Saturday, November 6, 2010

Do you agree with the view that the structure of Pride and Prejudice is nearly perfect? Give reasons for your answer.

A Close-Knit Structure: a Common
theme in all the Stories
Structurally, the novel Pride and Prejudice shows the highest degree of craftsmanship. The novel has a compact, close-knit, and tight structure, inspite of there being several stories in it. There is the main plot, and as many as three sub­plots in it. The main plot deals with Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy.
Elizabeth is undoubtedly the most impressive female character, and therefore, the heroine of the novel; while Mr. Darcy is surely the most impressive male character, and therefore, the novel's hero. The major sub-plot deals with Jane Bennet and Mr. Bingley. Then there are two other sub-plots, one dealing with Mr. Collins and Charlotte Lucas, and the other dealing with Lydia Bennet and Mr. Wickham. The novel has a compact structure largely because of its thematic unity. All the stories have a common theme, which is love and marriage. The novel presents the variety of forms in which love manifests itself, and the variety of ways in which men and women come together and get married. The common theme of all the stories unifies them all, so that a single structural pattern is produced.
Diversity in Unity
In spite of the common theme, there is neither repetition nor monotony in the novel. There is a diversity in the unity. Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy begin with a mutual dislike but, in course of time, this dislike changes into a mutual attraction which then leads, through several stages of development, to their union in marriage. Jane Bennet and Mr. Bingley fall in love with each other in the very beginning, and there seems to be an immediate prospect of their getting married. However, their love-affair receives a setback on account of the manipulations by Mr. Darcy and Miss Bingley. Ultimately these two also come together, and get married. The case of Mr. Collins and Charlotte Lucas is entirely different. Here we have a marriage of convenience. There is no love on either side. Mr. Collins simply wants to get married, and do does Charlotte. The Lydia-Wickham affair is different from all the above cases. Lydia falls in love with Mr. Wickham, but there is no sincerity in the love which he has been professing for her. Mr. Wickham  is a seducer who would have forsaken Lydia after taking undue advantage of her. Lydia, in eloping with Mr. Wickham, feels no doubt at all that he would marry her. However, this marriage is brought about only by the intervention of Mr. Darcy. The diversity of love-affairs and marriages thus becomes evident to us as we go through the novel.
The Interweaving to the Sub-Plots with the Main Plot
The different stories in the novel are not just inter-linked by a common theme. The stories are interwoven. Each sub-plot is brought into a close relationship with the main plot. The Elizabeth-Darcy affair and the Jane-Bingley affair begin almost simultaneously, the first with a mutual dislike, and the second with a mutual attraction. Now, Elizabeth and Jane are sisters, while Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley are close friends. Mr. Darcy is at first not at all attracted by Elizabeth's physical appearance, though soon afterwards he begins to perceive a certain charm in her face and in her figure. Elizabeth, having overheard Mr. Darcy criticizing her physical appearance, begins to dislike him. Mr. Darcy is a very proud man who is, in fact, disliked by everybody with whom he comes into contact. Mr. Darcy begins to feel more and more attracted by Elizabeth but she becomes more and more prejudiced against him. Elizabeth's prejudice against Mr. Darcy deepens into a hatred for him on account of the account which Mr. Wickham gives to her of Mr. Darcy's past ill-treatment of him. Mr. Bingley and Jane would have got married by now if Mr. Darcy had not obstructed his friend's wish and if he had not been assisted in this endeavour by Miss Bingley. On account of the obstruction caused by