Austen usually presents her characters dramatically through their conversation, actions and letters. Darcy and Wickham, Lydia and Caroline are much revealed through their actions, while Collins and Lydia are revealed through their letters. A direct comment is sometimes added. The mean understanding of Mrs. Bennet and the sarcastic humour of Mr. Bennet have already been revealed in their dialogues before the direct comment of the novelist. Similarly before she tells us about Mr. Collins, we have already become aware from his letter that he is not a sensible man.
Though Jane Austen does not conceive her characters in pairs yet her characters are revealed through comparison and contrast with others. Lady Catherine and Mrs. Bennet balance each other in their vulgarity and match-making drills. Wickham serves a contrast to Darcy while Bingley is a foil to him. Elizabeth’s is compared and contrasted with Jane and Caroline Bingley.
Austen builds character through piling an infinite succession of minute details about them. In “Pride and Prejudice”, the Elizabeth-Darcy relationship is traced through minute details, details which look trivial and insignificant in the first instance but whose significance is realized only after reading the novel. Austen is a great realist in art. She studies her characters kindly but objectively. She is constant in providing details about their outlook, attitude, manner and accomplishments.
Jane Austen’s minor figures are flat. They do not grow and are fully developed when we first meet them. As the action progresses our first impressions of them get confirmed. Mrs. Bennet seems to be stupefied and vulgar right from the first scene. Her appearance at the Netherfield Park or her reaction to Lydia’s elopement confirms her stupidity and vulgarity. This is true of almost all of her minor figures.
But her major characters are ever changing, ever growing. Usually self-deceived in initial stages, they are capable of understanding,...
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