Dichotomy In Jane Austen's Pride And Prejudice

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One of the greatest dichotomies in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice is made evident in the title. Namely, the book and the title reflect the division between individual as a spontaneous self and individual as socially constructed part of a greater whole, and the interaction that takes place as a result of the interaction between these selves. “Pride,” while it can be informed by the presence of others, is a character trait that can exist individual qua individual. For example, compares “pride” to “vanity,” a word with similar connotations, “Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves, vanity to what we would have others think of us.” “Prejudice,” like vanity, requires the existence of others, upon which to make comparisons.…show more content…
In the case of Pride and Prejudice, this is especially clear. The argument that the narrator is Jane Austen herself doesn’t make any sense as the text works to undermine such rigid social expectations given in the first line. Furthermore, given that the narrator is making a direct assertion, one could argue that the narrator becomes divorced from the supposed passivity omniscient narrators are meant to afford. Therefore, the narrator must be looked at as, as Roland Barthes puts it, a “paper-being” comparable to a character. This omniscient narrator is, as so many omniscient narrators are, not neutral, but a stand in from the status quo of society masquerading as neutrality as it is told from a perspective of sociological normal— indeed, it is a character of “universally acknowledged” truths, social structure made manifest. In the first sentence, Austen uses the omniscient narrator to assert society’s perception of neutral, and then goes on to challenge it through the actions of the individuals operating beneath the lens of societal neutrality. This also is reflected in the portrayal of Mr. Collins, as he acts as a mouthpiece for societal expectations and pressures. In his proposal to Elizabeth, for example, he speaks entirely in “universally acknowledged truths.” “My reasons for marrying are, first, that I think it a right thing for every clergyman in easy circumstances…” and so on. Despite ostensibly

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