Mr. Darcy and Miss Bingley, the Jane-Bingley sub-plot comes to a stand-still for a time, but the Elizabeth-Darcy plot continues to develop. Mr. Darcy proposes marriage to Eliza­beth whose prejudices against him prevent her from accepting the proposal. Mr. Darcy's obstruction in the way of the marriage of Mr. Bingley and Jane becomes one of the several grounds for Elizabeth's rejection of Mr. Darcy's proposal. However, when Elizabeth learns all the true facts, her prejudice against Mr. Darcy begin to crumble, and she then feels drawn closer and closer towards Mr. Darcy. After Mr. Darcy's quiet withdrawal from the Jane-Bingley affair, the way becomes clear for that pair of lovers to get married. Eventually, Mr. Darcy's pride having been humbled, and Elizabeth's prejudices having melted away, they too get married. As for the Collins-Charlotte affair, Charlotte promptly accepts Mr. Collins's proposal of marriage which Mr. Collins makes after having been rejected twice by Elizabeth. This marriage provides the reason for Elizabeth to visit Hunsford where she meets Mr. Darcy after having separated from him at Netherfield Park. It is at Hunsford that Mr. Darcy gets an opportunity to make his proposal of marriage to Elizabeth who, however, rejects it, giving him detailed reasons for her rejection. This, then, is the connection of the Collins-Charlotte marriage with the main plot. As for the Lydia-Wickham affair, Mr. Wickham is first the means of unknowingly aggravating Eliza­beth's prejudice against Mr. Darcy, and then the means of unknowingly bringing Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth once step closer to each other. Mr. Wickham is not aware of the fact that Elizabeth already has a prejudice against Mr. Darcy; nor is he aware that Mr. Darcy's efforts to induce him to marry Lydia are being motivated by Mr. Darcy's desire to do a favour and a service to the Bennet family. But Mr. Wickham certainly plays a vital role by first widening the rift between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy, and later by providing Mr. Darcy with an opportunity to render a valuable service to the Bennet family. This is how the various sub-plots in the novel are inter­related, inter-connected, and inter-woven, with the main plot.
Mr. Wickham and Mr. Collins, Not Entirely Aliens
It is noteworthy that Mr. Wickham is not entirely new to the social circle at Meryton or Netherfield Park. He had known Mr. Darcy intimately long ago. In fact, they had known each other from their boyhood and had been brought up in the same environment. Similarly, Mr. Collins is not an alienat Longbourn. He is the relative to whom Mr. Bennet's entire estate had been entailed; and he is the man who will inherit all this estate at Mr. Bennet's death. Mr. Collins's arrival at Longbourn has thus a strong basis because Mr. Collins wishes to make a mends to the Bennet family for ultimately depriving them of their property. He wishes to make amends to them by choosing one of the daughters of the family as his would-be wife, so that one of the daughters may ultimately become the mistress of her father's estate.
The Roles of the Minor Characters
All the characters mentioned so far are essential to the novel. Each of these characters is indispensable from the point of view of either the main plot or one of the sub-plots. But none of the other characters too is unnecessary or unwanted. Each of the minor characters has a certain role in the drama of events. Mr. Denny, a very minor character, plays an important role by the information which he supplies about Mr. Wickham's motives and deeds, though he does so by oblique hints and in an evasive manner. Colonel Fitzwilliam provides, though unknowingly, an important clue to Elizabeth regarding Mr. Bingley's having given up his intention to marry Jane. Mrs. Reynolds, the housekeeper at Pemberley House, furnishes such informa­tion to Elizabeth about Mr. Darcy that Mr. Darcy further rises in Elizabeth's estimation. Lady Catherine unknowingly plays a vital role in bringing Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth closer still to each other.
