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English Language and Literature


Cynthia Malone


I believe that in PP, characterization in regard to an ideal woman functions as light in a prism. As the prism 'refracts' invisible white light into 'fractions' of the spectrum, I believe that characterization creates essential fractions of an illusory ideal. These fractions appear for us as different women embody qualities that would have been consecrated by conduct books of Austen's time. I believe these fractions appear in this way for the simple reason that logically it would be as impossible to create a character who had no valuable qualities as it would be to create one who had all. When I then focused on these qualities, the fictional journey of Pride and Prejudice ceased to appear as any kind of gradual education of its heroines, and allowed a critique of a situation in which the qualities of the ideal woman would have been inflected--modulated--by social class rank.