Tuesday, January 14, 2020
Ã¯Â»Â¿Pride and Prejudice- Jane Austen and Letters to Alice- Fay Weldon Essay
An examination of Jane AustenÃ¢â¬â¢s 1813 social satire Pride and Prejudice, and the reading of Fay WeldonÃ¢â¬â¢s 1984 epistolary text Letters to Alice on first reading Jane Austen, allows understanding of AustenÃ¢â¬â¢s novel to be moulded and then shifted. Pride and Prejudice is a novel of manners, focusing on marriage, Pride, Prejudice and Social Class which are projected through the characters, gentry-class setting and AustenÃ¢â¬â¢s authorial comment. AustenÃ¢â¬â¢s purpose was to portray the world of the gentry class, and satirise some aspects of her society and praise others. WeldonÃ¢â¬â¢s purpose is to encourage an understanding of the value of literature for individuals and society. She models AustenÃ¢â¬â¢s writing to demonstrate her argument and in so doing she gives a heightened understanding of values in AustenÃ¢â¬â¢s context. She reviews AustenÃ¢â¬â¢s society, providing an explanation of social conventions such as marriage, social stratification and women. Aunt FayÃ¢â¬â¢s opinions allow readers to reshape their understanding of events and characters in Pride and Prejudice. Her conclusions allow the reader to draw connections between our contemporary society and AustenÃ¢â¬â¢s context, which then enables us to reshape our original understanding of Pride and Prejudice and our own context. Through Letters to Alice, Weldon discusses the importance in the value of literature. This is displayed through use of the imperative Ã¢â¬Ëyou must readÃ¢â¬ . Her observing of literature linking to the transcendence of time is examined when adopting the metaphor of the city of invention, which educates the readers of what good literature is and the solid foundations that make it withstand time. Aunt Fay says Ã¢â¬Å"Through reading literature we learn about the way people thought and how they lived, the ways we are different and the things we shareÃ¢â¬ , suggesting an implicit link to AustenÃ¢â¬â¢s work. Weldon writes that good literature has the ability to Ã¢â¬Å"transcend time and reach readers across centuriesÃ¢â¬ . She demonstrates that the characters Austen created, are still relevant in modern society. The universal themes of faults and failings such as prejudice are seen in both texts, as they were been written for moral guidance purposes. Austen uses her novel to suggest how people should behave. She condemns snobbery, pride and prejudice. For example, Austen uses the character transformation between Elizabeth and Darcy and rewards them with happiness. Through Mary, Austen uses authorial comment on pride by saying Ã¢â¬Å"human nature is particularly prone to itÃ¢â¬ ¦aÃ person may be proud without being vainÃ¢â¬ . WeldonÃ¢â¬â¢s character Aunt Fay is comparable to Jane Austen, as she teaches her niece Alice to read, be appreciative of her world and develop empathy for those who are less fortunate. Through Aunt FayÃ¢â¬â¢s didacticism, the readers see a changing Alice, similarly to Elizabeth BennetÃ¢â¬â¢s character transformation in Pride and Prejudice. Elizabeth has to overcome her initial judgements of Mr Darcy in order to gain a heightened understanding of herself. For example, after the first brief encounter with Darcy Ã¢â¬Å"she remained with no very cordial feelings towards himÃ¢â¬ . She is left believing he is arrogant and the most disagreeable man. However she learns from her wrongness when she begins to understand his character and his motives. This is similar to AliceÃ¢â¬â¢s experience, as she is taught to reshape her opinionated first impressions of Jane Austen and the Professors wife. Alice comes to understand, through Aunt FayÃ¢â¬â¢s letters, that she has taken her life and educational opportunities for granted and should not make judgements of Unlovable when only based on her ProfessorÃ¢â¬â¢s opinion. Marriage is the primary concern of AustenÃ¢â¬â¢s novel. The immense importance of which is referred to by Mrs Bennet Ã¢â¬Å"If I can but see one of my daughters happily settled at Netherfield, and all the others equally well married, I have nothing to wish forÃ¢â¬ . The plot follows Mrs BennetÃ¢â¬â¢s desperation in having her five daughters married to men who have inherited a substantial fortune. The novel reflects AustenÃ¢â¬â¢s context where marriage was a result of seeing profitable prospects rather than love. This is exemplified through Mrs BennetÃ¢â¬â¢s comment Ã¢â¬Å"A single man of a large fortuneÃ¢â¬ ¦what a fine thing for our girls!