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Advanced English - Mod A Pride and Prejudice Essay

Mod A Essay: Pride and Prejudice + Letters to Alice


An examination of Austens 1813 social satire, Pride and Prejudice and Weldons 1984 epistolary novel Letters to Alice enriches the readers understanding of the effects of contexts and questions of values, by the consideration of their attitudes to marriage and theories about a moral education. Through their texts, they critique and present the views they feel are detrimental to their society and seek to encourage their audience to question their values, leading the reader to a new appreciation of each context and of the texts themselves. Despite the shift in context from the 18th to the 20th Century, the role of marriage for women remains a common connection between the two texts. Women in Georgian England were bound by restrictions such as law of primogeniture to marry. This was considered the only honourable provision for a woman to retract a potential husband, to supply her with stability, and economic continuity. Charlotte holds a pragmatic view on marriage happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance as she marries Mr Collins for the desire of economic security, which places her as a follower of social convention in choosing to marry out of practicality instead of a general similarity of feeling and taste. The ideal relationship Austen believes is a connection that is rationally founded, drawing from the concept founded by Mary Wollstonecraft that marriages are a social contract between two individuals. Austens character foil of Charlotte and Elizabeth allows her readers to reconsider view that women had to marry for money through the union of Elizabeth and Darcy. This marriage is characterised by mutual respect and a balance of reason, rather than mercenary inclinations. Austen presents her audience with an alternative approach on marriage and thus advocates for the independence of thought in women. Weldon reshapes our understanding of Pride and Prejudice by taking a New Historicist approach to evaluate how Austen's work has been influenced by her context. She highlights the harsh realities of the married lives of women in Austens patriarchal society as not rosy, and a husband could beat you, if he saw fit. The statistical evidence of childbirth childbirth was primitivethere was no analgesicsyour chances of dying wereone in two not only extends our knowledge of the social sphere Austen lived in, but also allows Weldon to highlight women in her world are no longer bound by strict social codes to become married and should therefore not take their opportunities to be intelligent and independent for granted. Weldon employs the metaphor of 'breadrolls' to criticise Enid, who is a submissive Angel in The House figure 'who waits upon her husband as a servant upon a master'. The author urges Alice to not be passive like her mother accepting the reality of her marital relationship with her husband, but to recognise 'how lucky' she is to be in a world that permit women to be independent thinkers and to appreciate the stance that women like Emmeline Pankhurst and Germaine Greer have fought for.

Weldon communicates to Alice and her readers that Austen is still relevant today through her reference to the pretty girl from Java who marries the rancher from North Australia elucidating that the marital issues faced by women in Austens times are still prevalent in our modern day context.
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By extending our knowledge of Austen's novel, Weldon not only develop our appreciation for Austen, she is also able to communicate to us that our societal views on marriage aren't that different, despite the change in time. Austen and Weldon are connected by their criticism of a shallow and ineffectual education, using their texts to advocate for a more meaningful and moral education. In the Georgian context, the notion of the accomplished woman was seen as the ideal, a women who had a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing and other crafts. Austen satirises this limited view on what constitutes a good education through the caricature of Mary, who constantly copies out extracts from the books she reads, yet ironically, at times had not the words to add to a discussion. Despite her reputation as a lady of deep reflection due to her study of Fordyces sermons, she has not learnt the capacity to think independently. For Austen, such education is unattainable and ineffectual in educating women to become independent thinkers capable of self reflection as evident in Elizabeths growth in character till this moment, I never knew myself. Weldon reshapes the values of education by connecting the modern woman with those of the Georgian era. She makes a bleak comment to Alice that the value of education in modern day society has become increasingly passive and steadily decreasing in quality you lulled yourself to sleep by visions of violence. She urges Alice to take on the opportunities around her that was not available to women in Austens times bound by social restrictions through the anaphora too privileged, too bright, too prettyto care much what goes on in your society too unread. Weldon uses hyperbolic descriptions to reinforce the value of Literature within society it is the very essence of civilisation. Wide reading outside ones immediate context is crucial, as she recognises that her niece lives in a world in crisisfuture catastrophic, influenced by the cold war and the feminism of the 1970s and 1980s. Weldon uses a didactic tone to convince not only Alice but her responders that these problems require a broader understanding, and experience of new and old ways to shape ones ability to endure them, which can be achieved through exposure to literature of other contexts tounderstand yourselffuturemust have knowledge of the past. Metaphorically, she asks Alice to visit the City of Invention, read the classics such as Jane Austen and learnbetween right and wrong to expand her knowledge of the world. Weldon advocates for women to take advantage of the available education and thereby gain a better understanding of the world so that they can become better contributors to society. Upon reflecting on concerns founded in Austens text P&P, Weldon sheds light on how values and attitudes towards women, marriage and education have evolved over time. The connection between the texts however also reveals that, despite the differing contexts, universal themes of pretence, apathy and sexism are still antagonists of todays time. In acknowledging this, the plight of both authors can be considered parallel as they both seek to inform us of our inherently flawed society, and provide an inspiration picture for the change.

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