Good Example Of Research Paper On First Impressions In Jane Austen’s Pride And Prejudice
The 19th century novel Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen is a novel of courtship romances in early post-industrialization provincial England. The novel follows the development of romance between Elizabeth Bennett and Fitzwilliam Darcy. Other romances are included too in the sub plots. Every sub plot involves one of the daughters of the Bennett family.
Jane Austen herself did not marry all her life. Austen saw the elaborate ways in which women were groomed for the marriage throughout the first half of her life and used elements of this life in all her fictional works. The primary theme for Jane Austen was This was rather exciting for young Jane. Girls were elaborately trained for socializing, music, singing, dancing, etiquettes, cooking and mannerisms. Most of the subject matters of Austen’s novels include elements beyond the training part. The drama unfolds once courtships begin.
The novel was not published for many years after Austen finished writing it. Her brother Edward tried and failed several times over a period of more than a decade. Once published, the novel gained unprecedented popularity. Of course, the novel was published under anonymity as publishing under their own name was considered vulgar, next only to prostitution, for women.
The novel Pride and Prejudice was earlier titled First Impressions. The author creates first impressions both for the characters and for the readers and then subtly reveals the fallacy of it all as the plot progresses. Readers are drawn into the narrative as they experience with the novel when the characters experience with their lives. In this paper we shall demonstrate that powerful first impressions are made in the novel only to be falsified later on. First impressions can be powerful, but are not always accurate. We shall see the first impression that Mr. Darcy, Mr. Wickham, and Lady Catherine de Bourgh make on the reader. Mr. Darcy appears to be prejudiced against young women; Mr. Wickham appears understanding and charming initially; while Lady Catherine de Bourgh looks aristocratic and dignified when she enters the space of the novel. The observations made of these characters come out of their own observation of other people – Darcy of Elizabeth, Wickham of Darcy and Lady Bourgh of the Bennett household.
“Which do you mean?” and turning round, he looked for a moment at Elizabeth, till catching her eye, he withdrew his own and coldly said, “She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me; and I am in no humour at present to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men. You had better return to your partner and enjoy her smiles, for you are wasting your time with me.” (Austen 36)
Darcy disapproves of Elizabeth at first sight without conversation. His assertion that Elizabeth is not handsome enough to tempt him tells us of his objectification of women and incapacity or lack of desire for looking for anything deeper. His expectations from women are rather high, yet superficial and he does not pay the least bit of attention to women of the sensitive kind. When he is pushed to interact with Elizabeth his disdain is so strong that he tells his persuader that he is wasting his time with him. Darcy comes across as a remarkably cold, high-minded, objectifying kind of a person for whom the expectations from life are rather well-defined and high.
Demonstration of the fundamental attribution error reveal that when behavior is based entirely on situational forces, perceivers will still attribute that behavior, in part, to stable disposition. (Ambady 107)
Behaviors are often dependent on social situations. For instance in the case of Elizabeth and Darcy, Darcy’s rejection of Elizabeth is more a matter of situational forces making him behave judgmentally rather than an actual assessment of Elizabeth. The situational forces at this moment are the social surroundings, the great social distance between Elizabeth and Darcy and the usual practice of not paying much heed to one who is rather shy of disposition. When Darcy rejects Elizabeth in such a curt way it is also because he is supposed to cut women like Elizabeth off rather rudely to keep his own sense of pride and his social image rather high. With further progress in the novel we realize that this is not everything about Darcy and that there are aspects to his person that are sensitive.
Wickham comes across as an observant upright person who has been wronged by Darcy at his first appearance in the novel. He comments about Mr. Darcy
"His pride never deserts him; but with the rich he is liberal-minded, just, sincere, rational, honourable, and perhaps agreeable—allowing something for fortune and figure." (Austen 48)
When someone makes an ethical judgment upon another, the first impression that we get is that the person making this judgment is clean of the offence entailed in the judgment. In this case, Wickham is charging Darcy that Darcy covets money and social stature by pretensions in the high society. While this is not true (revealed later in the plot of the novel), it seems so because everything so far points towards that. Thus one can find Wickham a rather keenly observant person and also sympathetic to Elizabeth in that he approves of Elizabeth when he disapproves of Darcy.
