The ideas conveyed by Jane Austin in Pride and Prejudice and Fay Weldon in Letters to Alice on first reading Jane Austin conflict with and challenge the values of their contemporary society and serve to offer moral perspectives opposing to those of their respective societies. Connections can be made between the role of the writer and their purpose In both texts and, particularly through consideration of Welder’s conceptualization and form, the reader’s perspective of both texts Is reshaped and enhanced.
Furthermore, Weldon perceives and forges a connection with Austin to illustrate both authors’ didactic purposes and allows the reader to re-evaluate the form and purpose of Pride and Prejudice against Welder’s feminist and postmodern context. In Pride and Prejudice, Austin criticizes the education of women in 19th century England which extols the virtues of “the accomplished woman” and good wife. She elevates moral development and gender equality, as part of her didactic purpose, influenced by feminist Mary Woolgathering’s, A Vindication of the Rights of Women, “l do earnestly wish to see the distinction of sex confounded in society…
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For his distinction Is, I am firmly persuaded, the foundation of weakness of character ascribed to women” and through her characterization and caricature of Caroline Bentley who epitomizes the distinction of sex In society, Austin portrays the absurdity of the value placed on accomplishments as Caroline asserts, “OLL certainly,” cried his faithful assistant, “no one can be really esteemed accomplished, who does not greatly surpass what is usually met with! ” highlighting her high self-regard. This is then ironically devalued in Student’s authorial intrusion that she is Dairy’s “faithful assistant”.
This serves to devalue accomplishments as a form of education and as an extension, society strict distinction of gender and status which Austin challenges through Elizabeth Bennett. In the absence of the “good” education that Caroline has been afforded, Elizabeth is unconfined by conventional values inculcated in Caroline and instead Is able to morally develop and reflects that she had grown “absolutely ashamed of herself… Feeling that she had been blind, partial, prejudiced, absurd” This enables Elizabeth happiness with Mr. Dared.
Austin expresses through Elizabeth her belief that women are capable of rational thought and moral development and through Caroline Bentley that women are confined by and simply emulate “feminine” qualities as ascribed to them by society and uses. In Letters to Alice, Fay Weldon considers a postmodern audience, particularly during the feminist backlash, and in doing so, illuminates Student’s didactic purpose and radicalism, furthering Student’s argument for the capability and rationality of women.
Welder’s didactic address to and patronizing of Alice, reflects her broader condemnation of he conservative feminist backlash which disregards the advances made by feminist literature and activism. She highlights the pivotal role of men in the education of women In Student’s society, informing Alice that, “The father was to see that it got an education. ” She contrasts this confining nature of Student’s paternalistic society with the elevated role of the Individual who holds the right and ability to an education or to “… Ray an American university” to emphasis the shift In values and attitudes between contexts regarding educational expectations for women. By contrasting the scribed to women by both contexts, Weldon enhances the reader’s understanding of Student’s purpose to challenge the role and image of women. Weldon is highly critical of institutionalized education within her own context and instead advocates the literary canon as a source of moral education.
She makes the generalization that, “During Jane Student’s lifetime, attitudes changed significantly… Why, you ask? More novels and better novels read by more people in the opinion forming ranks of society’. In suggesting that “literature with a capital ‘L” such as Student’s is a vehicle or social upheaval and change, she dismisses the common criticism that Student’s work is parochial. Welder’s elevation of the canon undermines a key element of postmodernism – the coalescing of high culture and low culture.
This contextually conservative elevation of the canon and Welder’s strong didactics (furthered by the absence of Lice’s responses) which contradict her postmodern form serves to provoke the reader into questioning the authority of the author. At the same time Weldon playfully demonstrates the power of literature to invoke moral thought in the deader through her own writing. In Pride and Prejudice Austin attempts to change the status and role of the novel as restricted to the Cult of Sensibility and instead illustrates through her form, the capacity of women for rational and moral thought.
Through the character of Mr. Collins, she satirists society’s low opinion of the novel. Student’s authorial intrusion that, “Mr. Collins was not a sensible man” serves to manipulate the reader’s proceeding perception of him. Encapsulating the status of the novel in 19th century England, Austin writes, “A book was produced, but on eliding it (for everything announced it to be from a circulating library,) he started back and protested he never read novels. Her caricature of Mr. Collins’ aversion to novels serves to reflect Student’s belief that there seemed “a general wish of decrying the capacity and undervaluing the labor of the novelist. ” However it is through Pride and Prejudice that Austin demonstrates her own ability as a novelist to give profound insight into a well-established society and challenge inculcated values and conventions which undermine the role of women and novels. Weldon conceptualizes Student’s position as a writer in Letters to Alice and draws the reader’s attention to her radical manipulation of convention form to explore subversive content.
She recalls to Alice that, “when people came into the room, she covered her work and put it aside. ” Student’s actions as recounted by Weldon are emblematic of the situation of the woman writer as, “the reading of a novel, let alone the writing of one was seen as frivolous at best and immoral at worst. ” Weldon highlights the unconventional nature f Student’s occupation and furthermore her radical content which aligns her with feminists such as Weldon, in that, “She struggled to perceive and describe the flow of beliefs that typified her time”.
In revealing the tension between the values of Austin and her society Weldon writes self-reflexively in order to align herself with Austin and emphasis the revolutionary nature of Pride and Prejudice as a comment on the confinement of gender distinction. Fay Welder’s elevation of Austin and her writing reflects the importance Weldon places on literature and its historical role in the voltmeter of contemporary literature. She condemns Lice’s “general amiable illiteracy’ as it disregards “the very essence of civilization”.
Weldon ascribes an historical and social significance to literature that implies a debt to literature with a Pride and Prejudice: First Impressions and Student’s letters to her niece, Fanny, which enhances the connection Weldon perceives and expresses in her own text. Weldon employs this connection to affirm and serve her purpose in defining Pride and Prejudice and the canon as a source of moral instruction which ultimately shapes our anthropometry society.
Welder’s strong situation of herself in Letters to Alice on first reading Jane Austin with Jane Austin draws the reader’s attention to the connections and contrasts of purpose, context and values between her own text and Pride and Prejudice such that we may re-evaluate and form a new understanding of the texts. 30th authors challenge aspects of their societal constructs and identify with other ‘observable truths” and in reading both texts, our interpretation is altered, enhanced and broadened.