Jane episodes in her novels. There is unity

Jane
Austen had written novels like Congreve and Moliere, and follows the tradition
of comedy of manners. There is interlinking of various episodes in her novels.
There is unity of action and concentration in her novels, more particularly in Pride and Prejudice. The side issues and
episodes produce a unified impression and are closely related to the main
thread of the story. She confines her moves to a limited area and describes the
events in the life of few families. Like comedy of manners, her novels also
show reversal of attitudes of the hero and heroines towards each other, e.g. in
Pride and Prejudice we have the
reversals of Darcy and Elizabeth. Elizabeth first meets Darcy at a village
ball. She at once becomes prejudiced against him on account of his haughty
behaviour in general and a remark of his regarding her in particular that she
was not handsome enough to temp him to dance with her. She displays very great
skill in handling events to the deepening of Elizabeth’s prejudice, and to the
awakening of Darcy’s love, inspite of his pride. When the love in Pride and
Prejudice has reached the proper degree of intensity, she brings Elizabeth and
Darcy together at Hunsford Parsonage. There is an arrogant and insulting
proposal of marriage and an indignant refusal. From this scene on to the end of
her story, Jane Austen is at her best. By easy gradations through a process of
disillusioning, Elizabeth’s prejudice vanishes, and with its gradual vanishing
goes on the almost pitiable humiliation of Darcy. The marriage of Elizabeth and
Darcy is not merely a possible solution of the plot, it is as inevitable as the
conclusion of properly constructed geometrical demonstration. For a parallel to
workmanship of this higher order one can look only to Shakespeare, to such a
comedy as Much Ado about Nothing. 

Walter
Allen says, “Both character and action are presented through short sentences
and scenes in dialogue”. The scenes come rapidly and the character and action
are developed and the dialogues reveal the character. The clash between Lady Catherine
and Elizabeth has dramatic significance. Jane Austen has used the soliloquies
like Shakespeare in her novels. The soliloquy of Elizabeth on receipt of
Darcy’s letter is a good instance of self-analysis. Needless to mention that
the genius of Jane Austen is essentially dramatic. Her novels read like
comedies and can be staged well if produced before an audience in a theatre.
Baker states, “She knew her Shakespeare well, as is obvious to the critical
reader”. Her genius was essentially dramatic. She is nearer akin to Congreave
and Moliere than to Fanny Burney and Maria Edgeworth, who could depict
characters and contrive plots and scenes to show off idiosyncrasies, but only
carried a few brilliant raids into the territory of the comedy of manners. She
was dramatic in a deeper and truer sense. Character and action are inseparable
in the work of the true dramatist, whether it be staged in a novel or designed
for the platform of a theatre. She was a dramatist nevertheless sometimes in
the actual manner of the stage. Her pointed dialogue, the ironical situation in
which the characters would have conducted themselves so much more wisely, and
the scenes in which the character would have only been aware of what is patent
to the reader, and the scenes in which pretences and delusions are stripped
away, the table turned on humbug and folly, and the rights of common sense
re-established, are theatrical as well as dramatic. But take merely not the dramatic
episodes but the wholes. In every novel, wills are set in motion, something
important results, ignominy. When the goal is reached, they see themselves as
they are, not only this, they are changed by what they have gone through; they
have been brought up against realities. Something fundamental has happened
within them. Maraine Dashwood and Elizabeth Bennet in the first, Emma Woodhouse
and Anne Eliot in the last of her novels are not the same at the ends as at the
beginning. That is what Drama always does, whether tragic or comic. Jane Austen
chose to write what is essentially comedy; she quailed at tragedy. Let other
pens dwell on guilt and misery. “I quit such odious subjects as soon as I can,”
she wrote in an oft-quoted passage in Mansfield
Park.

Pride and Prejudice is a dramatic novel
both in spirit and form. It deals with only one complexity of life, that is,
love. The area of action is limited. The characters help in the development of
the plot, and are endowed with certain qualities which determine the action.
The novel is a comedy of manners as well as of errors. Both Darcy and Elizabeth
misunderstand each other: their pride and prejudice are removed, and the novel
ends like a comedy on a happy note. The skill of Jane Austen becomes more dramatic
when she gradually removes the clash of Pride and Prejudice from the hearts of
Darcy and Elizabeth respectively and brings them close to each other. To match
her making delicate stroke after stroke is a most delightful and engrossing
pastime. What she has set out to do, she has done it with consummate ease. The
ease of the plot does prove that it is carefully constructed like that of a
drama. It has an introduction, complication, climax resolution and catastrophe.
Also Mr. Collins is introduced like a comic figure; the scene is confined to a
narrow area, to a low middle-class society; parents’ concern for the marriage
of their children and the love-affairs or marriage prospects of these children.
The main plots and subplot is interlinked. Wickham as villain gives a touch of
melodrama to the novel. The comic proposals of Mr. Collins give dramatic
relief. The episodes and action are fused to effect unity. Moreover, the novel
is a drama in five acts with exposition and denouement. It has an introduction,
complication, climax, resolution and catastrophe. Baker has pointed out that
both the theme and the plot-structure of Pride
and Prejudice are remarkably dramatic.