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Weldon's 'Letters to Alice' applies some aspects of Austen's 'Pride and Prejudice' in ensuring that the “generation gap is bridged, i.e. women's roles and social classes are well defined for the modern reader. The two novels are compatible since we see Weldon creating connection between the modern world and that of Jane Austen by giving an illumination of social conventions like stratification and marriage. The two authors achieve this through a number of literary techniques; Weldon’s book of “Letters to Alice” provides the comprehension of Austen’s novel “Pride of Prejudice” to the modern reader through connecting the contexts of both regency England and Contemporary society.
The concept of stratification is one of the universal principles relevant through time explored Jane’s “Pride and Prejudice.” It brings out Darcy as the central character defining the period of regency. Austen, (2002, p. 147) notes in the text through Wickham that, “He (Darcy) was to be above all company, in having been unworthy to be compared.” The above application of bitter use of verbal irony is further implied by Mrs. Lucas when she notions that “With family, fortune, everything he has to be proud.” Through satirical implementation of the unorthodox unions of Elizabeth and Darcy or Jane and Bingley in spite of ironical social dichotomy, we realize that Austen breaks these social barriers, “Your alliance will be a disgrace, and your name will never be mentioned by any of us”. In the novel “Pride and Prejudice” the significance of social status or class and is accentuated as overriding all other assets in life, in regards to love and happiness. Darcy’s characterization expresses this as he digresses, “could you expect me to rejoice in the inferiority of your connections……whose conditions in life is so decidedly under my own?” this implies that social stratification was a pivotal aspect of Regency England and relevant to the today’s world which is also full of social stratifications (Austen, 2002, p. 12).
The significance of social stratification as employed in Austen’s time is used as a motif for Fay Weldon in bridging the generation gap in Jane’s book. Weldon is viewed as a very creative writer who uses satire to distinguish between social classes and conventions thereby contemporizing Jane’s time into perspective that is well understood by the modern reader, “the gentry thought well of themselves, and liked to despise the nobility for their rackety ways, and were despised by them, in turn for being worthy and boring”. More or less like Austen, Weldon’s satirical description of social class in Regency England creates greater understanding, “People were so poor, and they run, toil and sweat all day just to save themselves from starvation.” By applying the metaphorical ‘City of Invention’ Weldon is viewed to have ‘bridged the gap’ through drawing compassion from the modern audience- “The writer writes out of a society… linking the past of that society with its future” (Austen, 2002, p. 36). Through the efforts of Fay Weldon in his book the modern reader is capable of gaining more understanding and empathy for the social obstacles of “Pride and Prejudice” as a result of Weldon’s contextualization of Austen.
The significance of marriage was another notion that appeared common in both Austen’s time and modernity. Indeed, weight of marriage of women in the novel can be termed as a major concern of its narrative. For instance, the irony created by the first line – “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of good fortune, must be in want of a wife” foreshadowing the urgency of marriage during Austen’s time. Relentlessly, the novel “Pride and Prejudice” reinforces that was considered to be more that just a product of love during Austen’s period. It held a lot of prospects such as wealth, alliance that not necessarily benefitted the two parties involved in the union; but the family in need of attention as well. The irony created by Lady Catherine de Bourg concerning marriage is expressed as a “matter of public interest”, thus suggesting the secularity of their social spheres. As we can see the characterization of Mrs. Bennet moreover highlights marriage in Austen’s time as vital to regency period. Furthermore, it is also demonstrated in the case of Charlotte and Elizabeth, “I am not romantic, I ask only for a comfortable home…I am convinced my chances with him is as fair as most can boast upon entering the marriage state.” The above quote therefore conveys that the idea of marriage is significant if not central in the present-day world.
