Jane Austen’s book Pride and Prejudice highlights diverse issues that were affecting the society at her time. She focuses on families, marriage, and wealth. She uses satire to criticize some of the characters as well as the society. Geoffrey Chaucer in the prologue of the Canterbury tales takes the time to introduce the readers to all the pilgrims. He satirizes the hypocrisy of the church, as some of the clergy members seem to have forgotten their responsibilities in their pursuit and quest for selfish gains. Austen and Chaucer note the prevailing societal divisions during their time, and by using satire, they can highlight the weaknesses of different people, and this is made stronger by their use of direct and indirect characterization.
Austen uses satire to attack the social classes that were present during her time. People of high nobility considered themselves better and more superior than the rest of the society. Austen criticizes a society that was bent on maintaining social status and class and sexism. Mrs. Bennet preoccupation in life seems to be marrying off her daughters. Bingley almost misses the chance of marrying Jane because some people think that taking such an action would be beneath a man of his status. Bingley’s sister, Caroline has such an opinion. As Elizabeth tells Jane, they as a family are not “rich enough or grand enough for them” (Austen 72). Chaucer uses satire to highlight the weaknesses of the society. Contrary to the expectations of most people, the clergy is represented as corrupt, and its members are only interested in making their own profits. The monk is satirized as a person who is more into the worldly affairs than in religious matters. “The rule of good St. Benet or St Maur/ As old and strict he tended to ignore/ He let go by the things of yesterday” (Chaucer 177-179)
Austen uses both direct and indirect characterization. She describes Mrs. Bennet as “A woman of mean understanding, little information, and uncertain temper…who fancied herself nervous” (Austen 4). She was not content in life, and she was determined to get her daughters married. Throughout the story, Mrs. Bennet lives up to this character as she demonstrates her lack of intelligence on diverse issues. She shows a clear lack of foresight in the way she perceives things. She gets nervous and irritated at simple matter to the extent that she cannot stand it when Kitty coughs. Chaucer uses direct characterization to represent the personalities of the different characters although he does so in an indirect way. For instance, when describing the character of the monk he states, “He says that he liked fat swan best, and roasted whole/His palfrey was as brown as is a berry” (Chaucer 210-211). These descriptions present the monk as a greedy character whose interest seems to be satisfying his immediate needs.
Social class was important, and people treated each other based on their status. Caroline does not think that Jane is suitable to marry her brother because she belongs to a lower class. Mr. Bennet points out that Lydia’s social class will be her limitation when she goes to Brighton. He tells the others, “she is luckily too poor to be an object of prey to anybody” (Austen 135). Chaucer acknowledges the existence of such divisions. However, this does not mean that the people follow the strict guidelines. For instance, although the clergy understands its role in guiding the people towards God’s truth and living a life of self-sacrifice, the monk and the friar seem to live by different standards. The friar accepts gifts even though he has sworn to live a life of poverty. “Therefore, instead of weeping and of prayer/One should give silver for a poor Friar’s care” (Chaucer 235-236). Likewise, Jane and her sister Elizabeth end up getting married to Bingley and Darcy even though they do not belong to the same social class.
represented in both books, and it aims at showing the weaknesses and hypocrisy
of different characters and of the society. In both cases, the authors have
used direct and indirect characterization and this has enabled the readers to
understand the characters in a deeper way. Both authors have identified the
existing divisions within the society. However, they also note that people do
not necessarily stay within their status and they do what seems most suitable
Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. Ed. Widger, David. Project Gutenberg EBook, 2011.
Chaucer, Geoffrey. “The Prologue.” The Canterbury Tales. Ed. Applebee Arthur N. et al. Evanston, IL: McDougal Littell, 2002. Print
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