Pride and prejudice Pride and prejudice

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					                                                                                   12 AP English
                             Pride and prejudice
                             Notes and Study Guide

Read the following information as a supplement to the novel, Pride and Prejudice (I
recommend that you read this handout before you read the novel). You should also read
the handout, Tips For A Successful Summer Reading. I expect that a) you will give the
novel a thorough reading, b) you will have evidence of text interaction (notes in your entire
book), and c) you will come to class prepared to begin the deepest level of analysis.

Jane Austen (1775-1817) – Austen was the seventh of eight children of Rev. George
Austen and his wife Cassandra. Her upbringing was modest but loving and she was
particularly close to her only sister (also named Cassandra). She and her sister were
educated to a degree (attending both day and boarding schools at different periods) and
Austen herself was quite well read in both “serious” and popular literature. (Rev. Austen
had an extensive library). Austen never married but remained socially connected and
active throughout her life. She began writing at an early age and much of her “Juvenalia”
later resurfaced in her novels Northanger Abbey, Pride and Prejudice, Sense and
Sensibility, Emma, Mansfield Park, and Persuasion (fun fact: the 1995 film “Clueless” is an
updated version of Emma). Notoriously shy about her writing, Austen is said to have
requested that a creaky door be left un-oiled so that she could hear people approaching the
room and thus hide her writing before they entered. Austen did publish her works during
her lifetime, but her writing did not begin to be fully appreciated until the late 1800s. She
lived her entire life in Southeastern England and wrote only about the sector of society and
the geographical region with which she was familiar because her artistic integrity would not
allow her to write about that which she did not know. She died at 41 after an illness,
leaving her modest estate to her sister Cassandra.

You can read a more detailed biography of Austen at the following web site:


The Regency & Romantic Periods – the Regency Period is technically from
1811-1820 and takes its name from the time that the Prince of Wales (later George IV)
served as Prince Regent for his father, George III, while the king was mentally
incapacitated. (Great contemporary film on George III’s health probs: The Madness of
King George --1994) However, the period is generally acknowledged to extend several
years before and beyond these dates and coincides with the Romantic Period (1780-1830).
Regency literature tends to be light-hearted, comedy-of-manners fiction (Jane Austen to be
sure!), while the Romantic Period in general focuses on the love of nature, love of the
common man, a return to classic ideals, and a fascination with the supernatural (think
Frankenstein). Austen is certainly one of the best-known Regency writers, though others
included Mary Wollstonecraft and Anne Radcliffe. Well-known Romantic writers include
William Wordsworth, Percy Shelley, Mary Shelley, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, John Keats,
Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Henry David Thoreau.
Satire – Austen has remained popular and contemporary (though I am sure some of
you will beg to differ on that point!) due to her skillful satiric style. She deftly captures life
during the Regency Period in her sector of society (upper middle class to upper crust).
Our focus for the novel will be on her use of satire, so I have included a few notes and
questions to help you analyze how Austen uses satire to make her point (themes).

            Elements of satire include irony (verbal, situational, and dramatic), paradox,
            hyperbole, litotes (understatement), repetition, sarcasm, and humor. Make note
            of which elements that Austen employs and to what effect.

            How much – if any – malice is in the criticism? What is its source? (May vary
            with character and subject.)

            Is the bitterness (if any) a result of personal disappointment (does it seem so

            Does the satire seem valid or is the author simply attempting to inflate her ego
            at the expense of human weakness?

            Are the objects of attack worthy of attention?

            What is the attitude expressed through the writing (can change throughout
            novel) – mild? Sympathetic? Detached? Judgmental?

            What is the intention of the author through the piece – to display her own
            superiority? To wake the reader up to the situation? To simply entertain?

Other Information/Points to Ponder

            Elizabeth Bennett is considered one of the most complex and strong female
            characters in literature. However, she is certainly not without flaws. In what
            ways does Austen create a complex, dynamic character in Elizabeth? Is she a
            reliable point of view from which to see the story? Why or why not?

            Where does Austen’s attitude come through most strongly? Consider if she
            voices her opinion/attitude through particular characters, scenes, outcomes, etc.

            The novel, while a classic by many standards, is 196 years old. What is your
            argument for whether or not the novel is still contemporary today? How would
            you defend your argument?

            Certainly, the major characters in the novel have clear functions in Austen’s
            purpose for the work. How does Austen use her minor characters (the Bingley
            sisters, Wickham, Charlotte Lucas, Lady Catherine, etc) as vehicles in the

            What issues are at play in the novel and what are the themes that Austen brings
            out of those issues? **Remember that a theme is a statement or message (a full
            sentence or sentences) NOT one or two words. **