English literature is an interesting subject which provides us a broad view of England with the tradition culture, and people within a concrete social and historical context, in which Literature
Background of Jane Austen
Jane Austen was a major English novelist, whose brilliantly witty, elegantly structured satirical fiction marks the transition in English literature from 18th century neo-classicism to 19th century romanticism. She was born on 16 December 1775, at the rectory in the village of Steventon, near Basingstock in Hampshire.Her father was a country minister in Stevensen while her mother was a housewife who was interested in literature and could write stories and poems. Jane Austen, with her sisters, was educated at home and passed her life very quietly but cheerfully in the doing of small domestic duties “to which love lights the magic lamp that makes all things beautiful”. (James Edward, 1985: 231) As a teenager, Jane Austen showed wit and liveliness in her writing and her stories were shared by all her family and her earliest writing dates from about 1787. During the forty-two years of her life, Austen had completed six novels: Northanger Abbey, Persuasion, Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park and Emma and left behind three fragments. By May 1817,she was so ill that she and Cassandra, to be near Jane’s physician, rented rooms in Winchester. Tragically, there was then no cure and Jane died in her sister’s arms in the early hours of 18 July 1817. She was 41 years old. She was buried in Winchester cathedral.
Summary the novel
Pride and Prejudice focuses on Elizabeth Bennet, an intelligent young woman with romantic and individualistic ideals, and her relationship with Mr. Darcy, a wealthy gentleman of very high social status. At the outset of the novel, Elizabeth’s loud and dim-witted mother, her foolish younger sisters, and her beautiful older sister Jane are very excited because a wealthy gentleman, Mr. Bingley, is moving to their neighborhood. The young women are concerned about finding husbands because if Elizabeth’s father, a humorous and ironical man, were to die, the estate would be left to their pompous cousin Mr. Collins. Mr. Bingley soon becomes attached to Jane while
Elizabeth grows to dislike his close friend Mr. Darcy, whom the village finds elitist and ill-tempered. Under the influence of his sisters and Mr. Darcy, Mr. Bingley eventually moves away to London. Mr. Collins, an irritating clergyman, then proposes to his cousin Elizabeth, who refuses him. He marries her friend Charlotte instead, and Elizabeth visits the couple at their estate, where she and Mr. Darcy meet again at the house of his aunt, also Mr. Collin’s patroness, Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Mr. Darcy proposes to Elizabeth but she refuses him, partly based on her belief that he dissuaded Mr. Bingley from pursuing a relationship with Jane. In a letter to Elizabeth, Mr. Darcy explains his actions regarding Jane and Mr. Bingley, as well as the way in which he has treated his estranged childhood companion, Mr. Wickham. The next time Elizabeth sees Mr. Darcy, at his estate, she is better disposed toward him, but they are interrupted by a scandal involving Elizabeth’s sister Lydia, who has eloped with Mr. Wickham. Mr. Bennet and his brother-in-law Mr. Gardiner attempt to resolve the situation, but it is actually Mr. Darcy who resolves the situation by paying Mr. Wickham and convincing him to marry Lydia. Mr. Bingley then returns to his estate in the Bennets’ neighborhood and soon becomes engaged to Jane. Afterward, despite Lady Catherine’s attempt to prevent the engagement, Elizabeth marries Mr. Darcy.
Jane Austen’s Romanticism in Pride and Prejudice
The four marriages
Through the novel Pride and Prejudice, we can see that Jane Austen, besides of mainly concentrating on modeling the characters Elizabeth and Darcy and portraying the complicated love and marriage between them; also pays much attention to depicting many other roles and three other marriages. In each of these marriages, properties, status, love, beautiful appearance exert different influence and these four marriages are combinations for profit, for moral, for lust and for love.
Firstly, let’s come to see the marriage for profit. In this novel, Mr. Collins and Chalotte Lucas is the first couple. In their marriage, property plays a decisive part for this marriage, which is a typical example of the very social marriage situation and has a practical significance. On the one hand, Chalotte is twenty-seven years old girl and
somewhat homely. Even though she has a good education before, she has little property. And for her, to marry basing on a comfortable life is the best marriage. So when she notices that Mr. Collins, a minister with money and status makes an offer of marriage to her, she accepts his proposal immediately without thinking whether there is love and same tastes between them. On the other hand, for Mr. Collins, marriage just means a model for parish and in his mind marriage could add happiness for him and even marriage is what Mrs.Catherine(a sponsor of Mr.Collins) thinks he should find a wife with great ability to help him manage home. In their marriage, each of them takes what they want; yet only love is not needed. This marriage makes a good demonstration of Jane Austen’s viewpoint that beyond love, romantic affair, a marriage is due to be a failure. On the contrary, a successful marriage should contain the element of love.
