The Reliability of the Narrator in Pride and Prejudice, a Novel by Jane Austen

Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is similar and different to other novels in many ways, as has been expressed by Professor Tanoukhi in lecture. One element that really sticks out like a sore thumb from your “everyday book” is the narration of this novel. The first big question that I had asked myself when reading was this: Can I trust this narrator? And, after a bit of thought, I decided that I definitely could not put my faith in a narrator as subjective as this one.

Often, when we delve into a novel, we are in it for the long haul. We generally put much or all of our faith in the hands of narrators, for they are the ones who guide us through the many ups, downs, and loop-dee-loops of a story. We are usually allowed more room for our own deductions about the unfolding of events — but, the narrator of Pride and Prejudice is hesitant to give us this. Told in third person omniscient, the narrator of this story begins by feeding us information, just as though we have a gossip-prone friend (such as Mrs. Bennet, perhaps?) whispering in our ear at a party. For example, “That’s Mr. Darcy… He’s such a jerk sometimes, but all the girls still think he’s so attractive”. The only difference when we are reading is, we do not see this so-called “gossip” person with our own eyes, so we might just trust what we see — but, maybe we should take a step back and think about it first. Professor Tanoukhi was going over the difference between “story” and “discourse”, and the narration used here is not only third person omniscient, but free indirect discourse. This gives the narrator freedom to basically switch between a third person to first person point of view, because the characters’ thoughts are sometimes embedded within that third person point of view.

A direct example of the narrator’s voice in the novel is as such: “That the miss Lucases and the Miss Bennets should meet to talk over the ball was absolutely necessary” (Austen, 20). This is quite an average example of the telling of events that goes on within this novel, and is a prime example of this “free indirect discourse” that was mentioned.

Why do you think Austen chose to relay the story in this way? Do you think this form of narration — or point of view — is the most effective way to tell the story? If so, why? If not, how would you change it?

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The Reliability of the Narrator in Pride and Prejudice, a Novel by Jane Austen. (2022, Dec 05). Retrieved February 2, 2023 , from
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