Narrative Style of Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and Mansfield-Park
Jane Austen is one of the most famous writers of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The novels of this brilliant author have had an incredible impact on the development of culture, have been adapted many times, and have inspired generations of writers. Jane Austen has written such world-class masterpieces as Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma, and Persuasion (Yelland 56). All lovers of classic English literature should read Jane Austen’s books. Despite the fact that all the works are the creations of one writer, they all have bright personalities. Of particular interest is the style of narration, which is a distinctive feature of all the works. The author operated with a special style of literary skill. She gave an incredibly deep psychological coloring to the most common situations in life.
Modern readers in the reviews note that getting acquainted with her books, it seems that the characters are about to descend from the pages (Yelland 74). At the same time, the works of Jane Austen are full of a literate sense of tact, sophisticated style, and authentic English traditions. Her books are recognized as the golden standard of classical literary excellence. Many works are subject to compulsory study in educational institutions in Great Britain. This paper will examine two novels, Pride and Prejudice and Mansfield Park, and compare their narrative styles. From this comparison, it will be possible to conclude that the novels have so many differences that it is difficult to imagine that the same author wrote them.
I would like to begin my comparison of the two works with Pride and Prejudice. It is Jane Austen’s most popular novel, known to millions of readers around the world. The critical literature devoted to its analysis is also enormous. Most critics focus precisely on the novel’s narrative style. Among the most important stylistic devices of Jane Austen in this work is irony. The ironic effect is created both by means of grammar and by means of vocabulary when the words are spoken are directly opposite in meaning to what is meant. Thus, Mr. Bennet is ironic when he says that he admires his three sons-in-law and singles out Wickham as his favorite. At the same time, he has nothing but antipathy for Wickham. The author’s comment at the beginning of chapter 61 is ironic: “Happy for all her maternal feelings was the day on which Mrs. Bennet got rid of her two most deserving daughters” (Bianchi and Gesuato 171). The dictionary definition of the phrase predicate “get rid” contrasts in meaning with “happy day”. This is how the author expresses his ironic attitude toward Mrs. Bennet’s maternal aspirations.
As for Mansfield Park, the author uses almost no irony to characterize the characters, replacing it with sparkling and more open humor. For example, much of what the reader knows about Mrs. Norris is conveyed this way, and the silly characters are completely depleted by it. In Pride and Prejudice, Jane extensively uses non-personal, direct speech, allowing us to see the heroine’s inner world in the moments of her strongest mental experience and emotion. The common or neutral vocabulary determines the lexical composition of the author’s speech in this work. Even to convey a strong emotional tension, the writer does not resort to some sophisticated techniques but very skillfully uses the superlative degree of comparison of adjectives. Thus, their changed opinion of Wickham is expressed by a simple phrase: “Everybody declared that he was the wickedest young man in the world” (Bianchi and Gesuato 175).
In the novel Mansfield Park, on the other hand, indirect speech is used for the most part. That is, the story refers to the words of the characters while describing how and under what circumstances this or that statement was made. A good example is a story of how Mrs. Norris disapproves of the new minister, Dr. Grant, who has arrived to replace her deceased husband. Dr. Grant loves to eat, and Mrs. Grant, “instead of managing to indulge his cravings at the most modest expense, has assigned her to cook almost as generous a salary as Mansfield Park,” Miss Austen recounts (Eron 85). A distinctive feature of this novel is also the imitation of the speech of the character being described. Austen rarely resorts to this method, only when relaying a conversation, such as when Edmund retells to Fanny how Miss Crawford spoke of her in a flattering way.
An important stylistic role in Pride and Prejudice is played by the size of sentences, from short lines in dialogue to very large sentences that sometimes take up an entire paragraph. The skillful stylistic skill of Jane Austen creates a vivacious and very authentic picture of manners, everyday life, and the life of a small provincial society. It was inhabited by quite ordinary people. Only a few of them had a developed mind, independence of judgment, and nobility. However, they filled this novel with such a joyful acceptance of life, such optimism, which the work “Mansfield Park” has not sounded with such force. Pride and Prejudice finally establish the system of ethical values – sincerity, benevolence, rejection of class conceit, a sense of dignity, that Jane Austen’s characters embody. Her ethical ideal also finds equivalent artistic expression: impeccable stylistic excellence is combined with skillful use of the genre possibilities of the novel.
The compositional principles of the realistic novel were applied. Among these are the complex system of characters, the significant role of the chronotype in the development of the plot, as well as portrait and landscape sketches in their characteristic and aesthetic functions. In addition, the complex subject organization of the text, in which the dominant role belongs to impersonal narration, but where each character, thanks to dramatization, the inclusion of non-personal direct speech and intertexts, gets the opportunity to express themselves independently. In the novel Mansfield Park, however, the secondary characters are not given such independence and serve more as a backdrop to the events.
Mansfield Park is a magical fairy tale, but in fact, all novels are fairy tales. Jane Austen’s style and material in this work, compared to Pride and Prejudice, at first glance, seems unrealistic. This, however, is a misconception to which bad readers are prone. A good reader knows that looking for real-life, living people in a book is a pointless exercise. In a book, the truthfulness of a depiction of a person, phenomenon, or circumstance relates solely to the world that is created in its pages. For a talented author, such a thing as real life does not exist; he creates it himself and lives it. The only way to experience the beauty of Mansfield Park is to accept its laws, its conventions, and its game of fiction. In fact, there was no Mansfield Park, and its inhabitants never existed.
To summarize, both works are good representatives of their genre, but there are many differences. One of the main differences is the different attitudes toward the characterization of the characters. In Pride and Prejudice, the characterization is done mainly through non-speech, which gives a better sense of the author’s relationship with the characters. In “Mansfield Park,” this technique is replaced by indirect speech and the imitation of the characters’ speech. The latter method is quite rare in classical literature; even Jane Austen herself uses it only in some cases. Another critical difference between the two works is the importance and role of the secondary characters. In Pride and Prejudice, each of them is given autonomy and plays an important role in the narrative. In addition, the irony of the novel is transmitted through the minor characters.
In Mansfield Park, by contrast, such characters carry little weight and are not sufficiently independent. In general terms, Mansfield Park is a much lighter work, endowed with many humorous digressions. In comparison, Pride and Prejudice seem to be a more elaborate and profound work. Nevertheless, the genius of Jane Austen’s pen did these works precisely what they were meant to be. One is written deep and elaborate, the other light and uncomplicated. This underscores the fact that in the work of this writer, any reader will find a work to their liking. Both novels are excellent examples of English classical literature and deserve the attention of the reading community.
Bianchi, Francesca, and Sara Gesuato. “Pride and Prejudice on the Page and on the Screen: Literary Narrative, Literary Dialogue and Film Dialogue.” Nordic Journal of English Studies, vol. 19, no. 2, 2020, pp.166-198.
Eron, Sarah. “Jane Austen’s Allegories of Mind: Memory Fiction in Mansfield Park.” Studies in Romanticism, vol. 60, no. 1, 2021, pp.79-106.
Yelland, Cris. Jane Austen: A Style in History. Routledge, 2018.