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THE GLENCOE LITERATURE LIBRARYStudy GuideforPride andPrejudiceby Jane Austen i

Meet Jane AustenThat young lady had a talent for describingthe involvements and feelings and characters ofordinary life which is to me the most wonderfulI ever met with. . . . What a pity such a giftedcreature died so early!—Sir Walter Scott, 1826Copyright by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.Jane Austen lived to the age of forty-one.Choosing not to marry, she spent her entire lifeamong family and friends, mainly in Hampshire, apeaceful rural county in southern England. By modern standards her life might seem restricted anduneventful. But Austen happily immersed herself inthis domestic setting, and even more happilyobserved it, for personal and family relationshipswere grist for her imagination as a writer. The seemingly narrow scope of her life made her an experton human behavior and provided all the materialshe needed for her six enduring novels.Austen wrote about the “ordinary people” sheknew best, members of the English middle classwho, through professions or businesses, had risen tothe level of land-owning gentry. Austen herself wasthe daughter of a clergyman, whose wife was froman upper-class family. Austen was born in 1775. Shewas especially close to her only sister Cassandra andmuch admired by her six brothers.The Austen household was a lively and literaryone. The Austens were avid readers of literature,and they discussed it often. They frequently readPride and Prejudice Study Guidealoud to each other and put on plays. Jane beganwriting around age eleven. Throughout her teenyears, she wrote parodies of popular literature forthe entertainment of her family. One form that sheskillfully imitated was the sentimental novel. Filledwith clichés, it usually featured a swooning andblushing heroine, a noble hero, and a melodramaticplot involving a delayed courtship.By the time Austen was in her early twenties,she was beginning to write full-length novels. Atfirst she kept this serious writing a secret from herfamily, but they soon became ardent supporters. In1795 Austen began work on one of her best-knownnovels, Sense and Sensibility. In 1797 Austen’sfather submitted an early version of Pride andPrejudice to a publisher, but it was rejected. Bothwere rewritten before their eventual publication in1811 and 1813, respectively.In 1801 Austen’s family moved to Bath, a fashionable resort town. Family memoirs hint that inthe years that followed Austen fell in love with ayoung clergyman, who died suddenly. At age 26,she agreed to marry a wealthy man but broke off theengagement the next day. While his fortune wouldhave protected her from an old age in poverty, shemay have known they were not a good match.In all of her novels, Austen focuses oncourtship and marriage. In each case, readers seesociety—one that had narrow and rigid expectations for women—through the eyes of a lively andperceptive young heroine. Filled with wit andgood humor, Austen’s novels at the same timeprovide a realistic picture of relationships betweenmen and women.Critics marvel at Austen’s superb craftsmanship:her intricate and balanced plots; her sparkling dialogue; her deftly controlled ironic tone, amusingand critical at the same time. Readers of all kindsdelight in her sharply drawn characters and herinsights into human nature. The seeming effortlessness of her writing, along with its great readabilityand lifelike characters, attest to Austen’s skill as awriter. As twentieth-century author Virginia Woolfnoted, “Of all great writers she is the most difficultto catch in the act of greatness.”9

