Describe the use of narrative voice and dialogue, in the passage from Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen, Volume I, Chapter 17.

Essay by miss_gennyvieveUniversity, Bachelor'sB+, February 2009

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Pride and Prejudice, like most Jane Austen novels, is well known for the distinctive and often ironic voice of the narrator. In the passage where Elizabeth returns to Longbourn and relates the story of Mr Wickham’s apparent betrayal at the hands of Mr Darcy, the narrative voice is used to convey a variety of information about the characters and their feelings about the situation. The dialogue between Elizabeth and her sister Jane intertwines with this narrative voice to produce a complex and interesting episode.

The passage starts with the voice of the narrator, it speaks of Jane listening and then the narrator seems to move inside Jane’s thoughts. In doing so the vocabulary and intonation of the narrators speech picks up an essence of Jane’s, ‘enough to interest all her tender feelings’. This focalization of the narrative voice helps the reader to feel more connected to Jane and also to further her character and personal ‘voice’ within the novel.

As the narrative continues, the feeling of Jane seems to diffuse and a certain amount of irony creeps into the narrators voice, ‘nothing therefore remained to be done, but to think well of them both’ this seems obviously quite ridiculous and overly sentimental and in some ways seems reminiscent of the way Elizabeth might gently mock Jane, as she does in the third paragraph ‘Do we clear them too, or we shall be obliged to think ill of somebody’. This free indirect speech helps to create a balance between the two sisters, as the narrator uses the words of one yet the tone of the other. The reader also begins to feel the close bond between the two sisters as the narrator merges their two distinct personalities and voices through its own. This assimilation of the characters within the story...