Jane Austen’s Style in Pride and Prejudice

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      The influence of Epistolary Novel. The Epistolary novel popularised by Richardson in Pamela is a novel where the entire story is presented through letters written by the characters to one another. Jane Austen makes significant use of this method in all her novels to present important events and carry the story forward. In Pride and Prejudice, too Jane Austen has effectively quoted some letters partly or fully. From the first letter in the novel (Miss Bingley’s invitation to Jane to dine with them) to the last one (Lydia’s letter to Elizabeth, requesting her to speak to Darcy and get a place for Wickham), every letter gives us a picture of the mind of the writer.

      The more important letters are those of Collins, Darcy and Mrs. Gardiner. Mr. Collins has two letters to his credit; the first, the pompous letter announcing his intention to visit Longbourn, and the second, after he hears about Lydia’s elopement. The first letter shows his shabbiness and servility, and naturally makes the impression on Mr. Bennet and Elizabeth that he is an oddity, a mixture of servility and self-importance. The second letter shows his foolishness and his most astounding, tactless, inhuman statements like: “The death of your daughter would have been a blessing in comparison with this”. He roundly blames the parents for Lydia’s step, and pats his own back for not having married Elizabeth.

      Darcy’s explanatory letter to Elizabeth is important because it marks the stage where the pride and prejudice of Darcy and Elizabeth start softening with speed. It removes all the prejudice in Elizabeth’s mind, and makes her favourably inclined towards Darcy.

      Mrs. Gardiner’s letter gave Elizabeth all the details of what Darcy did for bringing Wickham round to marry Lydia. It revealed to her that the motive force behind all this must be his love for her; and convinced her of his nobility because he wished that all his help should go unmentioned.

      There are other letters also. Jane’s two letters give Elizabeth details of Lydia’s elopement and are important for the development of the plot. Jane’s letter about her health brings Elizabeth to meet her at Netherfield. Miss Bingley’s letter to Jane reveals to her Bingley’s departure for good, and Miss Darcy’s growing intimacy with him. Jane’s letter from London told Elizabeth how Miss Bingley was behaving with duplicity. Everyone of these letters reveals the writer’s personality.

      Jane Austen’s sparkling style: While speaking about the book, Jane Austen had said, ‘it is rather too light, and bright, and sparkling; it wants shade.’ There is a certain precision and veracity of style in this book which brings out the ‘sparkling life’ in all the characters. That charm of the book has made it so popular for generations of readers.

      The secret of this is the pure directness and simplicity of the writing, its absolute freedom from pedantry and verbosity. She uses no far-fetched artifices or figures of speech, and Dobson calls her style “finished and perspicuous”. All the dialogues are altogether convincing and dramatically significant — and the characters’ special angularities and characteristic qualities are very well expressed through them. The dialogues showing the word-battle between Darcy and Elizabeth, Mr. Bennet's cross-examination of Mr. Collins, Mr. Bennet's encounters with his wife, the battle of spirits between Lady Catherine and Elizabeth, — are all examples of very expressive dramatic dialogue.

      Her style is a fine specimen of the qualities of the eighteenth century — the steady, unfailing balance of reason and sentiment, the graceful, refined movement without any defects of artificiality and pedantic mythological references or metaphorical devices. It has all the elegance and the felicity of an accomplished lady’s style, and the touches of irony and humour are most exhilarating. It is no surprise that she received such high praise from writers like Scott, Coleridge, Sidney, Smith, Soulthey and Macaulay.

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