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Barron's Booknotes-Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

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1. Charlotte Bronte said that Jane Austen wrote of everything about her characters except their hearts. What do you think she meant? Is Austen's presentation of her characters' emotions cold or superficial in any way?

Do any of her characters express strong, deep emotions?
2. Why was a good marriage crucial to a woman in Jane Austen's day? Is that still true today? In what ways have women's lives changed? What problems-if any-do today's women still have in common with Jane Austen's characters?

3. What careers were open to middle-class English men in Jane Austen's day? Give examples of gentlemanly occupations in Austen's own family, as well as in Pride and Prejudice.

4. Sir Walter Scott admired Jane Austen as a "new" novelist. He said she wrote of common events with such spirit and originality that the reader did not miss the excitement of uncommon events. Critics nowadays call this "realism." Discuss Jane Austen's realism in Pride and Prejudice.

5. "Trade" and "landed property" are contrasted in Pride and Prejudice. The fortunes of the two good friends,

Bingley and Darcy, come from separate sources-Bingley's from trade, Darcy's from property. Yet they are friends and social equals. This was a change from the past in England. Why? What was happening in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century? Research this historical period and show how its social changes are reflected in the novel.

6. Although Pride and Prejudice is Jane Austen's best-known novel, some critics consider Emma or Mansfield

Park her masterpiece. If you have read one of these novels, would you agree with this judgment? Compare the merits of either of these novels with Pride and Prejudice.

7. Pride and Prejudice is described as social comedy. What aspects of society is Jane Austen making fun of in this novel?

8. Jane Austen uses irony to great effect in her novels. Define the term irony and give examples from Pride and Prejudice.

9. Novels in Jane Austen's day were written mostly by women, and most often under assumed names. Why were so many women writing, and why did they hide their identity or, like Jane Austen, not sign their books at all? You will need to do research on the history of women writers to discuss this subject.

10. "Vulgar" and "mercenary" are words that some nineteenth-century critics used to describe Jane Austen's work. Why? Do you agree? Are any characters in Pride and Prejudice mercenary?

11. Pride and Prejudice has been dramatized for stage, screen, and television. Why? Describe some scenes that are written in dramatic form in the novel.

12. Five married couples are presented in Pride and Prejudice: Mr. and Mrs. Bennet, Charlotte and Mr. Collins,

Lydia and Wickham, Jane and Bingley, Elizabeth and Darcy. No two of the marriages are alike. Describe some of their differences.

13. Elizabeth is shocked when her friend Charlotte accepts Mr. Collins's proposal of marriage. Why? How does

Charlotte explain her decision? What do you think of her reasons?
14. Charlotte Lucas believes that happiness in marriage is pure chance. How does she explain this? Does Elizabeth agree? Which woman is the idealist? Explain.

15. Elizabeth says that she fell in love with Darcy when she first saw Pemberley. Is she serious? Judging from her self-examinations, what stages did her attitude toward him go through?

16. Darcy's pride-and Elizabeth's perception of it-goes through a series of evolutionary changes in the course of the novel. At first he seems arrogant and conceited-to Elizabeth and the reader. How does he change in the course of the novel? Is he still a proud man by the end of the novel? How has Elizabeth's perception of his pride changed?

17. Two characters in Pride and Prejudice, Mr. Collins and Lady Catherine de Bourgh, are famous as comic creations. Describe either or both of them.

18. Mr. and Mrs. Bennet are examples of Jane Austen's skill in character development-he for his wit, she for her foolishness. Describe them and their relationship, using examples from the novel.

19. Jane Austen's writing style was considered unusual for her time-an era of flowery descriptive writing and emotional excess. Give examples of her clear and concise prose.

20. Jane Austen, both in her own life and in Pride and Prejudice, made cheerfulness a social obligation.

Keeping your troubles to yourself is a form of considerateness toward others. Can you find examples of this in Elizabeth's and Jane's behavior?

21. In his letter revealing the truth about Wickham, Darcy counts on Elizabeth to keep his revelations secret.

Was this to spare Wickham? Or to protect the reputation of his young sister Georgiana?
22. Later on, Darcy also asks the Gardiners not to reveal his part in the rescue of Lydia. Here his motive is different. What is it?

23. What does Lady Catherine hope to accomplish in her visit to Elizabeth? Does she succeed?
24. How does Lady Catherine inadvertently bring about Darcy's second proposal of marriage to Elizabeth?
25. Wickham seems to be the only truly wicked character in Pride and Prejudice. Is he in fact so wicked? Or does he merely illustrate the difficulty of getting along in that society without money?

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Barron's Booknotes-Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

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