Introducing the NovelSingle women have a dreadful propensity forbeing poor—which is one very strong argumentin favour of matrimony.—Jane Austen, 181610THE TIME AND PLACEThe novel takes place in England in the early1800s, during a time known as the Regency period.The term refers to England’s ruler between 1810and 1820, George IV. He served as regent, or substitute monarch, his father, George III who sufferedincreasingly from periods of insanity. Most of thenovel’s action occurs in the homes of middle- andupper-class families living in the countryside not farfrom London.The Regency period is sometimes called theage of elegance. By the early 1800s, the industrialrevolution had been in full swing for severaldecades and was transforming English society.Technology was making commerce and manufacturing more efficient and profitable. As a result,many middle-class business owners and professionals became wealthy. The newly rich were eager toadopt the lifestyle of England’s traditional landedaristocracy. They displayed their wealth in largecountry homes with landscaped grounds, finecarriages, and elegant fashions.The upwardly mobile middle class, isolatedin their life of comfort and leisure, generallygave little thought to what was going on outsidetheir world. The economic system that had madethem prosperous, however, had left others struggling to survive. In the age of industrialism,work that had previously been done manuallywas now being done by machines. Many wereleft unemployed. A third of the country was living near starvation—a situation that fueledPride and Prejudice Study GuidennCopyright by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.Austen’s grimly humorous observation aboutwomen’s lives, made in a letter, sums up the socialfact that is the starting point for Pride andPrejudice. In the early 1800s, few middle-classwomen could choose not to marry or to marrysimply for love. In general, women could not enteroccupations and earn their own living. A youngwoman might become a governess, but this jobpaid little and had a status only slightly above thatof a servant. A few middle-class women did earnmoney writing, as Jane Austen did, but they seldom made enough to live on. In addition, fewwomen inherited wealth. By tradition, propertyand money were passed down through the maleside of the family. Thus, for most women, marriagewas the only path to financial security.Given this circumscribed situation, womendevoted themselves to attracting a husband. Usuallythis meant becoming “accomplished” in what wereconsidered the ladylike arts, such as singing, playingthe piano, drawing, and dancing. Reciting wellknown poems, embroidering, and painting designson tables were other “accomplishments” for youngladies. Because their adult lives would be spent inthe domestic sphere, a well-rounded education wasnot considered essential for girls. Although somefathers, such as Austen’s, encouraged their daughters’ intellectual development, girls seldom receivedthe systematic education their brothers did.Elizabeth Bennet, the novel’s main character, istypical of young middle-class women of the time inher predicament. But she is anything but typical inher character. Readers from Jane Austen’s day tothe present have singled out Elizabeth as one of themost intriguing female characters in fiction. Austenis known for her complex and appealing heroines.As one critic noted:For the first time in English literature, outsideShakespeare, we meet heroines who are credible,with minds, with the capacity to think forthemselves, with ambition and wit.In the novel, Austen poses universal questionsin a microcosmic setting: How can a complex person maintain his or her individuality and freedomin a world of social pressures and restrictions? Howdo preconceived notions affect people’s relationships? Inevitably, Elizabeth must contend with someinner limitations as well as outer ones. The novelcharts her path to self-discovery as she gets to knowanother complex character, Fitzwilliam Darcy.Often called a “comedy of manners,” Pride andPrejudice balances laughter and compassion as ittells the story of two people undergoing a rigorousself-examination.

social unrest. Bread riots and worker protestswere met with force and repressive measures,such as denying freedom of speech. In addition,England was experiencing an agriculturaldepression and, until 1815, was fighting theNapoleonic wars in Europe.Many critics find it odd that Jane Austen’snovels almost totally exclude these importantevents, for she would certainly have been awareof them. But Austen’s focus was consistentwith the subject she had chosen to depict. Hernovels faithfully reflect the self-centered viewof the well-to-do classes. Moreover, as an artist,Austen knew what her particular gifts were:observing and commenting on the manners andmorals of the middle class she knew intimately.Copyright by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.Did You Know?In Jane Austen’s day, many people who readnovels were ashamed to admit it. At thattime the term novel had a negative connotation. It referred to the most popular literature of the day—sentimental romancesfeaturing refined and emotional heroineswho are rescued from dangerous situationsby handsome and courageous heroes. Suchbooks were churned out quickly anddevoured by a mainly female middle-classaudience. Closely related to the sentimentalnovel was the gothic novel, whose hallmarksincluded dark castles, secret chambers, andrusty daggers dripping with blood. “Meretrash” was what Austen called this popularfiction.Austen was familiar with the “fashionablenovels” of the time and even parodied one inher mock-gothic Northanger Abbey (1818).But she admired the more realistic novelswritten earlier in the eighteenth century,especially those of Samuel Richardson.Richardson’s novels were studies of everydaymiddle-class characters, who stood out fortheir intellectual and moral qualities, ratherthan their social connections. Austen alsoadmired Fanny Burney, another author whoPride and Prejudice Study Guidewrote aboutmiddle-class society but focused on femalecharacters. Burney used Richardson’s epistolary form, in which a story is told entirelythrough letters, in her novel, Evelina. AfterEvelina, however, Burney shifted to using athird-person narrator, who reports on and filters the characters’ internal thoughts.When Austen began to write novels, sheadopted the form of Burney’s later work.Having an omniscient, or all-knowing, narrator allowed Austen to control point of viewmore closely and to present her characters’inner thoughts and feelings. At the sametime, through the voice of the narrator shecould convey a contrasting, or critical, viewof the action. This contrast between theawareness of the characters and that of thenarrator and the reader is known as dramatic irony. While Austen’s ironic perspective is subtle and always good-humored, herwriting clearly makes readers aware of hercharacters’ follies and shortcomings.Through her realistic and sophisticatedapproach to fiction, Austen helped to transform the status of the novel in the 1800s.She also invented a new form of fiction, the11

