In both of Austen’s ‘romantic comedies’; ‘Pride and Prejudice, and Persuasion’ Jane Austen delicately provides an insight into life and social habits at the time; exploring the themes of love, class and money and in doing so creating a realistic and meaningful account; combining what is often comic irony, with steadfast morals.
Both novels ardently focus on pressing social concerns of the time, with Austen portraying through each story; the section in society in which she is most familiar with. Yet Austen creates for readers an understanding that does not dwell specifically on politics or what can be described as ‘majorly’ influential factors of the time, e.g. – the ongoing war. By bypassing such explicit attempts at explaining the situation in Britain at the time, and by refusing to use a major incident and extraordinary characters as a catalyst for the action occurring in her novels; Austen portrays a more modest, personal and accessible account. By centralising her story around small groups or social circles; she meticulously examines different parts of society; through authorial viewpoints. Austen’s morals or ideals; represented mainly through the characters of Elizabeth Bennett and Anne Elliot, are therefore much easier to comprehend or evaluate because, in such a small scale, the story becomes universal and identifiable to readers.
It can be acknowledged that the basis of ‘Pride and Prejudice’s story reflects on the prejudices and ill-judgements made by members of the public; regardless of their social disposition, in a somewhat light hearted fashion, whilst ‘Persuasion’ focuses more darkly and intensely on the consequence of such ignorant opinions and judgements cast without conclusive reason. Similarities between the two books in relation to plot, character and theme are evident. Both novels analyse a range of hurtful truths, common beliefs and stereotypes that are universal, with ‘Persuasion’, perhaps more seriously, detailing the consequences of intelligence clouded by vanity and self-interest:
“Vanity was the beginning and the end of Sir Walter Elliot’s character. Vanity of person and of situation.”
‘Pride and Prejudice’, however, more light-heartedly and ironically mimics the inflated ego’s of those of fortune and rank also:
“Lady Catherine will not think the worse of you for being simply dressed. She likes to have the distinction of wealth preserved.”
“[Miss Bingley] would have difficulty in believing that a man who lived by trade, and within view of his own warehouses, could have been so well bred and agreeable.”
The characters in both books are also universal. Their personalities harbour similarities between each book and additionally, have qualities that readers can relate to, as they are still present, to an extent, in society today. Most, if not all characters; from the comical, perpetually ignorant and flippant Mrs Bennett and Mary Musgrove:
“a woman of mean understanding, little information and quick temper. When she was disconcerted; she fancied herself nervous.”
to the austere, sombre; yet equally comical Mr Collins;
“the respect he held for high rank, his veneration for her as a patroness…he was a mixture of pride and obsequiousness, self-importance and humility.”
can be described as ‘caricatures’ – personifying and bringing to life society’s beliefs, opinions and prejudices of certain people; in an exaggerated form.
Austen’s subtle narrative approach allows readers to collect their own thoughts, and does not subjectively enforce conclusions on readers. Instead, she hints at her ideas; persuading readers to come to their own judgements; which, irrefutably, end up matching hers consequently. By adopting a third person narrative voice Austen is able to distance herself from characters, not allowing the progress and development of characters within the novel to be concealed by constant and intense surveillance. Her narrative voice makes it...
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