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Functions of Letters in Austen’s Pride and Prejudice

The novel Pride and Prejudice was initially an epistolary piece that June Austen wrote in the early 1800s. Jane Austen is one of the renowned novelists from England. She is majorly known for focusing on women’s position in marriage. The novel’s setting was during the 18th Century, when individuals in different geographic locations used letters to communicate. The author of the novel also adopted an epistolary form of writing by incorporating different letters written by different characters within the novel. The letters in the novel enable the readers to uncover hidden meanings and background information of the novel (Austen et al.). This paper aims to look at how the letters in the novel help enhance a clear understanding of the novel by highlighting the major instances where the characters in the story used letters to communicate and identify the impact of the content and information of the letter on the story.

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The novel is majorly based on love and romance stories between different characters in the story, which encourages the use of letters for communication between the lovers. The main characters in the story are Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy, who are in a romantic relationship (Zimmerman). The writing style used by the authors enables the readers to follow the events keenly and be eager for what event will happen next. There are different instances where the author of the novel has used letters to bring out a clear meaning of a particular event in the novel. The readers are required to read and understand the content of the letters for them to have a better comprehension of the context.

The letters in the novel Pride and Prejudice by June Austen also enable the readers to understand the relationship between different characters by knowing their positions while communicating. They also help in understanding the different themes that are portrayed in the novel (Zimmerman). The intentions and actions of characters who use letters in their communication with other characters are easily noticeable, enabling the readers to understand the novel appropriately. The characters’ personalities in the novel are also portrayed in the letters they write.

Some of the major instances where letters have been used in the novel are when Mr. Collins writes a letter to Elizabeth. In chapter 13 of the book, Mr. Collins writes a letter to Elizabeth notifying her of his planned visit to Bennet’s territory (Austen et al.). This is the first letter to be written in the novel. The letter enables the reader of the novel to have a bigger picture of the writer’s personality. Mr. Collins is portrayed as a very pretentious individual and of self-importance. The letter also becomes of great importance later in chapters 48 and 57. Mr. Collins also writes a letter to Mr. Bennet later in the novel.

Another letter in the novel is the letter written by Jane to her sisters. The letter is in the 26th chapter of the novel, which helps the readers understand the three sisters’ relationships. The letter has also been used as a plot mechanism in chapters 26 and 46 by highlighting their younger sister’s sudden and private wedding and moving with her lover. Her elopement becomes a greater event in chapter 46 of the novel (Austen et al.). The letter’s content also enables the reader to connect and understand the disappointment of Lydia’s family over her elopement. The events that have been described in the letter are some of the major events in the novel.

Mrs. Gardiner also wrote a letter to Mrs. Elizabeth explaining the relationship that exists between her and Darcy. The letter enables Mrs. Elizabeth to have a positive perception of Darcy and disqualifies Lizzy’s demining image she has of Darcy. This is one of the most important letters in the novel since it acts as a turning point in the narration of the events in the story because it enables the reader to view Darcy from a different perspective and avoid being one-sided. The true colors of Mr. Wickman have also been highlighted in the letter, which portrays him as a very immoral individual contrary to his image within society (Kliger). The content of the letter encourages the readers of the novel to avoid judging individuals with the first meeting or impression and how an individual’s image may be diminished because of wrong judgment.

Darcy also writes a letter to Elizabeth in the 35th chapter of the novel. The letter’s content also acts as a major turning point in the story since the author of the novel has used the letters to highlight past events. Having a clear chronology and understanding of past events in the lives of different characters enables the readers to equally understand the characters in the story effectively. The letter also brings into light the importance of other characters in the story (Kliger). The contents of the letters are also used as plot mechanisms by the writers of the story to capture their reader’s attention. The author of the novel, June Austen, also uses the letter’s content to form a perfect plot device used to understand the different themes in the novel.

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Another significant letter in the novel is the letter by Mrs. Catherine to Darcy. The information in the letter would have a big impact on the relationship Mrs. Catherine has with her nephew. The reader is also able to understand the relationship of the three individuals through the letter. Darcy favors the old lady by replying to Mrs. Catherine’s letter, which helps save the relationship between her and her nephew (Austen). The act also enables Mrs. Catherine to regain hope and regret looking at Darcy from a negative perspective and be a humbled individual because Darcy helped in saving their nephew from a bad marriage and encourage her that she deserved a better spot in the marriage world.

The readers could easily get more information about Mr. Collins’ visit to Bennet. The letters also unmasked more content about Lydia’s elopement, which was a significant event in the story. Darcy’s reputation was also defended by the content of a letter that Mrs. Gardiner wrote. The author of the novel pride and prejudice has used the letter to help readers understand the different themes and the different plot mechanisms adopted in the novel. The letters in the novel have portrayed the author’s prowess in use and understanding of the epistolary literary devices. The main purpose of the letters was also to identify the unique hidden qualities of different characters in the novel.


Austen, Jane, et al. Pride and Prejudice. New York, W.W. Norton And Company, 2016.

Austen, Jane, and Donald Gray. Pride and Prejudice : An Authoritative Text Background and Sources Criticism. New York, W.W. Norton, Cop, 2001.

Kliger, Samuel. “Jane Austen’sPride and Prejudicein the Eighteenth-Century Mode.” University of Toronto Quarterly, vol. 16, no. 4, 1947, pp. 357–370. Web.

Zimmerman, Everett. “Pride and Prejudice in Pride and Prejudice.” Nineteenth-Century Fiction, vol. 23, no. 1968, pp. 64–73. Web.

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