Saturday, February 13, 2010

Use of Dramatic Elements in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice

The novel Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen has several characteristics of a drama. The novel shares such leading qualities of a drama as dialogue, character development, plot, theme, action and dramatic irony. The use of these dramatic devices makes the novel interesting to read.


The novel opens with dialogue. It provides the substance of the play. Dialogue is used to show the characters speaking directly to each other which give the reader access to the thoughts and emotions of the characters. It grows intimacy between characters and audience.

“My dear Mr. Bennet,” said his lady to him one day, “have you heard that Netherfield Park is let at last?”

All of Austen’s many characters come alive through dialogue. Long, unwieldy speeches are rare and in their place, the reader hears the crackle of quick, witty conversation. True nature reveals itself in the way the characters speak: Mr. Bennet’s emotional detachment comes across in his dry wit, while Mrs. Bennet’s hysterical excess drips from every sentence she utters. Austen’s dialogue often serves to reveal the worst aspects of her characters—Miss Bingley’s spiteful, snobbish attitudes are readily apparent in her words, and Mr. Collins’s long-winded speeches carry with them a tone-deaf pomposity that defines his character perfectly. Dialogue can also conceal bad character traits: Wickham, for instance, hides his rogue’s heart beneath the patter of pleasant, witty banter, and he manages to take Elizabeth in with his smooth tongue. Ultimately, though, good conversational ability and general goodness of personality seem to go hand in hand. Pride and Prejudice is the story of Darcy and Elizabeth’s love, and for the reader, that love unfolds through the words they share.


The plot of a drama involves unexpected turns, suspense and climax. In pride and Prejudice we find some turning points which motivate the novel such as Darcy and Elizabeth’s first meet at the Meryton ball. Darcy’s Pride arouses Elizabeth’s prejudice. Darcy refuses to dance with Elizabeth upon Bingley’s request, saying that Elizabeth is no handsome enough to tempt him. Elizabeth hears this comment and greatly hurt. She immediately takes a view about Mr. Darcy that he will be a man of arrogant personality.

However through the Bingely-Bennet friendship Darcy and Elizabeth are brought into each other’s company. Again Jane’s illness at Netherfield brings the two together again. And it is the beginning of his admiration for her.

Now the audience becomes suspicious when Mrs. Bennet’s garrulous vulgarity turns Darcy away from his interest in Elizabeth and leads him to take the docile Bingley to London. Moreover Elizabeth’s initial prejudice is deepened by the smooth lies of Wickham against Darcy. She accepts at face value everything that Wickham says about Mr. Darcy. Mr. Wickham professes to be discrete and hints that he would not defame anybody’s character, but he defames Darcy. Elizabeth would not have tolerated such a conversation if anybody except the disagreeable Mr. Darcy were the subject of the talk. As a result, Elizabeth forms an even more unfavorable opinion about Mr. Darcy than she had formed before. Her prejudice turns into hatred.

As an another principal turning point the two meet again when Elizabeth is visiting Charlotte Collins and Darcy is visiting his aunt Lady Catherine at Rosings. Darcy’s old interest is revived with increased fervor.

Now we see the struggle in Darcy’s mind between his pride and love for Elizabeth with the handicaps of such relations as Collins, Lydia, Kitty, Mary, Mrs. Bennet and the inferior family connection with trade. Love wins enough of a victory to bring him to the point of proposing.

The chief climax of the main story occurs when Darcy proposes to Elizabeth at Rosings and is refused. Darcy constantly emphasizes the struggles and obstacles that he had to overcome in order to make him this step. Rather than emphasizing his love, he constantly refers to all the obstacles which he has had to overcome. This proposal completely stuns Elizabeth. She thinks that Mr. Darcy is only seeking a wife who is so inferior as to be ever grateful for a chance to be his wife. She rejects his proposal without least hesitation and she gives her reasons for her refusal. She mentions his past ill- treatment to Mr. Wickham and she tells him that he was responsible for breaking up between Jane and Bingley. And finally she accuses him not behaving in a gentleman- like manner. The denouement is reached with his second proposal and this time acceptance.

