Definition Of Social Rules In Jane Austen's 'Pride And Prejudice'

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The novel Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen, is set in a world with very strict social rules. In her essay Austen’s Blush, Mary Ann O’Farrell analyzes the breaking of these rules, or incivility, in the novel. She refers to public incivility as exposure, where the character’s inappropriate actions are visible by many people. She uses mortification and embarrassment interchangeably as the uncomfortable feelings experienced by socially aware characters when social rules are broken, and divides these feelings into two parts, the buildup as transgressions are being made and the release when the situation is escaped or resolved. Blushing is the physical act that reflects these feelings of mortification and embarrassment, one of the few socially acceptable actions that reveal a person’s true feelings. O’Farrell disagrees with George Henry Lewis’ criticism that “Austen misses [...] ‘many of the subtle connections between physical and mental organization’” (O’Farrell 127), instead arguing that Austen uses physical changes to indicate her characters’ mental states, in particular using blushes “as natural and involuntary signals of embarrassment, vexation, anger, or love” (O’Farrell 128). O’Farrell argues in her aptly titled Austen’s Blush that that the incivility of embarrassment, which blushing indicates, in Pride and Prejudice, is necessary for the progression of the plot, the connections between the characters, and the experience of the reader. O’Farrell identifies
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