Pride and Prejudice is a romantic novel by Jane Austen published in 1813. Jane Austen is the author of 6 novels, and her main themes are devoted to describing and criticizing the mores of the British landed gentry. In Pride and Prejudice, the relations between the British aristocracies are revealed vividly, as this is an emotionally rich novel. The letters of the main characters are of great importance since they reveal some secret or hidden information that can have a decisive influence on the fate of the heroes. Therefore, this paper claims that the letters are an essential element of the Pride and Prejudice novel, which creates additional dimensions for how the story unfolds. The analysis of the novel will include determining the role of the letters in the plot, their conceptual meaning as a tool for creating an extended background for the main events, and the place the letters take in the family relationships of Bennets.
Letters in the Plot
Letters are an important part of the novel’s plot and play their role in chapters 21, 35, 46, and 49. In chapter 21, the reader first encounters the correspondence of the main characters when Caroline writes a deceitful letter that Bingley has fallen in love with Georgiana, although Elizabeth feels deceived (Austen 84). Thus, letters become an additional tool through which the intrigue associated with the interweaving of love stories unfolds. In the future, the fate of the heroes depends on the news that the mail brings.
In Chapter 35, Elizabeth receives a letter from Mr. Darcy after they already had a relationship due to her stay at the Darcy estate. In the letter, Darcy explains his act of breaking Bingley and Jane’s engagement and explains why he wants Wickham to stay away from the Bennets. It is difficult for Mr. Darcy to speak directly about his feelings with Elizabeth, but he understands that he must explain his behavior since he intervened in other people’s relationships (Austen 137). The writing genre is best suited for these purposes. Therefore, in chapter 35, the reader sees that letters can also be used for good, and the word can not only hurt, as in chapter 21 but also heal. Letters provide an opportunity for more intimacy and trust than words spoken aloud, which is very important for the main characters because of their romantic feelings for each other.
In chapter 46, Elizabeth receives a letter from Jane informing her of Lydia’s decision to flee with Wickham, who subsequently demands money to marry Lydia (Austen 188). This letter forces Elizabeth to leave the Darcy estate, as she is afraid that Darcy will not continue with her because of the shadow cast by Lydia on the honor of the family. In chapter 49, Mr. Gardiner writes a letter to Mr. Bennett stating that Wickham will marry Lydia if he gets the money, which greatly upsets Elizabeth’s family (Austen 210). However, Mr. Darcy settles the matter and helps the Bennets clear their good name since he is in love with Elizabeth.
In these chapters, letters again become a tool of intrigue, diplomacy, and a source of bad news. In general, the letters in the novel are an integral part of it, since most of the communication between the characters takes place using pen and paper. Interestingly, the words spoken in the letters seem to have more weight: because the characters write only about the most important things, and because the letters are documents, which increases the weight of the written words.
Letters in the Family and as an Element of Communication
Letters play an important role in communication between family members. It is noteworthy that the author was in active correspondence with her relatives, especially with her sister Cassandra and her nieces. These letters are now available to everyone and are in the archives (Thambi and Karnel 119). Therefore, in the novel, Jane Austen also uses letters as an element of family ties between the protagonists.
Equally important, letters are an element of communication that emphasizes the intimacy of communication between scribes. Letters create a more tangible, physical nature for the information and feelings that lie behind them. Scholars note that the author’s skill in the use of letters in the novel testifies to her deep understanding of the social connections between the characters (Maitreyi 1). The words written in the letters convey the most intimate feelings of the heroes, overcoming the obstacles created by the conventions of society and easily overcoming the path from heart to mind. Maitreyi emphasizes that “the sheer materiality is almost as revealing as the content of the letters themselves – as readers, we can observe the process of writing them, observing how they are processed, transmitted from person to person, read and re-read” (1). Therefore, the scientist concludes that the author’s skill allows her to use letters to create an additional dimension in the novel.
Interestingly, the scholars also acknowledge the important role of letters in film adaptations of the novel. Ning (2) notes that in the adaptation of the novel, letters help the viewer focus on the role of reader and sender, creating more colorful characters. At the same time, in the film adaptation, letters are sometimes transformed into dialogues or visual images, which indicate their full-fledged role as an element of the plot in the novel.
Therefore, the letters are an essential element of the Pride and Prejudice novel, as they create an extra dimension to how the story unfolds. Letters are the way characters communicate the most important and disturbing confessions to each other, whether it’s intending to weave intrigue or, conversely, to dispel deception. The letters also serve as a tool for connecting Bennet family members, and as an additional dimension to showcase the characters’ emotionality.
Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. Norton Critical Edition, 4th ed., 1816.
Nair, Maitreyi A. An Exploration of Letter-Writing in Jane Austen’s Work. Diss. California Institute of Technology, 2018.
Shan, Ning. “Letter Correspondence” in the Mini-series Pride and Prejudice: The Analysis of Semiotics Translation from the Perspective of A Theory of Adaptation. Diss. National Taiwan Normal University (Taiwan), 2018. Web.
Thambi, Olive, and S. Karnel. “Vignettes of Jane Austen’s England in the Novel Pride and Prejudice.” Language in India 17.3 (2017). Web.