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Novel form

Blends realism and romance (as in later novels, e.g. 'Jane Eyre' ). Comic – irony and caricature. Importance of letters (link to earlier epistolary novels). Novel of manners (analyses Structure

Pride and Prejudice is a novel. Today writing a novel is the most likely choice for an author to make, as the novel has become the dominant literary form, but when Jane Austen was growing up people read essays or even sermons for entertainment. Poetry was also more widely read then than now. (You might like to ask yourself why Jane Austen did not write poetry or sermons.)

Austen’s family were enthusiastic about adapting, producing and acting in plays. The influence of drama can clearly be seen in her skill with dialogue and in her description of characters’ movements, which sound almost like stage directions.
Austen owed part of her literary style to the eighteenth-century tradition of essay writing. Essays were relatively short pieces of prose which might be humorous or didactic (written to teach something) and usually commented on some aspect of behaviour or a social issue. They were primarily read for entertainment and for the pleasure of their clear structure and good style.
In Pride and Prejudice Austen laughs at Mr Collins for reading Fordyce’s Sermons (a best-selling book of the period).

You can detect the influence of essays in Austen’s use of rhetoric and in the self-contained organisation of her chapters. In her chapter openings, a situation, time or place is firmly established. Chapter endings are often more reflective, offering a summary or judgement on what has just taken place, and cliffhangers are rare, though there is a strong sense of expectation in the last sentence of Volume 2.


What type of novel

Jane Austen uses elements of several different forms in her novel.

The epistolary novel: This type of novel is written entirely in letters from the characters to one another. Austen is known to have enjoyed the epistolary novels of Samuel Richardson and experimented with this form in her early work. The use of letters in Pride and Prejudice may have been influenced by this.
Richardson’s novels could also be described as novels of sensibility or sentiment. Another writer Austen admired in this genre was Fanny Burney. Novels of sensibility are often romantic and deal with the triumph of the hero or heroine through their goodness. Pride and Prejudice is clearly a development of this type of novel but also moves towards the more realistic novels of the later nineteenth century (by Charlotte Bronte, Charles Dickens).
Realism in novels is the recognition of an actual social situation or problem – such as the limited opportunities, apart from marriage, that were open to young women. There is certainly realism as well as romance in Pride and Prejudice.

While some people (like Mr Collins) looked down on the novel as frivolous, Jane Austen defended it as ‘work in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge of human nature, the happiest delineations of its varieties, the liveliest effusions of wit and humour are conveyed to the world in the best chosen language’ (Northanger Abbey).

This romantic novel may seem to have a simple ‘happy ever after’ ending but you should relate this to its wider themes. The final chapter mirrors a society which has achieved a state of relative peace and stability. After misunderstanding and turmoil, old prejudices have been banished by the formation of new alliances. Some things cannot be improved. Neither Mrs Bennet nor Lady Catherine will achieve true gentility and the Wickhams will continue to pursue their flimsy dreams, but Pemberley appears to offer a glimpse of an ideal world. You may feel that Austen’s decision to end with the focus on the Gardiners is an effective way of linking the themes of a good marriage, responsible family members and true gentility.