Pride and Prejudice; Jane Austen

Literatura Inglesa. Siglo XIX. Novela Romántica. Argumento. # English Literature. Romantic Novel. First Impressions

  • Enviado por: Laura Juan Simo
  • Idioma: inglés
  • País: España España
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Pride and Prejudice:

Sweet Jane

Jane Bennet, though not one of the two main characters in Jane Austen's novel, is a character rich in qualities that symbolize and help introduce many topics with which Pride and Prejudice deals with. Her character is present throughout most of the book, giving up its importance every now and then yet never decreasing its contributions to the story and the messages intended by Austen. Miss Bennet is very well described both physically and emotionally through direct descriptions or the indirect help of the dialogue among other characters.

When the reader first begins the novel, all the attention falls on Jane's beauty. “'You are dancing with the only handsome girl in the room,' said Mr. Darcy.” This suggests, later on in the novel, the greatness of her looks, for it is the first woman seen as beautiful by Mr. Darcy even though he and other characters will later talk about the other women's beauty. Her mother is especially proud of her because of this quality and sees in her the favorite daughter. This is in most part due to the importance Mrs. Bennet gives to other's opinions.

During the ball, the narration describes with detail the amount of times Jane dances with Mr. Bingley. This is one of the many representations and examples of how young ladies are pressured into finding a husband in this society; moreover, this specific scene shows and introduces the reader the amount of gossip concerning this matter.

Throughout this novel, Austen gradually presents the reader with a new quality, most of the time a virtue, of this creature. The first one is modesty: “Compliments always take you by surprise, and me never” says her sister Elizabeth at the ball when Jane is astonished at the fact that Mr. Bingley asks her for a second dance. “'Tis too much!' she added, `by far too much. I do not deserve it. Oh! why is not every body as happy?'” It is never mentioned in this novel that she might think of herself as beautiful or would give for granted Mr. Bingley's feelings for her without a great dose of modesty and innocence.

She is also pictured as incapable of thinking ill of anyone, at least not before having any certain knowledge and evidence of its being true. “Oh! you are a great deal too apt you know, to like people in general. You never see a fault in any body. All the world are good and agreeable in your eyes. I never heard you speak ill of a human being in my life.” Many times does her sister Lizzy mention this quality of hers in the text. However, this sometimes attributes to her a sense of foolishness, a gullible and innocent nature, as represented by her sister also saying: “With your good sense, to be so honestly blind to the follies and nonsense of others!”

Mr. Bingley's sisters' first portrayal of her will label her character as sweet, a label that is to remain with her for the rest of the story. However, they later betray her when they separate her from his brother in an attempt to avoid their marriage. That is one of the many ways in which she symbolizes the victim in Pride and Prejudice. “But when the gentlemen entered, Jane was no longer the first object.” She naively believes her friends' good intentions and refuses to believe that they would try to keep Bingley away from her. “What a stroke was this for poor Jane! who would willingly have gone through the world without believing that so much wickedness existed in the whole race of mankind, as was here recollected in one individual.”

She is also seen as a very reserved woman for she shows “a composure of temper and a uniform cheerfulness of manner, which would guard her from the suspicions of the impertinent” in front of Mr. Bingley at first. This makes the reader doubt of the seriousness of her love for him, effect that also leads Mr. Darcy to suspect that she is not in love with his friend at all. Therefore, along the novel, one sees how many times her quietness or even some of her virtues turn back to her negatively.

Her character shows the inevitable involvement in a game of seduction, a game of showing more or less than is felt, that is more complex than it seems. “In nine cases out of ten, a woman had better shew more affection than she feels. Bingley likes your sister undoubtedly; but he may never do more than like her, if she does not help him on.” Her mother always places her in circumstances and expectations in which she is obliged to “trap” Bingley. Some examples of this is: when Mrs. Bennet manages to leave them alone in the room, when she sits them together at meals, her many offers to have dinner at their residence, and the pressure to have her daughter stay at Bingley's house when she is sick (and long after she is recovered). “Her sisters were uneasy for her, but her mother was delighted.” This is another way in which Jane's character is victimized: her mother is far more concerned about her marrying a wealthy man than her health and happiness. When Lydia is married, even though her wedding brings much embarrassing reputation, tells her: "“h! Jane, I take your place now, and you must go lower, because I am a married woman.”