No Digressions; and No Superfluous
Incident or Character
There are no digressions in the novel, and no deviations from the main plot or the sub-plots in the novel. We are either reading the development in the Darcy-Elizabeth plot, or watching the lack of progress in the Bingley-Jane sub-plot or observing the appearance of Mr. Collins and of Mr. Wickham on the social scene and seeing them pursue their respective plans. We are either being taken into the working of the mind of Elizabeth, or being acquainted with the distress which Jane is experiencing on account of the setback to her hope of marrying Mr. Bingley. We are either being shown the way of life of Mr. Collins and Charlotte at Hunsford, and their relations with Lady Catherine, or we are being told of Lydia's going to Brighton with Mrs. Forster and then suddenly eloping one day with Mr. Wickham who too is there. When we are taken to Hunsford, we are also shown the magnificence of Lady Catherine's mansion and the manner in which Lady Catherine and her daughter Miss de Bourgh are leading their lives.   There is a comic touch about the scenes in which Lady Catherine and her daughter appear. Besides, Lady Catherine contributes to the theme of pride in this novel.   The portrayal of Lady Catherine contributes also to the picture of the social scene which is an important ingredient of the novel. The scene in which we meet Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner or Mr. and Mrs. Bennet are equally relevant to the stories of the novel. Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner play a vital role by taking Elizabeth to Derbyshire and to Pemberley House where Elizabeth again meets Mr. Darcy whose changed manner raises him in her estimation. Besides, Mr. Gardiner plays a very useful role by joining Mr. Bennet in the latter's search for Lydia who has run away with Mr. Wickham. Mr. Gardiner also acts as a cover for Mr. Darcy who does not want the Bennet family to know that it is he who, by bribing Mr. Wickham and putting pressure on him, has persuaded him to marry Lydia.   But for Mr. Darcy's intervention, Mr. Wickham would not have married Lydia, and Mr. Darcy would not have further risen in Elizabeth's esteem. Thus there is nothing superfluous in the whole novel just as none of the characters is superfluous. The structure of the novel is well-integrated; and the construction of the plot could not have been more skillfully handled. In the words of a critic, everything is in its proper place and in proper proportion; there is nothing too much, nor anything too little; no excess, nor any deficiency.
The Symmetry of the Novel
The symmetry of Pride and Prejudice has been commented upon by several critics. A number of events occur in the novel at various stages to balance each other. Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy arrive at Netherfield Park in the very beginning of the novel; then they both leave and remain absent for a certain period of time; and once again they both arrive there. Their first arrival creates hope and good cheer in most feminine hearts, but ends in gloom. Their subsequent arrival comes amid gloom but leads to the fulfillment of several hopes. Of the quartet of marriages in the novel, one takes place soon after the beginning, and one takes place just before the end. Similarly, in the beginning, Mr. Darcy intervenes in the Jane-Bingley affair only to bring about aseparation between the lovers who were expected to get married soon; but the same Mr. Darcy intervenes towards the end in the Lydia-Wickham affair, this time bringing about a marriage which would not otherwise have taken place.
Few Coincidences or Chance Happenings
The main plot and the sub-plots all proceed from the inter-action of characters between one another. The events and happenings in the novel directly result from the nature and disposition of the persons concerned. There are few accidents and coincidences in the novel to mar the logic of cause and effect. There is no bolt from the blue. Whether it is a case of good fortune or a case of misfortune, it is the result of the characters' own deeds or misdeeds. Coincidences there certainly are, but they are few such as Mr. Darcy and Mr. Wickham arriving in Hertfordshire at about the same time; Mr. Darcy visiting his aunt Lady Catherine when Elizabeth is staying with Mr. and Mrs. Collins; and Mr. Darcy returning to Pemberley House a day earlier than his schedule and meeting Elizabeth. Similarly, Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner's change of plan in visiting Derbyshire rather than the Lake district is also a matter of chance, though this chance is of vital importance because the visit to Derbyshire leads to Elizabeth's meeting with Mr. Darcy and thus advancing her prospects of marriage with him. But, by and large, the important events proceed from the nature and behaviour of the characters themselves.
All-Pervasive Irony in the Novel
Pride and Prejudice is pervaded by irony which is one of the most striking features of all Jane Austen's novels. The all-pervasive irony has its own role in unifying the structure of Pride and Prejudice. To take only two examples, the very man, Mr. Wickham, who unknowingly aggravates Elizabeth's prejudice against Mr. Darcy, ultimately proves instrumental, again unknowingly, in bringing them one step closer to each other; and Lady Catherine, who sets out to obstruct the marriage of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy, unknowingly brings them still closer to each other and, in fact, clinches the issue. Apart from such ironic reversals, there are several ironical remarks made by certain characters, more especially by Mr. Bennet and Elizabeth. For instance, Mr. Bennet makes an ironical remark when he says that Mr. Wickham is the best of his sons-in-law. Similarly, Elizabeth makes an ironical remark when she says that Mr. Darcy has no defects at all.

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