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Minding Other People’s Business in Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Minding Other People’s Business in Pride and Prejudice

In her novel, Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen prominently presents interference in many guises. In fact, meddling is the dominant action that propels the plot. Incidents of meddling starkly portray many of the social and economic realities in Austen’s world, realities quite different from our own. Yet, in portraying motivations from the selfish to the altruistic, Austen also uses interference as a litmus test of the intelligence and integrity of her characters – qualities valued equally in her time and our own.

Mrs. Bennet’s role as an interfering mother is established from the opening scene. She declares that she is thinking of their new neighbor, Mr. Bingley, as a prospective husband for one of her five daughters.In her view, Mr. Bennet must pay his respects and establish an acquaintance with the wealthy and promising young man. We find it hilarious when she insists that her daughter Jane visit Mr. Bingley and his sisters on horseback, in the hope that the threatening weather will force her to spend the night at their Netherfield home.When Jane gets soaked and falls ill, we are amazed to find that Mrs. Bennet is thrilled. She maneuvers to make Jane stay on as long as possible, even refusing to send a carriage to fetch her home. Mrs. Bennet is a determined meddler. We are told, “The business of her life was to get her daughters married” (5).

Austen reinforces this point in Mrs. Bennet’s subsequent dealings with daughters Elizabeth and Lydia. It would be preferable to sacrifice Elizabeth to the ridiculous Mr. Collins and Lydia to the ignoble Mr. Wickham rather than see them unmarried. She interferes out of pride. But she also does so out …

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…ovel’s final sentence acknowledges that the well-meaning interference of the Gardiners is responsible for “uniting” Elizabeth and Darcy (388). Austen’s message is clear: interference is permissible, desirable and successful – when it is “kindly meant.”

Works Cited:

Auerbach, Nina. “Waiting Together: Pride and Prejudice.” Pride and Prejudice. By Jane Austen. Ed. Donald Gray. New York: Norton and Co., 1993. pp. 336-348.

Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. Ed. R. W. Chapman. 3rd ed. Oxford: OUP, 1933-1969.

Harding, D. W. “Regulated Hatred: An Aspect in the Work of Jane Austen.” Pride and Prejudice. By Jane Austen. Ed. Donald Gray. New York: Norton and Co., 1993. pp. 291-295.

Johnson, Claudia L. “Pride and Prejudice and the Pursuit of Happiness.” Pride and Prejudice. By Jane Austen. Ed. Donald Gray. New York: Norton and Co., 1993. pp. 367-376.

The Conquest in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness

Conquest in Heart of Darkness

“ The conquest of the earth, which mostly means the taking it away from those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look into it too much.” (Conrad 65) So stated Marlow as though this was his justification for ravaging the Congo in his search for ivory. Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness shows the disparity between the European ideal of civilization and the reality of it as is evidenced by the domination, torture, exploitation and dehumanization of the African population. Heart of Darkness is indicative of the evil and greed in humanity as personified by Kurtz and Marlow.

These emissaries of light are shown to be crude, sordid and violent. They had no regard for the destruction of Africa’s natural environment, wantonly destroying hills in a feeble attempt to establish a railway, “No change appeared on the face of the rock….the cliff was not in the way or anything; but this objectless blasting was all the work going on.” (Conrad 76) This statement reveals the real motive for venturing into the Congo which was not to bring a better, more civilized lifestyle to the poor, underprivileged Africans; but to satisfy their lust for power. “It was just robbery with violence, aggravated murder on a great scale, and men going at it blind – as is very proper for those who tackle a darkness.” (Conrad 65)

Just as Victor Frankenstein in the novel Frankenstein created a monster that was a manifestation of his inner turmoil and demons, so too Kurtz and Marlow’s journey into Africa is an unveiling of their inner darkness which we are all afraid to face. Like Grenouille, in Perfume and Victor Frankenstein, Kurtz sought power, adoration and godlike status both among his European counterparts and the native Africans. Just as Grenouille bottled and collected special fragrances so too Kurtz collected human heads displaying them around his hut as trophies. Kurtz’s journey into Africa, as well as his inner journey, can be likened to Grenouille’s hibernation in the cave for seven years or Victor’s search for his monster across the icy slopes. During this period each individual underwent a transformation and a realization of the horrors they have created.

Kurtz’s final words “The horror! The horror!” are comparable to Victor fleeing the scene when faced with the manifestation of his handiwork.

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