Presentation on theme: "Introduction to…. Background Pride and Prejudice takes place during the Regency Period (1810 – 1820) which witnessed an expansion of the English economy."— Presentation transcript:
Background Pride and Prejudice takes place during the Regency Period (1810 – 1820) which witnessed an expansion of the English economy due to the Industrial Revolution of the 1750s.
Austen’s novels take place almost exclusively within the privileged circle of England’s landed gentry and aristocracy. Historically, it is important to bear in mind that less than two percent of England’s population enjoyed the social status and lifestyle of the upper classes.
The Industrial Revolution and changes in England’s Social Class structure. Between approximately 1750 and 1830, the Industrial Revolution transformed England and Europe from an agricultural society to an industrial, capitalist economy. The Industrial Revolution had far-reaching effects on social class and family structures. England witnessed the rise of a middle class that could develop wealth and status independent of aristocratic origins. Many of these “new- money,” middle-class families aspired to become members of the upper class. They purchased land, settled in elaborate and luxurious country mansions, and became known as the landed gentry.
Social Class System Working class: agricultural workers, factory workers, mine workers, maids, servants, housekeepers, soldiers, etc. Middle class: merchants, professionals, business owners. Upper class: old hereditary aristocracy and the new landed gentry, who had come into money through commercial enterprise and ascended from the middle class.
Women During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, women in England had few legal rights. For most of their lives, they depended on the men in their lives—first their fathers and brothers, then their husbands— for protection and survival. Women could not own property. They were considered to be the property of men, hence depending on their fathers to “give them away” into a lucrative marriage union. After a father’s death, his land and possessions often passed to a male heir (either a son or another male relative), leaving his wife and daughters entirely at the mercy of other male family members. Female preoccupation with marriage, such as Mrs. Bennet’s obsession with finding husbands for all her daughters, was, therefore, not only a social preoccupation but a necessity for women who wanted to maintain a comfortable lifestyle for themselves and their daughters.
Property Rights Strict inheritance regulations, known as the “entailment” of an estate, determined how property would be passed through several generations within a family. In Pride and Prejudice, Mr. Bennet’s land and possessions are entailed to his closest male relative. A distant relative, Mr. Bennet’s cousin, Mr. Collins, will inherit the family estate after the father’s death. Once Mr. Collins inherits the house and land, Mrs. Bennet and her three daughters will be forced to find another home. Presumably, had Mr. Bennet had a son, that son would inherit the house and land. Austen explains that Mrs. Bennet “continued to rail bitterly against the cruelty of settling an estate away from a family of five daughters, in favour of a man whom nobody cared anything about.” (Vol. I, chapter 13)
Themes in P & P Marriage and Family Pride and Prejudice begins with one of the most famous opening sentences in the history of the novel: “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” (Vol. I, chapter 1) These opening lines already introduce the novel’s most central theme: marriage. In Austen’s time, marriage was a topic of paramount importance to any middle- class family While firmly acknowledging the notion that marriage was a necessity for women in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Pride and Prejudice likewise expresses Austen’s disillusionment with the fact that women were, all too often, forced into marital unions purely out of financial necessity.
The Theme of Propriety, Social Decorum, and Reputation Since the family’s place within society was considered to be of critical importance during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, an adherence to the laws of propriety, social decorum, and reputation determined the ways in which human beings were judged by others. In Pride and Prejudice, individual accomplishments and an independent character are of little concern when it comes to evaluating a human being’s value. Instead, the ways in which men and women are able to live according to the moral standards set forth by their community determines the extent to which their friends and neighbors will respect them.
The Theme of Pride and Prejudice When Jane Austen began drafting Pride and Prejudice, she originally planned to entitle her novel First Impressions. Indeed, first impressions and premature perceptions complicate the relationships between characters throughout Austen’s novel. All too often, pride and prejudice influence characters’ perceptions of one another.. The romantic relationship between Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy, for instance, can only be realized once both characters have set aside both pride and prejudice and, instead, formed an opinion of one another based on respect and cordial friendship rather than on superficial first impressions.
Literary and Narrative Techniques: Irony Throughout Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen assumes an ironic tone in order to comment on the faults and inadequacies of her characters. Her use of irony likewise enables her to gently ridicule the strict social rules and standards she describes without directly and overtly criticizing the society she herself lived in. Much of the dialogue within Pride and Prejudice is characterized by a tone of irony ‘Mr. Bennet, how can you abuse your own children in such a way? You take delight in vexing me. You have no compassion on my poor nerves’. ‘You mistake me, my dear. I have a high respect for your nerves. They are my old friends. I have heard you mention them with consideration these twenty years at least.’ (Vol. I, chapter 7).
Satire Several of the characters in Pride and Prejudice are the targets of Austen’s poignant satire. Mrs. Bennet, for example, is a woman with little intellect who talks incessantly and embarrasses her family at social gatherings. She is obsessed with finding husbands for her daughters and does not shy away from making her (often ridiculous and ignorant) opinions known in front of strangers. Austen also satirizes Mr. Collins, a man who considers himself to be morally and intellectually superior to his fellow human beings. His high opinion of himself often makes him the laughingstock of society. Mr. Collins’ admiration of Lady Catherine De Bourgh illustrates that he is intent on aligning himself with the lifestyle of the upper classes although he himself lives the modest and uneventful life of a parson.
Free Indirect Discourse Jane Austen pioneered a narrative style that is known as “free indirect discourse.” Free indirect discourse uses a third- person perspective in order to convey ideas and thoughts from the point of view of a particular character, usually the heroine. Free indirect discourse is a precursor of the narrative style known as stream-of consciousness, which became popular in the early twentieth century.
Comedy of Manners The Comedy of Manners is a literary genre that became particularly popular in England during the Restoration period. It usually uses elements of Satire in order to ridicule or expose the behaviors, manners, flaws, and morals of members of the middle or upper classes. In Pride and Prejudice, the characters’ search for love and financial stability, the social scandals that shake the Meryton community, and the witty banter between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy or Mr. and Mrs. Bennet qualify the novel as a fine example of the Comedy of Manners genre.
The Significance of the Title. The society of which Austen writes is concerned with reputation and appearance. Gossip also fuels nearly every social gathering we see, from the public Netherfield Ball to the private gatherings at homes. The theme of judgement is also very prevalent. Pre-judging people is a favorite pastime, illustrated by the opening statement.