The death of your daughter would have been a blessing in comparison of this”. He manages to blame the Bennet parents for being too indulgent and informs Mr Bennet that Lady Catherin thinks that this will ruin the chances of his other daughters marrying, and is happy that he did not marry Elizabeth after all....
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