Jane Austen’s minor characters add a great deal of interest to the novel. Examine the significance and presentation of three of the minor characters in the novel.
In the novel “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen there are several important minor characters who create sub plots and add importance to the novel. The author uses quirky personalities and exciting scenes to add interest and humour. She also uses humour to intensify the atmosphere in certain scenes throughout the novel. For example when Mr Collins makes another of his long winded speeches at the Netherfield Ball he makes jokes and pointless remarks which creates an embarrassed atmosphere. The three minor characters that I have chosen to write about are Mr. Collins, Lady Catherine de Bourgh and Mr. Bingley. I have chosen these characters because they are the most significant in the novel and where a large factor to an important area of the plot. For instance when Lady Catherine de Bourgh’s interference in Elizabeth and Darcy’s relationship, led to them getting married.
Mr. Collins is the 25-year-old cousin of Mr. Bennet. Mr. Collins, a clergyman (though possess no sign of religious beliefs through out the novel), is the closest male relation to the Bennet family and as such stands to inherit Longbourn on Mr. Bennet’s death. This means that Mrs. Bennet and her daughters would be left with nothing, which is one of the reasons why Mrs. Bennet wanted Elizabeth to accept Mr. Collin’s offer of marriage because that would at least assure that the family would have a roof over their heads and some money.
Mr Collins is a “conceited, pompous, narrow minded, silly man” describes Elizabeth Bennet (Ch 24 p.133). This is a perfect description of Mr Collins through the eyes of one of the main characters in the novel. Elizabeth thinks that Mr Collins is too smug and self obsessed. He is arrogant and selfish always speaking his mind and not worrying about the consequences. Mr. Collins thinks he can do everything perfectly and is all everyone would ever want. He shows this in this passage “Mr. Collins, awkward and solemn, apologising instead of attending, and often moving wrong with out being aware of it,” (Ch.18 P.89) when he attempts to dance with Elizabeth at the ball but just embarrasses himself and Elizabeth in doing so. Mr. Collins during his proposal says “My reasons for marrying are…” (Ch.19 P.103) this shows Mr Collins’ insecurity with having to justify himself to Elizabeth.
This demonstrates to the reader that Mr. Collins feels all of these justifications would mean that Elizabeth couldn’t say no. Mr Collins illustrates his tactlessness as he expects her to accept his proposal and is already arranging the wedding; talking openly to the Bennet family about it without an answer, he is seen to be unaware of either Elizabeth’s or Charlotte’s feelings by being able to propose to both of them in the space of less than a week. He undermines Elizabeth’s feelings and over compliments himself in doing so. Mr Collins is entirely predictable, everything he says or does, down to the last detail, reinforces the picture of a smug, pompous man with a streak of wickedness hidden inside him.
The way he speaks is indistinguishable from the way he writes in its awkward expression and its utter insensitivity. You can see an example of this when Mr. and Mrs. Bennet receive a letter from Mr. Collins but within the first few minutes of reading the letter you hear “He seems to be a most conscientious and polite young man,” and “there is a mixture of servility and self-importance in his letter,” (Ch13 P.62). Mr Collins’ judgement of character is extraordinary; he judges characters in regard to himself, whether they are better or worse than him for example he constantly praises Lady Catherine de Bourgh because he sees her as in a higher class than himself, but what he doesn’t realise is that the way you act around people in two different classes is totally different, he therefore ashamed himself in her presence. He constantly praises Lady Catherine which doesn’t help her, she thinks she is amazing and powerful and can therefore order people around that she looks down on you can see an example of this in Ch. 29 P.163 “Mr. Collins was employed in agreeing to everything her Ladyship said.”
Mr Collins along with Mrs Bennet are the two comic characters in the novel. His long winded speeches and pointless remarks add comedy and interest to perhaps dull parts in the novel. In most of the novel Mr Collins is seen as an innocent self-obsessed man but he is however, a rather nasty character. He shows this when he offers the advice that the Bennet family should disown Lydia to save the family reputation.
