“Romantic fiction often portrays characters in terms of their capacity for change. ” Pride and Prejudice presents themes of marriage, love and status in society. In the 19th century, people had a tendency to marry because of financial benefits. Austen uses sarcastic wit both as a narrator, Elizabeth, her protagonist’s voice and the centre of consciousness to attack the ideas of marriage and love that her society held in her time. She saw that for marriages and relationships to be happy, society must overcome pride and prejudice and marry for true love. The book is told in a linear structure.
Each volume shows stages in Elizabeth’s growth towards a true understanding of Mr Darcy, and how her opinion of him changes. Darcy displays that he has lost sense of pride in chapter 58 and shows that acknowledges he was wrong to Elizabeth openly. “Much as I respect them, I believe I thought only of you” shows that he is devoted to Elizabeth. Darcy explains how Elizabeth helped him to change and taught him to be a gentleman. “your words. You know not, you can scarcely conceive, how they have tortured me” displays how important he considers her opinion to be.
The thought that Elizabeth believes him “devoid of every proper feeling” deeply affects him as Darcy realised that he must change his ways to marry the person who he both loves and respects. In chapter 58, Darcy uses commas and hyphens frequently and seems unsure of the words to use in front of Elizabeth by using short sentences and repeating “you”. The use of hyphens suggests that he thinking more between sentences. This is especially significant as in chapter 4, “his manners, though well-bred, were not inviting. His vocabulary is formal previously in the book and is not as emotive, so his character has changes throughout the volumes. I think that Darcy was always kind and generous, but he was too conceited, introverted and perhaps too shy to show it. I think that it was his attitude which changed, not his whole nature. Elizabeth taught him that there are more important things than money and social classes, and that he must overcome his pride to secure her love. Elizabeth first seems to be aware of Darcy’s capacity to change when she visits Pemberly.
Elizabeth is surprised that “he was always the sweetest-tempered most generous-hearted boy in the world. ” This is obviously a drastic change from the “disagreeable, horrid man” in chapter 3. Elizabeth can see how much he has changed already since his childhood, and that perhaps he is capable of changing again for her. In chapter 9, Elizabeth says, “people themselves alter so much, that there is something new to be observed in them for ever”, suggesting that as she is observant, she can see people’s true characters. This is false and ironic as she misjudges Wickham and Darcy.
Towards the end of the book Elizabeth realises that she has been “blind, partial, prejudiced, and absurd. ” Elizabeth “immediately, though not very fluently, gave him to understand that her sentiments had undergone so material a change”, which shows that she is not fluent and unaffected by Darcy, as he is not for her. They both seem to have similar lexical fields, and seem compatible in their humour, opinions and characteristics. Austen shows that both characters are unaffected by the external problems, such as status affecting their love. Instead, they had to overcome their internal issues of pride and prejudice.
The motif of journeys changes chronologically with Elizabeth’s opinion of Mr Darcy. Elizabeth walks 3 miles “in such dirty weather, and by herself” in chapter 7. Her independence grows when she travels 24 miles with her Aunt and Uncle in chapter 27. This is metaphorical, as her psychological state and opinions are changing, and the journey to Pemberly foreshadows events later in the book. Jane changes very little in the novel as when she talks about Miss Bingley, she says “as if she wanted to persuade herself that he was really partial to Miss Darcy.
I cannot understand why…” Jane is being naive, not sarcastic in this statement. In chapter 60, Jane “could not help writing a much kinder letter than she knew was deserved. ” Jane changes a little, as she “was not deceived,” but still aims to see the best in people. Some say that Bingley and Jane had external problems regarding their love, and it was beyond their control. However, if it was not for Bingley’s internal insecurities, he would not have cared for his friend’s opinion and trusted his own instincts.
Bingley and Jane did not change their ways, and would not have been together if Darcy did not change his view. Pride and Prejudice’s less admirable characters express and hold on to classist attitudes. Austen relates to caricatures that have darker endings towards the end of the book, who seem to be incapable of changing. In chapter 61, Lady Catherine visits “in spite of that pollution”, and is “extremely indignant”. She finds Elizabeth unacceptable as a bride for her nephew due to her low connections, proving that she will never be able to overcome her pride.
The “Right Honourable Lady Catherine de Bourgh, widow of Sir Lewis de Bourgh” insists on using formal titles making her seem snobbish and pompous. It is this rigid belief of self-importance which gives her no capacity for change. Charlotte Gilman wrote The Yellow Wallpaper in 1899 and, like Austen, aims to deliver a key message to the society around her in her gothic short story. Although The Yellow Wallpaper is not strictly a romantic story, it has themes of marriage. It shows how the narrator goes insane as a result of the people in the story being unable to change.
Some people may say that it is the narrator’s fault that the narrator goes insane. The narrator continues to dutifully bow to her husband’s wishes, even though she is unhappy and depressed. Her husband has adopted the idea that she must have complete rest if she is to recover. “So I am absolutely forbidden to work until I am well again” and “but John says if I feel so” confirms that patriarchy is playing a key role in the narrator’s life. However, society in this era did not respect women’s views, especially if they are considered to be depressed.
Therefore, the speaker would have had difficulty to resist the views of her husband, and would have difficulty changing. In addition to this, we are aware that the speaker is an unreliable narrator, so her psychological state is also likely to be more unstable. The narrator’s mood and vocabulary also becomes increasingly irrational as the story progresses, which adds to the idea of her being unreliable. John is unable to see that his wife is ill, as he says “You know this place is doing you good”. He is unable to change from his stubborn view that he knows what is best for his wife.
Consequently, he faints. Maybe romantic fiction requires central characters to change to result in a happy ending. Jane Austen’s more admirable and often major characters either avoid judging people based on their class or overcome the tendency to do so. At the beginning, Elizabeth neither admires Darcy and Lady Catherine due to their higher class or holds Wickham’s lower class against him; Darcy at first resists his feelings for Elizabeth due to her low connections but changes his classist prejudices which is one of the changes that drives the entire story.
In opposition to this, in The Yellow Wallpaper, the characters have no capacity for change, which results in an unhappy ending. In conclusion, I think that to sustain a reader’s interest, it is the capacity that each character changes which is a key issue. Characters that are flexible, self-evaluate and develop seem to have more beneficial endings. Those with rigid beliefs like John and Lady Catherine have more unfortunate endings.