Many of the characters who populate its world lack this ability to look beyond first impressions, and their trials and errors with learning the skill drive the plot. (Wells)
This is particularly about Elizabeth. Wickham’s comments about Darcy appear to be the growth of closeness and intimacy between him and Elizabeth. In the very next episode, Elizabeth reveals those conclusions about Darcy to Jane and Jane out rightly points at the error in such assumptions. Thus, everything going on so far is revealed to be a fallacy and that the truth somewhat deeper. This draws the reader deeper into the text probably in anticipation of more such revelations. When much later Wickham is revealed to be a total scoundrel it is only to the relief of the reading audience.
Lady Catherine de Bourgh brings a very heavy first impression with her in the novel. The entry of this character is itself remarkably dramatic, almost as if a hero is to appear in an Arthurian legend.
She entered the room with an air more than usually ungracious, made no other reply to Elizabeth's salutation than a slight inclination of the head, and sat down without saying a word. Elizabeth had mentioned her name to her mother on her ladyship's entrance, though no request of introduction had been made. (Austen 179)
Austen here portrays Lady Bourgh as one belonging to a higher class but at the same time the insertion of the word ‘ungracious’ makes the high-society woman a villain. On the other hand the ladyship herself is treated with utmost care which displays the conformity of social hierarchies in the community where the Bennetts live.
Pride and Prejudice harnesses readers’ cognitive processes to guide readers into the same course of learning about first impressions as the main characters of the storyworld experience. (Wells)
The appearance of Lady Bourgh is otterly unexpected as is the manner of her appearance. Her disdain of the Bennett household is nothing unusual but her questioning of Elizabeth is. The air of indifference and aloofness is betrayed by her all too keen interrogation of Elizabeth. Yet the intention is never made clear. This hiding of intention causes curiosity as well as arouses anxiety. Somehow she is here to sabotage the heroine. And yet that impression is belied towards the end of the novel when the lady herself becomes unwittingly instrumental in bringing Elizabeth and Darcy together.
Hence we observe that First impressions can be very inaccurate and also that the author Jane Austen uses first impressions as a literary device to draw the audience into the narrative of the novel. The first impression of Darcy that one gets comes out of an automatic response to social settings of certain kinds. The first impression of Wickham creates an interesting detour and when one returns to the original narrative after following a false impression the impression of the overall narrative gets deeper. Lastly, with Lady Bourgh the impression of her being a danger to the romance developing is ultimately belied by the author and the author proves that in her world she is supreme. The novel Pride and Prejudice was the first of its kind following the adventure novels and the gothic novels of the 18th century. It was the first successful attempt at social realism that encapsulates all of literature of the Victorian era in Britain. Jane Austen is the only author of romances that has been included in the canons of English literature. This is so because her works were pioneering works of fiction in the genre of social realism.
Wells, Kevin a. "First Impressions: The Control of Readers' Cognitions inthe First Chapter of Pride and Prejudice." Persuasions: The Jane Austen Journal Online 35.1 (2014): 1. Literary Reference Center. Web. 27 Feb. 2015.
Austen, Jane, and Donald J. Gray. Pride and Prejudice: An Authoritative Text, Backgrounds and Sources, Criticism. 3rd Ed. New York: W.W. Norton, 2001. Print.
Mulcahy, Kevin P. "Jane Austen." Research Guide To Biography & Criticism 1.(1985): 41-44. Book Collection: Nonfiction. Web. 27 Feb. 2015.
McRae, John and Ronald Carter. The Routledge History of Literature in English: Britain and Ireland, Routledge: 2001.
Ambady, Nalini and John Joseph Skowronski. First Impressions. The Guilford Press: 2008.
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