Master of Arts (MA)
First Committee Member
Second Committee Member
Third Committee Member
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Though published a year apart, Jane Austen first wrote Pride and Prejudice (1813) and Mansfield Park (1814) at different points in her literary career, the former more closely tied to her juvenilia, the latter considered one of her “mature” works. Despite the time between drafts, both novels contain the most and second most number of letters, respectively, in all her published novels, along with a similar distribution of letters throughout the narratives. Some scholars regard letters in Austen’s published novels as merely a remnant of her epistolary juvenilia, but Austen’s inclusion of letters in her “mature” work, Mansfield Park, demonstrates letters are important to her stories, and we can understand some of this importance by comparing Pride and Prejudice and Mansfield Park. I argue that in Pride and Prejudice, letters prompt and confirm change. Mr. Darcy’s letter to Elizabeth Bennet is the novel’s turning point, forcing the protagonist to reconsider her first readings of Darcy and George Wickham. Mrs. Gardiner and Mr. Collins’s letters in the third volume further confirm Elizabeth’s new interpretation of herself and these men. In Mansfield Park, however, letters only confirm Fanny Price’s consistent understanding of the Crawfords and her cousins. Mary Crawford and Edmund Bertram’s letters and a newspaper article in the third volume reinforce Fanny’s reading of others. Everyone else must read as Fanny does to succeed in this novel. By considering Austen’s use of letters in Pride and Prejudice and Mansfield Park, we also understand how she helps her audience read the world around them by first instructing them how to read letters in different ways.
Constancy; Epistolary novel; Jane Austen; Rereading
English Language and Literature
University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Maalouf, Renee, ""Till This Moment, I Never Knew Myself": Letters in Pride and Prejudice and Mansfield Park" (2021). UNLV Theses, Dissertations, Professional Papers, and Capstones. 4171.
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