The Importance of Letters in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice
To reveal how useful the letters are in ‘Pride and Prejudice’, we need
to look at the history behind letter writing. Jane Austen’s novel,
‘Pride and Prejudice’ was written in 1813. The main form of
communication then was by letters. However, they did not have a
Central Postal system that we have today, where if you want to send a
letter or parcel urgently then it could arrive within a few hours,
instead they had their mail sent by Mail Coach. Although, you could
send the mail by ‘express’, which was where you would pay an extra
amount of money to have your mail sent faster, for example Mr
Gardiner’s letter in chapter 44 was sent by express.
There were no separate envelopes so letters were folded and the
address would be written on the back, often they would seal it using
wax. If the letter was private then the writer may have made an
envelope which would be made from simply folding paper. In chapter 35
Darcy makes an envelope for his letter to Elizabeth because it is so
long. Paper would have been extremely expensive in Jane Austen’s time,
so to save paper the writer would write in the margins making sure
they used up every space upon the paper. The letters would have been
written using a pen made from a quill feather, which would have been
sharpened to a point and dipped in ink.
The lost original first version of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ was written
in epistolary form and was called, ‘First Impressions’. Other
eighteenth century authors wrote in this form. A twentieth century
novel also written in epistolary form is, ‘The Color Purple’, Alice
In total there are 40 letters either paraphrased or directly quoted
in the novel ‘Pride and Prejudice’. Letters are useful because they
give secrecy between two characters allowing for complete privacy.
They allow the characters to express feelings they can never convey
aloud, they have time to think. Letters allow one to reveal their
thoughts more personally and intimately than they can in person.
Staring at a blank page of paper is definitely less intimidating than
looking into someone’s eyes. Letters allow you to communicate without
travelling yourself. They are good for the use of invitations.
Communication is such an important vitality, and letter-writing lacks
the loss of words, stuttering, awkward silences, and uneasiness that
conversations can sometimes carry. You can read a letter over and over
again each time gaining a better understanding. In Chapter 36
Elizabeth reads the letter from Darcy intently it quotes, ‘… commanded
herself so for as to examine the meaning of every sentence.’, ‘she
read and re-read with the closest attention.’, ‘Again she read on….’
They show that you can study a letter and read beyond the surface.
As a reader a letter makes you feel as if you are prying. It gives you
a quick coverage so you know what is happening in the novel. They are
used to catch...