Central Values Portrayed in Pride and Prejudice Are Creatively Reshaped Essay

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Fay Weldon’s epistolic non-fiction text, Letters to Alice on First Reading Jane Austen, serves to provoke readers to revaluate and reshape their initial understandings and acceptance of the central values presented in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Weldon’s didactic tone provides contextualisation of Austen’s Regency period enhancing, subverting, challenging and reinforcing the responders understanding of values imbedded within marriage, literature and moral and personal development. Through Pride and Prejudice Austen challenges the Regency notion of marriage as a means of attaining financial security and increased social status. The contrasting view on marriage between the pragmatic approach of Charlotte Lucas is emblematic of the traditional convention that “happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance.” This typifies the traditional ideology, juxtaposing it against Austen’s personal value of love in marriage as portrayed through the emotionalist approach of Elizabeth, “nothing but the deepest of love will induce me onto matrimony.” The emphasis on the use of ‘deepest’ serves as a metaphor of Austen’s value that love must develop over time and must be established before marriage, challenging the conventional approach, resonating with the contemporary responder of the 21st century. Weldon contextualises Austen’s world, positioning the contemporary reader to sympathise with the plight of women regards to marriage during the regency period. Weldon creatively reshapes the contemporary responders understanding and appreciation of the value of love in Pride and Prejudice. Weldon informs the responder of employment opportunities in Austen’s time, “a chimney sweep…a butcher….or a prostitute…or you could marry.” The listing of these grim opportunities along with the dichotomy of statistic heightens the responder’s attitude of the social benefits of marriage.

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