Secondly, Jane Austen describes a lust marriage in the story. She views that a marriage based on lust is immoral and unhappy. Mr.Whickham and Lydia Bennet are related by pretty appearance and lust. Lydia is pleasure-seeking and Whickham only likes her youth and health. At the same time, Lydia’s so-called love for Whickham is so superficial that after they marry, they would live on an unhappy life. It is mainly because no real love exists between them.
Thirdly, Jane Bennet and Mr. Bingley’s marriage is full of admonition. In Pride and Prejudice, Jane is the embodiment of virtue and she is good at restraining her own passion. She pursues happiness under the condition that she must obey the moral standards. So, the author still arranges a happy marriage for her. After all, it is Austen’s view that love is the basis and the happiness is the destination of a marriage. In the novel we can find without any difficulty that Jane and Bingley love each other deeply. However, Jane is extremely in lack of courage to disobey the traditional love standard because Jane never shows her love to Bingley or others though she loves Bingley very much. And she does not seeks Bingley’s love positively even when she knows that Bingley will leave Nrtherfiled Park and will not come back again. Whereas, Bingley is too easy-minded to make sure his love and Jane’s love so that their happy combination is obstructed again and again. From their marriage, we can find clearly that Jane is dependent on her virtue to get a satisfactory marriage. The author encourages people to
do well through Jane’s virtue and tells readers: a happy marriage must come from true love between lovers.
Undoubtedly, the last one is a perfect marriage. Jane Austen emphasizes the importance of this ideal marriage. She shows the opinion that the basis of the marriage is true love between men and women. Although Elizabeth loves Darcy, she still refuses him for her prejudice against him and for Darcy’s pride. And this kind of arrogance from Darcy indicates the reflection of discrepant status actually. Therefore, as long as arrogance exists, it is impossible for Elizabeth to be together with Darcy. First of all, the happy marriage between Elizabeth and Darcy reveals the characteristics of sensibility promoting a successful marriage. In the novel Elizabeth and Darcy are distant from each other in the first sight because of their prejudice and pride. Then they both experience a series of events that gives them the chance to understand each other and at last their pride and prejudice disappear. Thus their mutual understanding leads them to a happy and lasting marriage. Then, most importantly, there is true love between them. Different from Chalotte who just wants a comfortable home and disregards any other elements needed for a happy marriage, Elizabeth cares more about her inner feelings and longs for understanding and love. So we can say Elizabeth is romantic while Chalotte’s realistic.Elizabeth refuses Mr. Collins for she knows they do not share the same ideas and tastes, let alone that they will have love for each other. But she loves Darcy and he loves her and even they can exchange their ideas and thoughts freely and equally. The fact that they are both of a kind lays the foundation for their marriage and moves away every barrier. Elizabeth wants a marriage which is based on understanding and equality and wants a husband just as her father said: “I know that you could be neither happy nor respectable unless you truly esteemed your husband unless you look up him as a superior.”(Jane Austen, 1978:290)
The four marriages have four different endings. Chalotte gets money and status, but she has nothing to share with her husband, what’s more, she has to endure his foolish behaviors all her life. While, frivolous Lydia cannot obtain anything from her marriage except for lust. Both of these marriages are not what Elizabeth is longing for. Obviously, the marriage for money, status, lust but love, understandings, similarities is
due to be a tragedy. However, Jane is a lucky one and she gets a good marriage with the foundation of property, status and even love. But compared with Elizabeth’s, Jane’s marriage seems lack of something. Certainly, Elizabeth gains a perfect love and marriage. From the two successful marriages, we can see, besides true love and virtue, equality and understanding both play an important role in a marriage.