On the very next day, Mr. Darcy hands over to Elizabeth a letter which contains a defense of him against the charges which she had leveled against him. There is much logic in this defense and Elizabeth is deeply affected by it. She is forced to acknowledge the justice of his claims as regards Wickham, his criticism of her family and even his claims concerning Jane. She comes to a self realization. Suddenly, she cannot remember anything that Mr. Darcy has ever done which was not honorable and just, while Mr. Wickham has often been imprudent in his comments. Previously, she had called Jane blind, and now she has gained a moral insight into her own character and sees that she has also been blind. Consequently, Elizabeth’s character increases in depth as she is able to analyze herself and come to those realizations. This self- recognition established her as a person capable of changing and growing.

Meanwhile, the youngest Bennet, Lydia, rushes into an ill-advised romance with Wickham, an officer who at first appears charming and trustworthy. Wickham fails in a ruthless attempt to marry a rich northern woman and impulsively elopes with the naive Lydia. The 16-year-old girl speaks recklessly, acts offensively, and must gratify her impulses instantly. Lydia fails to see that running off with Wickham scandalizes her family.

Darcy shows his true mettle by secretly helping Charles return to Jane, by ensuring that Wickham and Lydia return to Longbourn as a married couple with an income, and by proposing again to Elizabeth with new humility. Shamed, Elizabeth recognizes many of her misjudgments and accepts Darcy's proposal. Their personalities soften and blend beautifully.

Another coincidence brings Elizabeth and Darcy at Pemberly House. He is very warm and friendly and inquires of her family. There is no trace of haughtiness in the manner in which he now talks to her and to her relatives. Even more, when she learns the role which Darcy has played in Lydias marriage, she becomes strongly inclined towards him.

In this changed circumstances Mr. Darcy arrives at Netherfield and proposes marriage to her. This time she gladly accepts the proposal because she has now begun to think that Mr. Darcy is truly a gentleman. He also tells Elizabeth that it was her frankness which had finally revealed to him his shortcomings. He also admits that he encouraged Bingley to propose Jane. Elizabeth also honestly confesses the change in her feelings and the two lovers are finally happy.

A plot also centers on a single interest and other sub-actions become involved to it. There is a quite compact plot in Pride and Prejudice. In Pride and Prejudice the main story of Elizabeth and Darcy runs throughout the whole narrative. Minor stories, kept under complete control, are never permitted to obtrude and are always made to contribute to the main story.

Secondary plots revolve about Jane and Bingley, Lydia and Wickham, Mr. Collins, Miss Bingley’s schemes, Lady Catherine de Bourgh. The action is developed around the gradual coming together of Elizabeth and Darcy and their ultimate happiness. The secondary figures act as foils to the main characters and interact with them to help bring about the final resolution.


In a drama the characters show significant development. The characters of a drama suffer from their mistakes and finally learn many lessons. In the same way, here in this novel we also see the development of characters. The characters who mostly develop are Elizabeth and Darcy.

Jane Austen’s characters evolve the drama. Throughout the novel, the characters, like in a drama are developed gradually or step by step. They are placed in different contexts in which he encounter each other and help reveal their personalities. Darcy and Elizabeth, for example, undergrow significant changes throughout the novel.

Letter plays an important role to develop the relationship between Elizabeth and Darcy.

Darcy’s first letter to Elizabeth makes her even more prejudiced against Darcy but at the same time begin to think deeply about Wickham’s previous story.

Darcy writes his first letter in such a way as if he is showing favor to her, which exhibits his pride. She rejects his proposal without least hesitation and she gives her reasons for her refusal. She mentions his past ill- treatment to Mr. Wickham and she tells him that he was responsible for breaking up between Jane and Bingley. And finally she accuses him not behaving in a gentleman- like manner. This final accusation gives a serious blow to Darcy. This is a turning point for his self realization.

Elizabeth learns lessons and changes the way she thinks about some situations. An extremely rich and famous man, one of the most sought after men in the country falls in love with Elizabeth, and although she initially rejects his proposals of marriage, thinking him too proud, does slowly fall in love with him, realizing his pride was only shyness, and they become engaged. She admits her own faults and overcomes her prejudice against Mr. Darcy and she becomes aware of her own social and emotional prejudice. When her friend Charlotte marries Mr. Collins, Elizabeth condemns the marriage as ridiculous but comes to understand and accept the position her friend was in. The marriage between Mr. Collins and Charlotte is based on economics rather than on love.