Mr Collins is important in the novel because of his affect on Elizabeth. He undermines her feelings and therefore makes her more wary of herself. She is irritated by Mr. Collins’ closeness and friendliness with her family and comes to realise her mother will stop at nothing to get all of her daughters wealthy husbands. Mr Collins is also important to the plot because of his part in the separation of Elizabeth and Charlotte (his wife). Elizabeth’s friend had moved away and this meant that she had no one to confide in. This meant that Elizabeth was forced to spill her emotions and troubles in to a letter and then anxiously wait for the reply. Mr Collins influences Elizabeth to think for the first time properly about marriage. This makes Elizabeth more susceptible to the idea of marriage when Darcy proposes.
Lady de Bourgh and Mr Collins are very similar because they are both very judgemental and arrogant. Mr Collins feeds Lady Catherine’s Snobbery by constantly praising her. This leads to them both being very self obsessed. He is like Lady Catherine because they both talk their minds and don’t worry if they are going to hurt anyone in doing so.
Lady Catherine de Bourgh is Mr. Darcy’s aunt and Mr. Collin’s patron, which you could say adds to her arrogant behavior, by knowing Mr. Collins she thrives off his praise and takes his words literally. Lady Catherine’s overbearing self-importance and sense of her own dignity is evident in all she says and does. “But Lady Catherine seemed gratified by their excessive admiration,” (Ch.29 P.160) Her sense of her unquestionable authority and right to control people’s lives is most sharply seen when she confronts Elizabeth about her rumoured engagement to Darcy. Her enjoyment of flattery is no less sickening than Mr Collins’ enthusiasm to give it, Elizabeth’s preparedness to disagree with her is received with disbelief. “Lady Catherine will not think the worse of you for being simply dressed. She likes to have then distinction of rank preserved.” (Ch.29 P.158) this extract shows Mr. Collins’ attitude towards Lady Catherine’s rank and proves her arrogance and superiority.
Lady Catherine’s dramatic interference does, of course, ironically cause the very marriage she is attempting to avert. The confrontation can also be viewed as a clash of two opposite personalities; Lady Catherine’s overpowering sense of authority and out spoken nature and Elizabeth’s intelligence and excellent judgement of characters. Elizabeth can see right through Lady Catherine’s jealousy and spiteful remarks. “Your father’s estate is entailed on Mr. Collin’s, I think. For your sake,” (Ch.29 P.158) this is evidence for Lady Catherine seeing The Bennet family unworthy to own an estate by them selves like her. Elizabeth takes command of Lady Catherine’s meaningless insults and uses her skill to argue her away out of the situation as she is well aware of the shortcomings of the Bennet family but will not allow them to be criticised by one such as Lady Catherine.
Lady Catherine’s close questioning of Elizabeth about her family shows her impertinence and readiness to interfere in others affairs in, her own way she is as vulgar and tactless as Mrs Bennet. This passage is evidence of her questioning Elizabeth “She asked her at different times, how many sisters she had, whether they were older or younger than herself, whether any of them were likely to be married, whether they were handsome, where they had been educated, what carriage her father kept, and what had been her mother’s maiden name?” (Ch.29 P.160). Lady Catherine asked these questions several times through out the conversation; Elizabeth found this questioning intrusive and rude.
Lady Catherine is like Mr Collins because they are both judgemental and self absorbed. Lady Catherine de Bourgh thinks she is higher than everyone else because of her name and family, this is not helped by the constant praise from Mr. Collins. She is a very controlling person always bossing everyone around and expecting them to do what she wants. “Her air was not conciliating, nor was her manner of receiving them, such as to make her visitors forget their inferior rank. She was not rendered formidable by silence; but whatever she said, was spoken in so authoritative a tone, as marked her self-importance,” (Ch.29 P.159) This shows Elizabeth’s opinion of Lady Catherine.
Lady Catherine is important in the novel because of her interference in the relationship of Elizabeth and Darcy. Lady Catherine orders Elizabeth to decline Darcy’s hand in marriage but Elizabeth refuses and this makes Catherine angry and she continuously insults Elizabeth in return. Catherine tries to change Elizabeth’s mind because she is jealous; she thinks her daughter Anne is a much better match and a higher class than Elizabeth. Lady Catherine sees the Bennet family as unsuitable and a waste of a mans wealth who is not even worthy enough for Mr. Collin’s low standards. Lady Catherine as Mr. Darcy’s aunt feels she has the right to control his life and who he marries; this is another reason why Lady Catherine tries to persuade Elizabeth to reject Mr. Darcy’s hand in marriage. Lady Catherine’s interference influences Elizabeth to marry Darcy.