Elizabeth’s romanticism in Pride and Prejudice
Reading the novel, maybe many people regard the main role Elizabeth as only a perfect woman beyond romance: she is sensible, lovely, humorous: “proud and independent anything but not romantic.” However, romanticism does exist under her outer sensibility. We can see in the novel, Elizabeth is sensible and values true love as something noble and never trade self-esteem and money with love. Indeed Elizabeth is full of pride and prejudice on her detachment of marriage. Being an independent and sensible girl, she has her own view about love and marriage different from conventional ones. In her opinion, love must be based on understanding and mutual interest and marriage would be a happy one only if there is love and same tastes, which is a kind of representation of romanticism.. So she still rejects Darcy at the first time because his proposal seems to be a sacrifice to her by saying that she has not known him for a month before she feels that he is the last man in the world she could ever be prevailed upon to marry. (Jane Austen, 1978: 151) But she accepts Darcy when he gradually realizes that his pride is so ridiculous and shows his love for her whole-heartedly.She makes all her choices under her independence that gives her more courage to gain great happiness—perfect love and marriage in the manner of romanticism but realism.
What’s more, Elizabeth’s romanticism appeares in Jane’s marriage. In Pride and Prejudice, Jane is a traditional girl with virtues. She does not have courage to pursue her love with Bingley even though she loves him so much. Differently, Elizabeth is a more courageous girl in seeking true love and marriage so she comforts and encourages Jane to show her love and gain her own happiness. Finally, Jane marries Bingley happily.
Jane Austen’s outer sensibility and inner romanticism
In Pride and Prejudice, Austen’s portrayal of four marriages contributes to the theme that it takes time to build a happy and strong Marriage and it must be based on
mutual feeling, understanding, love and respect. Hasty marriage acting on impulse and on facial qualities will not survive and will lead to inevitable unhappiness. Simultaneously, Jane announces those old-fashioned indispensable elements for a successful marriage for women. To a great extent, Jane Austen satires the conventional views on love and marriage by inverting that expectation of “love at first sight” and the celebration of passion and physical attractiveness, and even marriage on property and status without true love. Jane Austen advocates a new kind of romanticism in this novel, which stands in opposition to the conventional one. The first indication of Jane Austen’s inversion of the accepted romantic convention is Elizabeth and Darcy’s mutual dislike on first sight. Then Jane Austen arranges for both of them to experience some events together. At last, their misunderstandings disappear, then, they come to love each other. In the whole process of Elizabeth’s marriage, Jane Austen proposes that Elizabeth’s sensibility and virtue make her possible to obtain a romantic love and a happy marriage. Meanwhile, Jane Austen puts Elizabeth’s marriage into the best one among the four marriages to indicate that only the marriage based on true love could become a perfect one and the love would develop in a romantic manner. So that we can say that Jane Austen is romantic inspite of her outer sensibility.
Pride and Prejudice is an experience of life.This novel continues to be popular today not only because of its memorable characters and the general appeal of the story, but also because of the skill with which it is told. Deliberately, Jane Austen makes the experience of life colorful and meaningful in a sensible and romantic way. In this novel, Jane Austen uses her unique writing style, skillful technique to describe a natural and quiet village life to create a group of funny characters and tell an interesting story about love. All of this deeply reflects her outer sensibility and intelligence and inner humor and romanticism. In Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen taunts those who get married for sake of money and disagrees this insensible marriage on ardor passion, meanwhile; she strengthens that the ideal marriage should contain true love.
At the time of the novel in England, traditional belief of the social and familial roles of men and women were subject to rigid criticism. For centuries, literature has been the domain of men. Any woman who attempts to create literature works would be regarded as an intrusion on men’s rights and would set them into a rage. So Jane Austen’s writing of Pride and Prejudice would was a challenge to the society, esp. the conventional standard. Through Pride and Prejudice. Jane Austen, as a feminist, rationally criticizes the social prejudice against women. However Jane Austen is still harmonious with romanticism, which exists in pride and prejudice. Her smart and shrewish heroine Elizabeth who reflects her inner romanticism coated in rationalism should be the best generalization of her own personality. Even though Jane Austen has her own limitation anyway, as the Chinese saying goes: people can’t be perfect just as good can’t be pure. In a word, Jane Austen sets a landmark in English literature.
1. James Edward. Memoir of Jane Austen. London: Macmillian Educational Ltd., 1985
2. Jane Austen. Pride and Prejudice. London: Oxford University, 1978.
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