Fay Weldon’s Letters to Alice on First Reading Jane Austen and Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice have two ideas that express similarities and differences on many levels. By linking these two texts and exploring connections, the modern reader is capable of seeing the messages that are relevant to our society, in the present world. Letters to Alice and Pride and Prejudice all have didactic purpose which is to inform and educate the audience. In Letters to Alice, Aunt Fay attempts to teach her niece, Alice, about literature and ways of appreciating Jane Austen. The use of extended metaphor is used by Aunt Fay in regards to the city of invention in reference to writing. In mentioning the city of invention she refers to gatherings of houses of the thoughts to be a symbol of the body of literature that is made up of dissimilar works. The metaphor is extended to include the Castle of Shakespeare and various streets paralleling writers. Weldon (1984, p.11) describes the castle of Shakespeare as- “it glitters and glances with life, and gossip, and color, and fantasy: it is brilliant, it is illuminated, by day by the sun of enthusiasm and by night by the moon of inspiration”.
Aunt Fay also notifies Alice that if she is interested in becoming a writer then it is vital that she must become a reader first. Weldon (1984, p. 15) says that “If you plan to build here, you must know the city”. Here we find that the author gives a description of the world of literature in a way in which intrigues Alice and the present-day audience. In Letters to Alice, the author bring to the reader the differences arise between good and poor literature. Pride and Prejudice is classified in the genre of bildungsroman because when the reader goes through it again and again the novel brings some sense of awakening and moral growth in the present society. Pride and Prejudice also has an underlying didactic purpose. Jane Austen satirizes her society in with the aim of developing or showing the reader the connection between the wrongs within the society and how people relate to one another. Austen also satirizes the concept that enjoying dancing was the way to a love attachment and this clearly indicated on the 54th page when she says, “To be fond of dancing was a certain step towards falling in love”.
Generally, a person may or in most cases finds himself in variance with the rules and norms that guide the society. Sporadically, rebelling may become the path to contentment. However, usually, the real path to pleasure or delight is in the course of compromise. This is the case in the early nineteenth century England setting of Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen whereby; Miss Elizabeth Bennet is a lively, autonomous woman, whose family's economic state and whose strong mindedness suggests that she may never marry. Mr. Darcy is viewed as a rigid and proper man, who falls in love with Elizabeth, regardless of their differences. By the end of the novel, Elizabeth and Darcy learn to compromise, and, in doing so, become really contented. In marrying, they not only fulfill themselves as individual, but also confirm the standard values of society. As in many of her novels, this marriage at the end of the novel shows us Jane Austen's ideal view of marriage as a social institution. The change only comes when en Elizabeth receives a letter from Darcy expressing his actions and attempts to answer Elizabeth's attacks concerning his behavior. The story of Wickham is also brought to the fore, and his side on why he kept his best friend from making a mistake on marring Elizabeth's sister Jane and he apologizes for this. This is when she begins to see her family in a different way and accepts their faults and thus learns more about her.
In Weldon’s Letter to Alice, the author connects the prospects of marriage flanked by two generations in distinguishing between the changing facets of matrimony in the present-day world. Weldon juxtaposes marriage in Austen time as a necessity rather than a commodity and he therefore reinforces the intentions of matrimony in Austen’s time through fragmented sentences, “So to marry was a great prize. It was a woman’s aim.” Moreover, Weldon (1984, p.21) cynically satirizes the profession that is availed to women of Regency, “women’s trades – millinery, embroidery, seaming, chimney sweep… or a prostitute… or you could get married.” Weldon also satirically puts it that marriage was just a choice for them to lead a prosperous life. Austen contrasts the regency woman against the Modern woman to evoke a sense of sympathy and she does this through emotive language, “Women were born poor, and stayed poor, and lived well only by their husbands’ favor.” Weldon thus centers on the contextual merits of marriage in Austen time, in developing a greater comprehension of the connections that tie Regency matrimonial practices to modern customs (Weldon, 1984, p. 107).
In conclusion, it is clear that through the use of Austen, Weldon becomes capable of drawing connections on various aspects of the novel “Pride and prejudice”, thus bridging the generation gap by addressing social roles of women and social class in the society in two respective eras. By applying various literary devices, the modern reader can obtain a wider, more developed indulgence of the concept of social stratification and marriage, through Weldon’s correlation of Austen’s work.
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