Pride and Prejudice I

5.7 Romance, anti-romance and courtship

Pride and Prejudice is about finding love and achieving a marriage, as are most of Austen’s novels, but we have touched on the idea that this is not all the novels are about. To what extent is Pride and Prejudice a romantic novel?

Discussion activity: Romantic fiction

Read Vol. I, Chapter XXII, pp. 93–7 of Pride and Prejudice, in which we learn that Charlotte Lucas has accepted Mr Collins’s proposal of marriage. Does the narrative voice prompt the reader to an opinion? If so, is that opinion different from Charlotte’s rationale or Elizabeth’s response?

Post your thoughts to the Pride and Prejudice I forum, and respond to colleagues’ thoughts.

In a ‘courtship ordeal’ novel, the goal and likely denouement is acknowledgement of mutual love, and marriage. The plot concerns all the obstacles and difficulties that must be overcome by the central protagonists before reaching that goal. Conventionally, before the twentieth century, the narrative would be seen through the eyes of the woman, but the man would be the more active in the pursuit.

We would expect a work of romantic fiction (NB: this is different from Romantic literature) to promote ideas such as ‘love conquers all’; ‘one should only marry for love’; ‘everyone has a soul-mate’; ‘love is for ever’; and ‘lovers should think each other perfect’. We might also expect a work of romantic fiction to have idealised and even stereotyped heroes and heroines, and to have scanty sub-plots and perhaps two-dimensional secondary characters.

Individual activity: Activity and passivity

How active or how passive are the various Austen heroines in the courtship ordeal? Does the man or the woman face the greater number or more difficult obstacles, and is the man or the woman more active in promoting the final union? Are some heroes more active than others? How much is left to chance? Put some thoughts on your Blog.

Discussion activity: Romance or anti-romance?

Post some ideas on the Pride and Prejudice I forum about whether you believe Austen’s fiction could most properly be called romance, anti-romance or neither, and respond to others’ posts. Hint: this might be useful for later work!