Jane Austen has used Lady Catherine’s and Mr. Bingley’s characters cleverly because even though they both create interest to the plot they both have completely opposite personalities. Jane Austen uses Lady Catherine’s out spoken arrogant character to anger Elizabeth; while Mr. Bingley is used to settle emotions and be a friend to Mr. Darcy.
Mr. Bingley is the closest friend of Mr. Darcy, despite the differences in their personalities. Mr. Bingley is a ‘single man in possession of a good fortune’ (Ch.1 P.5) described in the first sentence of the novel. In fact, it is not his wealth but his friendly unwavering and unassuming character that impresses. Unlike his friend Darcy and his sister Caroline, he is devoid of all snobbery; he is not a reflective person, preferring to act on the spur of the moment, but he is loyal. Before meeting him, Mrs Gardiner is somewhat sceptical about the reported violence of his passions, but, in fact, his devotion to Jane is unwavering. However, he is too easily influenced. Darcy’s snobbery and his sisters’ maliciousness force Bingley and Jane apart. Ironically, it is Darcy’s change in personality that opens the way for their reunion. Mr. Bingley, much like Jane, is a sociable, agreeable and good-tempered person. He is not overly concerned with class differences, and Jane’s poor family connections are not a serious prevention to his attachment to her. Mr. Bingley is very kind, sociable, agreeable, warm-hearted and vulnerable we know this because in Ch.3 P.12 Mr Bingley is described as “good looking and gentlemanlike; he had a pleasant countenance, and easy, unaffected manners.”
Bingley is very modest and easily swayed by the advice of his trusted friends, as seen in his decision not to propose to Jane as a result of Darcy’s belief that Jane is not really attached to him. “For he is now in the custody of his friend,” (Ch.25 P.138) this confirms that Darcy has control over Bingley in what he does. Also like Jane, Bingley lacks serious character faults and is thus the same throughout the novel. His character and his love for Jane remain constant; the only thing that changes is the advice of Darcy, which leads him not to propose to Jane in the beginning of the novel but to propose to her in the end. Mr. Bingley though great friends with Darcy are both total opposites. While Bingley is sociable, warm hearted, kind, agreeable, with no self belief. Darcy is proud, bad mannered, imposing, shy and unworthy of being compared to Bingley after the way he acted at the ball in Chapter 3. Through out the novel Mr. Darcy changes and is found to be just as kind and friendly as Bingley. Mr. Bingley’s reputation was ruined when Darcy was first introduced at the ball; due to Darcy’s behaviour all the family’s at the ball where unimpressed with Mr. Bingley in the presence of Darcy.
Mr. Bingley is important in the novel because of his role in making Mr. Darcy agree to marry Elizabeth. He really didn’t want to realize how much he loved Elizabeth so Mr. Bingley told him the truth about his feelings towards Jane and that he could see that Darcy felt the same way towards Elizabeth. Mr. Bingley also paid Mr. Wickham to marry Lydia to save the family’s reputation.
All of the minor characters in the novel add humour and interest to the plot. The three characters I chose to write about, all individually, add a great deal of interest and are key factors to the outcome of vital decisions made through out the story. Mr. Collins and Lady Catherine have the same personalities being both self obsessed and arrogant, while Mr. Bingley is the total opposite; polite, agreeable and kind. Jane Austen uses these two types of characters to great affect through out the novel for completely opposite reasons, Lady Catherine’s fiery temper and arrogance is used to anger Elizabeth into making vital decisions into her relationship with Darcy; while Mr. Bingley takes care of Darcy’s feelings and makes him understand his emotions. Jane Austen created these minor characters to add interest and humour to the novel she has succeeded in making “Pride and Prejudice” an interesting, attention grabbing best selling novel.