Ã¢â¬ Marriage benefited the couple in both wealth and social status. Austen utilises a variety of marriages to contrast and show preference to the uniting of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy who have love and respect, and have had to overcome initial personal judgements of each other. Elizabeth Bennet, who has to reassess her prejudice and Mr Darcy, who has to overcome his pride. They become the most affluent and respected couple in the novel. The idea of entailment ensured the family fortune was inherited by the men, which meant women had limited inheritance rights. This is the main incentive for Mrs Bennet having her children married to men with a substantial fortune, as when Mr Bennet dies, the family will be left poor. This is augmented through Weldon who expresses empathy towards Mrs Bennet, and says Ã¢â¬Å"life was not rosyÃ¢â¬ whether women married or not. This helps to reshape theÃ understanding of marriage gained in AustenÃ¢â¬â¢s novel, as it was previously believed that marriage lead to a better lifestyle for women. Fay Weldon connects the idea of marriage by linking the two generations, and interpreting the changing facets of matrimony. In Jane AustenÃ¢â¬â¢s period, marriage was a necessity rather than a commodity. Alice, the representative for the contemporary context, perceives marriage as an Ã¢â¬Å"outmoded institutionÃ¢â¬ . Alice views AustenÃ¢â¬â¢s novel as Ã¢â¬Å"boring, petty and irrelevantÃ¢â¬ , as her context believes love should be factored into marriage. Fay Weldon connects the generations by justifying aspects that have remained the same or have changed. She highlights the harsh realities of married women in Jane AustenÃ¢â¬â¢s patriarchal world. For example, she writes Ã¢â¬Å"men could beat you if they saw fitÃ¢â¬ . Weldon describes AustenÃ¢â¬â¢s contextual ideas on marriage through Aunt Fay who attempts to help her niece Alice, a rebellious university student, understand the necessity for marriage in AustenÃ¢â¬â¢s context. She uses the metaphor Ã¢â¬Å"To marry was a great prize. It was a womanÃ¢â¬â¢s aimÃ¢â¬ ¦No wonder Mrs Bennet driven half mad by anxiety, knowing they would be unprovided for when her husband diedÃ¢â¬ . This helps the readers to reshape their understanding of Mrs Bennet. In Pride and Prejudice, Austen satirises and condemns her character for her obsession with finding suitable partners for her unmarried daughters. However, Aunt FayÃ¢â¬â¢s didactic attempt on using empathy is expressed through Mrs Bennet, who is described as Ã¢â¬Å"politeness warred with desperationÃ¢â¬ . Weldon details the unions between Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy to be unlikely, given their differences in social standing. This is reinforced by Aunt Fay reminding Alice, Ã¢â¬Å"Novels are illusion not realityÃ¢â¬ . This perspective on matrimony takes the reader back to Pride and Prejudice and reinforces CharlotteÃ¢â¬â¢s pragmatic perspective Ã¢â¬Å"Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chanceÃ¢â¬ . Aunt Fay recognises that some unions have not changed from AustenÃ¢â¬â¢s period. There are women who still marry for survival. For example, the importation of Asian wives links to the marriage between Charlotte and Mr Collins, as she Ã¢â¬Å"found happiness, inspite of marrying for all the wrong reasonsÃ¢â¬ . To heighten the readers understanding of marriage in Pride and Prejudice, she says Ã¢â¬Å"is the stuff of our womenÃ¢â¬â¢s magazines, but it was the stuff of their life, their very existence.Ã¢â¬ This is Weldon reinforcing the idea of necessity for marriage for women of AustenÃ¢â¬â¢s context. It helps Alice to overcome her initialÃ thoughts on marriage in Pride and Prejudice. In Pride and Prejudice, social class overrides all other emotions such love and happiness. Mr Darcy is the central character who defines the upper class of Regency England. Mr Wickham uses bitter verbal irony to describe Darcy, noting Ã¢â¬Å"He was to be above all company, in having been unworth y to be comparedÃ¢â¬ . Austen defies her conventional ideas on social stratification through the eccentric unions of matrimony between Elizabeth and Darcy or Jane and Bingley. These marriages occur, despite the authorative Lady Catherine saying Ã¢â¬Å"Ã¢â¬Å"Your alliance will be a disgrace, you name will never be mentioned by any of usÃ¢â¬ . This allows the readers to see that Austen had created Elizabeth Bennet, to break through her societyÃ¢â¬â¢s rigid values. This is linked to WeldonÃ¢â¬â¢s comment Ã¢â¬Å"Jane Austen likes to see the division between nobility and gentry broken downÃ¢â¬ , as the division had been created when Elizabeth married Darcy. Fay Weldon uses social stratification to connect the gap between AustenÃ¢â¬â¢s society and the modern world. She contemporises AustenÃ¢â¬â¢s text by having the didactic Aunt Fay write to Alice explaining Ã¢â¬Å"Ã¢â¬Å"the gentry thought well of themselves, and liked to despise the nobility for their rackety ways, and were despised by them, in turn for being worthy and boringÃ¢â¬ . In this, Weldon suggests that people of both societies were limited by social boundaries. Through WeldonÃ¢â¬â¢s text, Aunt Fay attempts to make the readers feel empathy through the explanation of stratified womenÃ¢â¬â¢s lives Ã¢â¬Å"Women were born poor, and stayed poor, and lived well only by their husbandsÃ¢â¬â¢ favour.