Before You ReadPride and Prejudice Chapters 1–12FOCUS ACTIVITYDo you pay attention to first impressions? How do you form an opinion about someone you are meetingfor the first time?List and DiscussAs a class, list four or five things that influence people when forming a first impression of a new acquaintance. Rank these items from most important to least important. Then discuss whether first impressionsare usually reliable and why.Setting a PurposeRead to find out how first impressions shape the relationship of the two main characters, Elizabeth and Darcy.BACKGROUNDVOCABULARY PREVIEWarchly [a#rch5le ] adv. brashly; mischievouslycensure [[email protected]] n. disapprovaldisconcerted [[email protected] [email protected]] adj. thrown into confusionentail [en ta l5] v. to limit the inheritance of (property) to a specified line of heirsvexed [vekst] adj. irritated; annoyed12Pride and Prejudice Study GuidennCopyright by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.The Social SettingIn Pride and Prejudice, almost all of the characters are members of England’s middle to upper-middle class.This social class includes both the “new rich,” families who have acquired wealth through trade or business, and the “old rich,” families who have inherited their wealth. Although these two groups share asimilar lifestyle, Austen shows that there are significant differences in income and social prestige betweenthem. These differences play a critical role in the relationship between Darcy and Elizabeth. Austen alsohighlights finer social distinctions within these two groups. Elizabeth’s father, Mr. Bennet, inherited hisrather modest estate but cannot pass it on to his wife or daughters—only to a male relative. Mr. Bingley,the Bennets’ new neighbor, has a handsome income, but it is not as great as Mr. Darcy’s. Lady Catherinede Bourgh, like Darcy, is a member of the upper class, but her rank is even higher for she has a title. Termssuch as “Sir” and “Lady” signified either an inherited title or a knighthood received for a particular serviceof great merit. Elizabeth’s good friend, Charlotte, is the daughter of Sir William Lucas, a man “formerly intrade” whose social status rose a notch when he received a knighthood. Charlotte, like Elizabeth, however, is not endowed with a great fortune.Did You Know?Pride and Prejudice opens with one of the most famous first lines in English literature: “It is a truth universallyacknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” This sentencetells us much about the author’s purpose and attitude. It states one of the novel’s main themes: the relationship of money and marriage. It also sets an ironic tone. The truth about the “marriage market” was just theopposite. It was single young women who did not possess a fortune who were most in want of a husband. Theauthor turns this truth upside down, in a way that surprises and amuses the reader. There is also humor inthe fact that she uses dignified language to describe a crude fact of life. However, as Austen unfolds her plotand develops her characters, it becomes clear that she views one’s choice in marriage as a serious matter.This section introduces several eligible young women and men. As you read, try to discover what motivateseach of

she was beginning to write full-length novels. At first she kept this serious writing a secret from her family, but they soon became ardent supporters. In 1795 Austen began work on one of her best-known novels, Sense and Sensibility. In 1797 Austen’s father submitted an early version of Pride and Prejudice to a publisher, but it was rejected. Both were rewritten before their eventual .File Size: 246KBPage Count: 30