As the story develops in Jane Austen's novel, Pride and Prejudice, the reader is witness to a shift in attitude between the principle characters. The chapter in which Elizabeth Bennett's reactions to Mr. Darcy's letter are explored provides valuable insights into this metamorphosis.
The first description of Elizabeth's state upon perusing Fitzwilliam Darcy's revelatory missive is characteristic of Austen when relating heavy emotion: she doesn't. "Her feelings as she read were scarcely to be defined," she tells us (Austen 233). Of course, all this negation of representational skills is purely for dramatic effect, and Miss Austen goes on to provide a full account of every aspect of Elizabeth's emotional upheaval per her reading of the letter, but not, however, without using the device again in the second paragraph, in treating the subject of the truth about Mr. Wickham. Elizabeth's feelings are conveyed as having been "...yet more acutely painful and more difficult of definition." Said difficulty is indeed short lived, as the next sentence reads, "Astonishment, apprehension, and even horror, oppressed her" (Austen 233).
The Wickham segment of the chapter, spanning pages 234, 235, and the better part of 236, is significant not so much in its development of Wickham's character, as in what it does to Elizabeth. After the aforementioned astonishment et. al., Elizabeth momentarily engages in denial ("This must be false! This cannot be! This is the grossest falsehood!" (Austen 233)) but eventually her intellectual faculties regain their footing and she settles down to a second "mortifying perusal of all that related to Wickham, and command[s] herself ...
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... character about whom we can care, in the midst of a narrative which is not a chore to read.
Auerbach, Nina. "Waiting Together: Pride and Prejudice." Pride and Prejudice. By Jane Austen. Ed. Donald Gray. New York: Norton and Co., 1993. pp. 336-348.
Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. 1813. Ed. Donald Gray. New York: Norton and Co., 1993.
Harding, D. W. "Regulated Hatred: An Aspect in the Work of Jane Austen." Pride and Prejudice. By Jane Austen. Ed. Donald Gray. New York: Norton and Co., 1993. pp. 291-295.
Johnson, Claudia L. "Pride and Prejudice and the Pursuit of Happiness." Pride and Prejudice. By Jane Austen. Ed. Donald Gray. New York: Norton and Co., 1993. pp. 367-376.
Mudrick, Marvin."Irony as Discovery in Pride and Prejudice." Pride and Prejudice. By Jane Austen. Ed. Donald Gray. New York: Norton and Co., 1993. pp. 295-303.
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