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Sunny Chen Ms.

Wilson AP Literature and Composition 9 February, 2014 Marriage: Absurdity and Assertiveness In the stiff Victorian era, marriage was the ultimate ticket to a happy future, and sometime parents would regard a good spouse with wealth and an excellent upbringing over the happiness of their children. Jane Austen expresses the silliness of the situation in Mr. Collins proposal to Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice through clever word choice, contrasting sentence length, and unusual punctuation to denote sarcasm; this in turn also allows Elizabeth to break free from social expectations by poking fun at the snobbery of the upper class. Austens word choice in the interaction between Mr. Collins and Elizabeth creates humorous melodrama, which emphasizes Mr. Collins pompous nature and Elizabeths exasperation at his garish proposal. After his flowery, drawn-out speech, Elizabeth finds it absolutely necessary to interrupt him now (92). The use of the adverb stresses her irritation at the proposal, showing her resilience against an otherwise prosperous marriage. She firmly believes against marriage without love. Austen then uses the word cried to voice her response to Collins not once, but twicewhen the typical said could easily be used in its p lace (93). The purpose of her word choice was to create mock drama, which accentuates the whimsical nature of the scene and adds to the ridiculousness of Collins proposal. When Collins speaks, his language also shows his general idiocy as a character. He insists that he will praise Elizabeths modesty, economy, and other amiable qualifications the next time he meets Lady Catherine (93). The string of threes here, as well as his choice in traits, gives him a pompous tone characteristic of snobby upper class people. Austen purposefully uses this to poke fun at him and p rovide contrast with Elizabeths clever way with her own words. This sets the two apart in their views about marriage Collins follows society in the belief that marriage is almost a political affair to benefit two sides in social status and wealth, whereas Elizabeth sticks to her belief that marriage should be for love and happiness. The differences between Elizabeth and Collins are highlighted as well through the length of their sentences. This is also another way Austen makes fun of the upper class. Collins sentences are long and unnecessari ly florid, as when he begins, I am not now to learn (93). In contrast, Elizabeths sentences are short and to the point, seen when she states, I am perfectly serious in my refusal (93). This satirical style of writing is symbolic of the stance

on marriage Austen takes and the stance she is against. Collins grandiose way of speaking reflect s the absurd nature of marriage for social standards; the additional words he uses to prolong his sentences parallels to those unnecessary expectations. Austen therefore uses his long sentences to protest against a marriage without happiness or love. Elizabeths way of talking, on the other hand, are direct and clear as to what she believes ina representation of Austens own ideals and an opposing symbol on how marriage for love is the obvious path to take. So not only do the differences in Elizabeth and Collins sentence lengths emphasize the arrogance of the upper class, but they are also used to delineate Austens view on appropriate reasons for marriage. Another stylistic detail that is prominent and also strange in this passage is the use of unusual punctuation such as seemingly misplaced parentheses and dashes. These in fact, are not misplaced, but rather another way for Austen to satirize the upper class and voice her beliefs on marriage, this time through the voice of Elizabeth instead of that of Mr. Collins. As she replies, I do assure you that I am not one of those young ladies she cuts herself off with a brief phrase placed in parentheses (93). Parentheses arent normally used in dialogue, especially since their standard meaning isnt usually seen through speech. However, with their presence it almost seems as though Elizabeth is adding those words, filled with sarcasm, under her breath. For readers, this remark is obvious as Elizabethor in this situation, Austenmaking fun of Collins behind his back. Along with the parentheses is the unusual use of dashes, seen when Elizabeth says, You could not make me happy (93). Normally a dash would not start off a sentence, but in this case, Austen uses it to provide emphasis on her remarks against Mr. Collins. Whenever Elizabeth uses a dash, she is defending her position on the purpose of marriage. She stresses the fact that she will marry for happiness and love, and not for anything else. In addition to this, she also makes fun of the upper class by mentioning Lady Catherine, stating, Nay, were your friend Lady Catherine to know me [] she would find me [] ill qualified for the situation (93). With the dashes, Austen is able to speak her opinion on the social barriers of marriage and status. Elizabeth Bennett is a breakthrough character in the society she lives in, a representation and voice for her creator, Jane Austen. Through her stylistic devices and writing texture, Austen distinguishes Elizabeth from the upper class by satirizing the latter and their views. Through this she also expresses her opinion on marriage, one of the most important expectations of Victorian society, and allows her to break those walls to her readers and to her world.

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