Characterization is considered to be the heart of a writer because characterization provides life and vigor to the entire work. If we had to take one writer who presumably attained mastery in the portrayal of characters like the great William Shakespeare, Jane Austen’s name can be named without any doubt and her 1813 novel “Pride and Prejudice” is the dominant example of that.
Austen delineates everyday characters as lively and moving as if they were taken from her life. Her characters unveil their nature and psyche through their dialogues and actions and the reader’s job is to conceive what kind of individuals they are.
Austen’s characters are never repeated
Austen never repeats her characters. The characters Mr. Collins of “Pride and Prejudice” and Mr. Elton of “Emma” are similar. They are both arrogant. Yet Austen presents them in a completely different way. Similarly, the vulgarity of Mrs. Bennet is distinct from the vulgarity of ‘Sense and Sensibility’s Mrs. Jennings. Austen has beautifully distinguished her characters from each other. Her characters depict a specific class but simultaneously they do not leave behind their distinct identity. For instance, Pride and Prejudice’s character Mr. Wickham exemplifies all charming soldiers but simultaneously he is also a self-centered person.
Read More: Romanticism in English Literature
Characters reveal themselves in Jane Austen’s novels
Austen discloses the characteristics of her characters by way of their activities, talks or discussions, and private letters. In “Pride and Prejudice”, Austen reveals some characters like Lydia, Wickham, and Darcy by way of their actions and activities. On the other hand, she reveals Mr. Collins by way of his letters. Most of the time, Austen passes straight comments to disclose her characters but the foundation has been set down before. Austen directly remarks about Mr. Collins’s lack of sensibility but readers already knew about that through his letters.
Read more: Preface to Lyrical Ballads summary
Contrast and Comparison of characters in Jane Austen’s novels
Jane Austen also presents her characters by way of comparison and contrast. For example, Mrs. Bennet and Lady Catherine are different from each other, in the same way, Darcy and Wickham too. While Austen set Jane and Elizabeth side by side to show their differences and likeness.
Austen’s use of dialogues:
Most of Austen’s characters liven up by their dialogues because the voice that narrates the story is subordinate to the voice of her novel’s characters. In her novels, lengthy, clumsy dialogues are rare as are elaborate physical illustrations. In place of all these, Austen uses the brisk, lively, witty dialogues. The way the characters talk to each other from that a reader can know about their nature and behaviors. For example, Mr. Bennet’s indifferent behavior uncovers from his dry wit, in the same way Mrs.Bennet’s emotional surplus comes out from every dialogue she passes.
Austen’s dialogue generally works to show the negative sides of her characters – Miss Bingley’s malicious, arrogant manners are easily evident in her dialogues. In the same way, dialogues also hide wicked aspects of character. For example, Wickham conceals his deceptive heart below the clatter of pleasing, playful banter and he is able to deceive Elizabeth with his well ordered tongue even if his elegance and looks aids as well.
Finally we can say that fine conversational capability and attractive personality appear side by side. In Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” Darcy and Elizabeth are the finest conversationalists in comparison to all the characters in the novel.
Flat and Round characters in Jane Austen’s novels
Jane Austen’s main characters are round and, at the same time, her minor characters are flat. Flat characters are those characters that do not have complexity and are mostly shallow or one-dimensional. For example, Mrs. Bennet of “Pride and Prejudice”. Mrs. Bennet remains dull, vulgar, and showy from beginning to the end of the novel. On the other hand, round characters are those characters that change and develop over time in the story. For example, Elizabeth and Darcy. As the novel progresses they develop, evolve, and mature. Jane is also one such character who goes through an emotional turn in the novel.
Realistic portrayal of her characters
Austen points out certain Victorian manners distinctive of the age in which she worked: the obsession with social status, call for honor and prestige, treating marriage as a way to achieve material wealth, and the duality of society. Austen also delineates female characters by their weaknesses. They were treated like worldly goods and were half-educated. For example, Charlotte Lucas who undoubtedly want to marry Mr. Collins due to the fact that this marriage will bring along some sort of solidity, certainty and property. While at the same time, she states that she finds Mr. Collins “tolerable”.
Most of the characters of Jane Austen are authentic and life-like. By looking at her characters, it seems that they derived from our own society. Their conduct and approach are quite normal. She observes her characters very affectionately. Austen’s characters have a mixture of honesty and dishonesty, virtue and evil, and integrity and worthlessness. They are congenial along with distasteful. For example, Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice is an intelligent and sensible character but her intelligence and understanding are tainted by her early prejudices. In the same way, Wickham is a charming character but at the same time, he is also selfish.
Jane Austen’s characterization did not have only positive features, but her art of characterization also had a few shortcomings. Undoubtedly, many of her characters are not authentic and life-like. Marry Bennet from “Pride and Prejudice” is not able to influence us and is not essential to the story. Additionally, Margaret in “Sense and Sensibility ” does not ever come into being. But these minor characters cannot stop us from labeling Jane Austen as one of the finest delineators of characters. So we can conclude by saying that her characters are thoughtfully organized and coherently put together.
- Transcendentalism | Definition | Characteristics
- Okonkwo character traits or personality
- Seamus Heaney as a modern poet
- The Glass Menagerie as a memory play
- Seamus Heaney’s poetic or writing style