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Austen Techniques - Pride and Prejudice

Jane Austen deliberately and intentionally kept her novels limited to the ordinary day to day lives of rural lower gentry: “3 or 4 families in a Country Village is the very thing to work on” She wrote to her niece, Anna Austen and later to her brother she describes it as “the little bit (two inches wide) of ivory” as the boundaries of her work.  Her fans applaud her for the miniature delicate and exquisite ‘Chinese fidelity’ or bonsai effect produced. Her critics find it limited, confining and parochial. 

Novelists tend to obey Aristotle’s guidelines of revelation” ;  that most of the ideas and issues should be revealed not by the author telling us, rather by the actions, reactions, words and thoughts of the characters.  Don’t tell us – show us. We, the responders, feel more dignified when we figure it out rather than when we are told directly.  Austen manages to convey her impressions through direct and indirect dialogue.  There is little description.  Joseph Conrad complained that "he couldn't see anything and it drives me crazy".  The characters condemn themselves by their own words and actions.

Narrative technique

Jane Austen experimented with narrative techniques, variable perspectives, indirect comments, dramatic interplay, nuances of tone, revelatory dialogue and the compelling design of her novels that we can discover her main concerns.

Austen uses a shifting point of view in her novels.  At times situations are depicted from the composer’s omniscient Olympian perspective and next time from the restricted tunnel vision of one character.  Darcy’s first proposal of marriage is presented from Elizabeth’s point of view by her direct speech, while the author recounts what most of what Darcy says and comments on its effect.  Later Darcy’s voice comes across in his lengthy letter. 

The narrative tone, the events that unfold, all speak of satire passing itself off as romance.”   (Sara Dowse)

Further information under Close Analysis of Text.

 Character Revelation:

Characters become alive and distinctive in a variety of ways; either by their actions, their words, their interactions with other characters, their thoughts and rarely by the author’s direct description or comments.

Anti-climax (bathos)  (respect,/ esteem — gratitude)   This indicates the initial changing gradual affection Elizabeth begins to feel towards Darcy and it is gratitude that ultimately becomes the ‘piece de’ resistance’.

 Lydia on her marriage to Wickham:  Both are more concerned with trivia.

“I longed to know whether he would be married in his blue coat.”

Mrs Bennet on Lydia’s marriage to Wickham::

“And tell her not to give any directions about her clothes ...for she does not know which are the best warehouses.”

Indirect mode:

Their indifference restored Elizabeth to the enjoyment of all her original dislike.

It was a wonderful instance of advice being given without being resented.




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