Elizabeth regards Jane as more noble and kind-hearted than herself. Jane is slightly naive, she expects all people to have pure and good motives for everything and seeks to find good in everyone. She has not shown much emotion to Bingley's advances, though she accepts them. She shows little of the same sentiment, although this is just her nature, this is what made Darcy think Jane would not be much hurt if Bingley left her. This is untrue, she suffers the loss greatly, though alone and privately.

Lydia and Wickham have each other in an unhappy and impecunious marriage. Miss Bingley’s jealous envy brings only bitterness and disappointment. Mr. Bennet’s indolence and failure as a parent brings him the pain and shame of Lydia’s elopement and Lady Catherine’s arrogance brings about her humiliation in her interview with Elizabeth and her defeat in the marriage of Elizabeth and Darcy.


The title of the novel Pride and Prejudice can be interpreted as a theme running through the novel. Pride is the feeling that one is better or more important than other people and prejudice is an adverse judgment or opinion formed beforehand without knowledge of the facts. When we add these two themes together, we get this novel Pride and Prejudice.

The very basis of this book is on Pride and Prejudice. Jane Austen created a world in which most of the people are guilty of Pride and Prejudice and judge each other on the basis of their pride and prejudice. But pride and prejudice are not very unusual factors in this world which is based on artificial and conventional behaviors. And Jane Austen appreciates those who can come out of their Pride and Prejudice and reject the superficial behaviors. But those who can’t discard their pride and prejudice remain the objects of ridicule till the end of the novel.

Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet, the two central characters of the novel, for the better part of the novel is the focus of Pride and prejudice respectively. And in the later part of the novel both Darcy and Elizabeth have come out from their Pride and Prejudice respectively.


Irony is the very soul of Jane Austen’s novels and “Pride and Prejudice” is steeped in irony of theme, situation, character and narration. Irony is the contrast between appearance and reality.

The first sentence of the novel Pride and Prejudice opens with an ironic statement about marriage, “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife” (1). A man with a fortune does not need a wife nearly so much as a woman is greatly in need of a wealthy husband. The entire novel is really an explanation of how women and men pursue each other prior to marriage. Jane Austen uses a variety of verbal, dramatic and situational irony through the novel.

The novel is full of verbal irony, especially coming from Elizabeth and Mr. Bennet. Verbal irony is saying one thing, but meaning the complete opposite. Although Mr. Bennet is basically a sensible man, he behaves strangely because of his sarcasm with his wife. He amuses himself by pestering his foolish wife or making insensitive remarks about his daughters. Mr. Bennet cruelly mocks his wife silliness and is shown to be sarcastic, and cynical with comments as “…you are as handsome as any of them, Mr. Bingley might like you.

In chapter 4, Elizabeth confirms her strong dislike for Darcy and criticizes Bignley’s sisters as well. She is critical of Jane for being “blind” to others. This criticism is filled with irony, because in the later part of the novel Elizabeth is blind in analyzing Darcy because of her prejudice against his pride. Shortly in the novel, Darcy grows interest in Elizabeth, but Elizabeth doesn’t notice it. Elizabeth misunderstands Darcy attraction toward her. As she was playing the piano at the parsonage, she believes that Darcy is trying to unsettle her when he stands by the piano to hear her play the piano.

Also, Darcy was blind in the beginning of the novel because he did not realize that Elizabeth possesses the qualification his future wife must have. Another dramatic irony is in chapter 39 when Elizabeth is shocked by the behavior that she sees in her family and realizes the truth Darcy has stated about the weak impression they make.

It is interesting to note that ironically, in “Pride and Prejudice”, it is the villainous character Wickham and lady Catherine – who are responsible for uniting Elizabeth and Darcy.


Another requisite of drama is action. In Pride and Prejudice there is a great deal of action, even though it is quite and seemingly unexciting. The characters of the novel do not behave in any wild or improbable way. Since the picture drawn is of everyday life and activities, it is easy for us to comprehend it and is that much more real to us.

The elements of drama, by which dramatic works can be analyzed and evaluated, are categorized into the above discussed areas. And because of the presence of these dramatic elements we can call Pride and Prejudice as a dramatic novel.