Education in Pride and Prejudice
Through encouraging the responders of the importance of self-reflection, Austen’s satirical eye cleverly points out the hypocrisy of her society, and makes an astute social commentary of the role of education. Lady Catherine de Bourgh, although seen as the most prominent in the social hierarchy, proves to be the most uncouth and brash in her manner with others. Through omniscient narration, Austen tells of Lady Catherine’s personality. ‘There was little to be done but to hear Lady Catherine talk… and delivering her opinion on every subject in so decisive a manner as proved that she was not to have her judgement controverted.’ It is clear that Lady Catherine’s superior breeding and extensive access to the education that was so prized at the time has taught her nothing on social courtesies. She even starts most of her sentences with high modality language to prove her patronization in speech, with ‘you can be at no loss to understand…’ and ‘you ought to know.’ Lady Catherine even goes on further, claiming ‘My character has been celebrated for its sincerity and frankness.’ This is heavily ironic, as her character is ridiculed and used as a satirical portrait for that same ‘sincerity and frankness.’ In the same way, Austen portrays Caroline Bingley as a woman who was given that same traditional education, but despite this and her class position, is rude and uncivilized in manner. When asked about the nature of a ‘true accomplishment,’ Caroline claims ‘No one can be really esteemed accomplished, who does not greatly surpass what is usually met with. A woman must have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, dancing, and the modern languages, to deserve the word; and besides all this, she must possess a certain something in her air and manner of walking, the tone of her voice, her address and expressions, or the word will be but half deserved.’ The use of the word ‘must’ being very high modality, the audience can sense...
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