Public and Private in Jane Austen's novel "Pride and Prejudice"
Pride and Prejudice is an English novel written by Jane Austen at the end of the 18th century and published anonymously. Entitled First Impressions at the origin, Pride and Prejudice takes place within the English aristocracy at the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries. It tells the story of a feminine character, Elisabeth, who struggles to free herself from the social codes and prejudices of her time to find love. Public and private are two major focal points that give a structure to the novel. The novel's themes can be interpreted through the public and the private spheres, each contradicting or complementing the other.
[...] The English society was beginning to follow this evolution. Yet, giving too much importance to the private world is not the best solution as one cannot escape from society, especially in the 18th century England. What Jane Austen has tried to show is rather a kind of compromise between the two spheres. This compromise should take the word of meaning that each sphere should coexist equally, without one taking too much importance at the expense of the other. [...]
[...] Public and private are two major focal points that give a structure to the novel. The novel’s themes can be interpreted through the public and the private spheres, each contradicting or complementing the other. The story itself can be divided into two parts, one corresponding to a public vision and the other corresponding to a more private one. So many things present in the novel could be listed into those two major themes. First of all it is important to define those two notions correlating with Jane Austen’s time and with her novel. [...]
[...] Conclusion: On first reading of the novel, it may be said that public and private are two different notions whose contradiction is well expressed in Pride and Prejudice. In coherence to the author’s time, the public sphere gains the upper hand on the private sphere. Nevertheless, Jane Austen gives a positive vision of the private sphere, suggesting that it should rather prevail on the social sphere which is embedded with its decorum and prejudices that hide the real meaning of things. [...]
[...] At the core of the opposition between public and private there is indeed the opposition between superficiality and depth. What is private is what is hidden and corresponds to thoughts and reality, whereas what is public only show appearances, things whose reality is perverted by the social decorum. Jane Austen’s novel followed the transformation that society itself was undergoing at her time. Social decorum let more and more place to privacy and private preoccupation, letting people to act as individuals and no longer as members of a community. [...]