Ã¢â¬ WeldonÃ¢â¬â¢s use of stratification, like AustenÃ¢â¬â¢s, is used for didactic purposes. She writes Ã¢â¬Å"human nature does not change over the centuriesÃ¢â¬ , indicating that snobbery, pride, prejudice and criticism, which Austen satirised in Pride and Prejudice, are still relevant in modern society. For example, Caroline BingleyÃ¢â¬â¢s criticism of the middle class is similar to criticism aimed at writers, deriving from the readers who do not understand the difficulty of writing well. Austen believes women should have options and opinions. Her character Elizabeth is independent, witty and judgemental. She defies social conventions and is used as a model for achieving AustenÃ¢â¬â¢s purpose, and in return, is rewarded with love. There was also the idea of accomplished women being more suitable to men. Women who were well educated in the art of music, literature and languages, were thought to be accomplished and therefore more attractive to a suitor. Miss Bingley states, usingÃ accumulation Ã¢â¬Å"A woman must have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing, and the modern languages, to deserve the wordÃ¢â¬ . In Pride and Prejudice, the Bennet sisters did not attend school and were only trained in accomplishment. This juxtaposes with AliceÃ¢â¬â¢s lifestyle, as she is eligible to attend university on a different continent to further her education. An example of this is when Aunt Fay plants the idea Ã¢â¬Å"why donÃ¢â¬â¢t you go to UCLA and write?Ã¢â¬ This helps people understand the limitations of women in Pride and Prejudice and justify the difference between the ideas of a successful woman in both contexts. Fay Weldon defines womenÃ¢â¬â¢s lives in AustenÃ¢â¬â¢s context and compares it to modern society. She models AustenÃ¢â¬â¢s life for Alice to gain a heightened understanding of the difficulties women faced to defy social conventions. She demonstrates this by using the metaphor Ã¢â¬Å"It takes grea t courage to swim against the stream of communal ideasÃ¢â¬ . In this, Weldon is depicting the complications for Austen to see her world and reprimand its values on marriage, social class and women, whilst providing an alternative perspective. Weldon describes the limitations for female writers as they were expected to Ã¢â¬Å"be tender, flatter, deceiveÃ¢â¬ ¦never let anybody guess that you have a mind of your ownÃ¢â¬ . Female writers were discouraged from inventing and were only allowed to write about their world. Aunt FayÃ¢â¬â¢s brief explanation of the female writers contrasts with contemporary society, with Aunt Fay being the example. With the ability of travel and freely express her opinions, she is able to write without concern of her work being unpublished because of contemporary values. Unlike Austen, she is being paid and recognised for the texts she writes. Fay Weldon uses didacticism to develop an empathetic link to women in AustenÃ¢â¬â¢s context by detailing to Alice Ã¢â¬Å"by your standards it was a horrible time to liveÃ¢â ¬ . For example, she gives statistical evidence of childbirth Ã¢â¬Å"childbirth was primitiveÃ¢â¬ ¦there was no analgesicsÃ¢â¬ ¦your chances of dying wereÃ¢â¬ ¦one in twoÃ¢â¬ . In this, Aunt Fay highlights that Alice should not take being autonomous for granted. This is delineated through Aunt Fay expressing Ã¢â¬Å"You do not know little Alice, how recent or lucky you areÃ¢â¬ . A close study of Jane AustenÃ¢â¬â¢s 1813 social satire Pride and Prejudice and the 1984 epistolary text Letters to Alice on first reading Jane Austen by Fay Weldon, allows us to draw connections between the two texts and for our original understanding of AustenÃ¢â¬â¢s text to be shaped and shifted. Austen uses the main themes in PrideÃ and Prejudice, such as Marriage, social class and Pride, to express her approval or disapproval of her societiesÃ¢â¬â¢ attitudes. WeldonÃ¢â¬â¢s text is used for didactic purposes to encourage an understanding of the value of literature, for which she uses AustenÃ¢â ¬â¢s writing to project her ideas. She reviews AustenÃ¢â¬â¢s context by providing an explanation of social conventions such as marriage, social stratification and women.