Quite frequently in her novels, Jane Austen uses letter writing between characters to explain past events and the exact nature of people's roles in them. It is these letters that always offer great insight into a character's true nature; which, often times, is not what it appears to be. It is this tactic that is consistently prevalent in her 1813 novel, Pride and Prejudice.
Throughout the course of the novel, Mr. Darcy, Mrs. Gardiner, and even Mr. Collins all write letters, and each reveal their personalities and sincere thoughts through them. It is in fact the letter writing that initially contributes, and ultimately results, in the union of hero and heroine at the end of the story. For each enlightens the reader to the truth about confused circumstances as well as hidden feelings toward other characters that would otherwise be left unsaid.
The first significant example of letter writing that allows for some conclusions to be made about a specific character's persona occurs when Mr. Bennet receives a foolish letter from the Reverend Mr. Collins, who will inherit Longbourn after Mr. Bennet's death because he is the nearest male relative. In his letter, Mr. Collins proposes a visit to Longbourn and hints at a further proposal of marriage to one of the Bennet daughters. The reader quickly learns of this man's nature because of the contents of his letter as well as Mr. Bennet's reasoning behind his acceptance of the proposal. Mr. Bennet makes fun of his unusual writing style and pomposity, and also makes snide remarks to his family about him. Ultimately, Mr. Bennet agrees to the visit because he wants to laugh at Mr. Bennet's expectations.
Austen's strategy of presenting the qualities of a person by way of indirection is clearly seen here. The odious letter from Mr. Collins prepares the reader to dislike him even before he arrives. Without even meeting this man, his personality is learned by the excessive verbiage, pompous flattery, and self-pride evident in his letter. It is Elizabeth who is extremely perceptive about Mr. Collins' letter because (after hearing it ) she immediately wonders if he can be a sensible man. And as the story unfolds, it is Mr. Collins' every action that will prove her belief to be true.
Although the letter written by Mr. Collins allows f...
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...acking she is in morality or social consciousness. Elizabeth's realization emphasizes the importance of Mrs. Gardiner's letter because it proves that the letter not only reveals her aunt's own endearing qualities, all the while enlightening Elizabeth to the truth, but also because it offers insight into the flighty personalities of some of the other members of the family.
In Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen uses letters to reveal the innermost thought of her characters as well as to express their personalities. These letters communicated style, intelligence (or lack there of), and insights into character development. Mr. Collins' foolish letter revealed the blatant ridiculousness of his nature, while the letter of Mr. Darcy offered the sincere qualities of his persona that had never before been seen. And Mrs. Gardiner's letter did illustrate traits we had seen before, but also helped Elizabeth to figure out how she felt about Mr. Darcy. Whatever each letter accomplished, they are all critical to the structure of the novel. For without them, Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth would have never gotten together, and neither character's pride nor prejudice would ever have been realized.
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