In a continuous essay of not more than 1000 words, analyse this passage, discussing the ways in which narrative voice and dialogue are used (From Pride and Prejudice, volume III, chapter ix by Jane Austen).
Throughout "Pride and Prejudice", Jane Austen uses a limited omniscient (third person) point of view, focalized through the character of Elizabeth Bennett. The novel is written with a tone of genteel informality that clearly echoes Elizabeth's intelligent wit and deliciously ironic take on the mores the day, and never more so than in the opening sentence; "It is a truth universally acknowledged... etc.". We are never made particularly aware of the presence of the narrator, as s/he remains remote from the action, however, this use of third person narration allows the reader access to both external and internal events; often within the same passage.
The extract under analysis begins with a short monologue; in which Lydia, in a typically immature, gossipy tone, imparts to her sisters the events of her stay with the Gardiners in London. Lydia's speech could almost be described as "stream of consciousness as it flutters from thought to thought with only a few pauses. This dramatic use of direct speech is a device commonly used to provoke a response from the reader, and certainly succeeds in this case. The passage leaves us with a strong feeling of irritation at Lydia's absolute lack of shame.
Austen imbues Lydia's words with all the selfishness of spoiled youth. Lydia's character is shown through her actions, words and deeds until the reader is left in no doubt of the unreliability of her character. In fact, Lydia's general attitude and character is so well expressed in this dialogue that the author need make no use of any other narrative form; i.e. telling.
Lydia's unreliability is at its strongest she drops the bombshell of Darcy's presence at her wedding. She shows no remorse at having let slip such a potentially devastating secret, "But gracious me! I quite forgot! ... It was to be such a secret!", and seems to know exactly what she has done. Indeed, she seems intent on revealing everything she knows, "... I should certainly tell you all, and then Wickham would be angry", and is quite disappointed when her sisters do not press her further but seem, instead, to be disapproving.
The remainder of the extract is narrated directly through character focalization and we are allowed to view the events through the eyes, thoughts, and written words of Elizabeth herself.
Elizabeth's "utter amazement" and "burning [with] curiosity" is directly narrated to the reader, as we see no evidence of her reaction beyond her need to "put it out of her power by running away" before she can ask Lydia to further reveal her secret. Austen allows the narrator to tell her readers how Elizabeth feels rather than showing us her desire in action. This narrative device has the advantage of clarity and economy, thus moving the story along at a faster pace,...