Jane's favorite sister is Elizabeth, who gives her many attentions and finds in her a friend. She is considered to be one calmer, nicer and less superficial daughter than the other three (Lydia, Mary and Catherine). That is why there is so much secrecy and complicity between the two eldest sisters and the author mentions them together so often. She is also, after Elizabeth, her father's favorite daughter because, unlike the young ones, she is sensible and does not resemble the mother so much.

Another characteristic of Jane is weakness, which is implied in many scenes: her illness and her loss of happiness for the lack of good news about Bingley being the two main examples. She lacks the liveliness and almost courage that her sister Lizzy has. “Poor Jane! I am sorry for her, because, with her disposition, she may not get over it immediately.” She is also seen as weak physically: “Jane, who was not so light, nor so much in the habit of running as Elizabeth, soon lagged behind.”

Her parents' rank and actions also make of her a victim, lessening her chances to marry someone like Bingley. Her mother keeps embarrassing her in front of him and his sisters. “I have an excessive regard for Jane Bennet, she is really a very sweet girl, and I wish with all my heart she were well settled. But with such a father and mother, and such low connections, I am afraid there is no chance of it.” This brings a dose of irony to the book because it is precisely the mother who tries to get her daughters married and instead she is one of the main causes why the sisters try to prevent Jane from being engaged to their brother.

Her mother plays a very important role in the “victim factor” Jane is related to. In the previously mentioned game of finding husband, her mother always makes comparisons not only between Jane and other girls, but among her own daughters too. “I often tell my girls they are nothing to her.” Nonetheless, this never causes conflict between them.

Austen mentions many times in a subtle way Jane's smiles and her glow in happiness. It gives her character a sense of purity. “Jane met her with a smile of such sweet complacency, a glow of such happy expression, as sufficiently marked how well she was satisfied with the occurrences of the evening.” She is pictured as a creature that enjoys things easily. She is not like her youngest sisters and mother, always worried about upcoming events and upset about trivial matters. She is the one female character, besides Elizabeth, that the reader wants to see happy at the end of the novel because “she deserves it.”

The way Jane Austen describes the love story between Jane and Bingley is that of a pure love that everyone manipulates. And the reader can only sympathize with these two characters, because of their good nature and their fate. “Mr. Bingley and Jane were standing together, a little detached of the rest, and talked only to each other.” They are in love from the beginning; however, many obstacles come between them, showing the several examples of human corruption featured in the novel.

Another virtue attributed to Jane is that of not seeing herself as a victim as other characters such as her mother do, rejoicing in telling others about their misfortunes. When Jane received the letter from Bingley's sisters, praising Miss Darcy's qualities over hers, she “recollected herself soon, and putting the letter away, tried to join with her usual cheerfulness in the general conversation.” She bears her misfortunes in a very special way. “In vain did Elizabeth attempt to make her reasonable, and Jane to make her resigned.” This is another difference between the two sisters. Jane is the most resigned character because she accepts her destiny.

Another ironic point is that of many characters (such as Mrs. Bennet) talking about Bingley's using Jane, when they are the ones that have been using her without caring about what her feelings were. For example, Mrs. Bennet keeps complaining about the fact that Bingley will not come back to the area without realizing how much grief that brings to her sister.

No matter what happens, Jane is always a very hopeful character, very trusting. “The sanguine hope of good, however, which the benevolence of her heart suggested, had not yet deserted her; she still expected that it would all end well, and that every morning would bring some letter, either from Lydia or her father, to explain their proceedings, and perhaps announce the marriage.” This is very ironic too because she expects other marriages to end up well (“I hope and trust they will yet be happy”) while hers, which seemed to have a good and certain future, does not take place until much later in the novel.

Throughout the novel, Jane keeps the good image the reader has of her; however, she undergoes some changes. For example, she loses some of her innocence and gullibility in thinking well of everyone: “'That is the most unforgiving speech,' said Elizabeth, `that I ever heard you utter. Good girl! It would vex me, indeed to see you again the dupe of Miss Bingley's pretended regard.'” Therefore, the evolution of her character is not as passive as it seemed at the beginning.

She appears to the reader as a loving and easily loved person. All the qualities she possesses that have been previously described in this paper make of her a very symbolic character. She says one of the most important lines by far in this novel: “Oh, Lizzy! do anything rather than marry without affection.” Jane is one of the characters to be the least likely to speak up; however, Jane Austen uses her voice to give the reader the lesson of her novel.

Bibliography

Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice.

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