The passage extracted from Volume 2 Chapter 9 of Pride and Prejudice is, in line with the rest of the novel, written in the third person narrative voice. As is common throughout the Novel, focalization is often through the main character, Miss Elizabeth Bennet. Helping to aid the readers’ understanding of the Novel, the narrative voice has a free non-direct style which shares commentary with the characters and moves unnoticeably and unobtrusively from character to group, from solitary scenes to social gatherings of the characters.
The passage opens directly with dialogue between Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy. Dialogue is used to reveal the character of the speaker and it also adds drama to the story. The repetitious use of “cannot” is used to empathise the male dominance of the character. Not only are the words that are spoken important, it is also significant how the words are said. Charlotte’s first line in the passage is spoken “impatiently”. Quite ironically she is speaking of a gentleman’s affection, and thereafter she speaks “knowledgeably” of love. She is neither knowledgeable nor experienced in either of these matters. Perhaps the “impatience” is more pertinent to her wishes than to experience. In this way, Jane Austen uses irony in her narrative as a means of showing the truth about situations and people. In Darcy’s discourse he is disagreeing with Elizabeth – a pattern that emerges throughout the novel. Within the conversation between Mr Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet we are exposed to the narrative technique of showing- when describing a narrative, one of the most important aspects is the point of view from which the story is told. Hence, there are two basic forms of narrative - diegesis and mimesis: the former means telling a story instead of showing a series of events, and the latter - the opposite of that. Simply put, diegesis implies that there is a personified narrator and mimesis - that a story is told by an omniscient incorporeal entity. This technique is particularly effective as it involves the reader imaginatively and allows us to judge the characters and their relations with one another. Darcy only smiles in answer to Elizabeth’s retort. Bearing in mind the character already sketched of Mr Darcy, we are unaccustomed to him showing any humour. Through the narrative therefore I am able to deduce that Mr Darcy may be amused due to him mocking Elizabeth’s point of view. The dialogue ceases and gives way to third-party narration using Elizabeth as a focalizer. An awkward silence followed – awkward only from Elizabeth’s point of view. Although this scene is largely seen from the viewpoint of Elizabeth, we view the narrator as omniscient as little ironies are revealed about Elizabeth herself. For example, Elizabeth thinks Mr Darcy and the Bingley sisters rude due to the prejudices they hold against the Bennet’s for being of a lower social-standing. Yet Elizabeth herself is confused ‘My dear Eliza he must be in love with you, or he would never have called on us in this familiar way’. Although Elizabeth is a thinking character and can laugh at the ridiculousness of unthinking characters, the author is able to turn the tables on her heroine once in a while, demonstrating the fact that Elizabeth is not a creature of pure reason and perfection. The brief silence which made Elizabeth so uncomfortable was not a neutral one, we know it affected Elizabeth through phrases such as “Elizabeth looked surprised” and the uncertainty when she told of Mr Darcy’s silence after he left the room. The narrator’s voice follows with the sharp analysis of the Mr Darcy ‘very dry’ character- sitting for ten minutes without opening his lips, the effort to have to speak, a sacrifice to propriety and not a pleasure to himself, gives the reader a poor opinion of him. In fact the very sharp, almost belittling of Colonel Fitzwilliam when he would laugh at Mr Darcy’s stupidity, indicating him to be different, shows Austen’s powerful use of descriptive language. The narration of the exchange between the two was summing up their actions and conversation rather than reporting it in a detailed fashion. In this way we are being exposed to the narrative technique of telling, this has the advantage of precision and conciseness. As this exchange is not of paramount importance, we are not troubled with the detail of the dialogue. We as the reader are continually reminded of Elizabeth’s insecurities- ‘she watched him whenever they were at Rosings’ and the questioning of his ‘steadfast gaze’. However, ‘telling’ leaves us with little or no doubt of the ensuing story.
Thus, this passage displays many of the narrative techniques which Austen uses in the novel as a whole, and reveals her level of skill in being able to express her ideas through the narrative while still remaining entertaining and readable. The emotions in the passage are to be perceived beneath the surface of the story and are not to be expressed to the readers directly. The tone of the novel is light, satirical, and vivid.
Austen.J., Pride and Prejudice (1818) Oxford University Press Walder, D. (ed.), The Realist Novel (1995) Open University