Imagery

Pride and Prejudice

by

Jane Austen

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Pride and Prejudice: Imagery 3 key examples

Definition of Imagery
Imagery, in any sort of writing, refers to descriptive language that engages the human senses. For instance, the following lines from Robert Frost's poem "After Apple-Picking" contain imagery that engages... read full definition
Imagery, in any sort of writing, refers to descriptive language that engages the human senses. For instance, the following lines from Robert Frost's poem "After... read full definition
Imagery, in any sort of writing, refers to descriptive language that engages the human senses. For instance, the following lines... read full definition
Chapter 8
Explanation and Analysis—Bright Eyes:

In a moment near the start of the novel, Darcy uses imagery to communicate his growing attraction to Elizabeth. This moment comes during a conversation between Darcy and Caroline Bingley, in which they discuss Elizabeth’s decision to walk to Netherfield through mud to check on a sick Jane:

“I am afraid, Mr. Darcy,” observed Miss Bingley in a half whisper, “that this adventure has rather affected your admiration of her fine eyes.”

“Not at all,” he replied; “they were brightened by the exercise.”

Whether Elizabeth’s eyes were “brightened” or not (this is a subjective sort of description), Darcy sees them that way, and readers, in turn, see Elizabeth’s eyes through his. That Darcy notices changes in her eyes is evidence of his growing fondness toward her.

Though Elizabeth does not witness this compliment (and continues to believe Darcy dislikes her as she increases her prejudice toward him), readers start to understand through this use of imagery that Darcy is an attentive and tender person, very different from the prideful man Elizabeth assumes him to be based on his previous behavior.

Chapter 43
Explanation and Analysis—Pemberley:

Though Austen focuses more on the inner worlds of her characters—and the social dynamics between the various characters—rather than the environment around them, she intentionally uses imagery to describe Darcy’s home of Pemberley (through Elizabeth’s eyes while visiting):

It was a large, handsome stone building, standing well on rising ground, and backed by a ridge of high woody hills; and in front, a stream of some natural importance was swelled into greater, but without any artificial appearance. Its banks were neither formal nor falsely adorned.

In encouraging readers to clearly visualize the beauty of Pemberley and its grounds, Austen puts the reader into Elizabeth’s shoes as she longs for the life she could have had if she’d said yes to Darcy’s proposal. Pemberley is not just a place, but a symbol for Darcy himself, so it is important that Austen takes time to paint a portrait of it.

In doing so, Austen encourages readers to understand that both Darcy and Pemberley are more welcoming and desirable than Elizabeth expected them to be. Further, the house seems to stand in for Darcy's own actual character: “neither formal nor falsely adorned.” Elizabeth (and readers) can start to picture her there as a married woman, hinting at Darcy’s second proposal to come and Elizabeth’s enthusiastic response.

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Chapter 47
Explanation and Analysis—Lydia’s Reputation:

After finding out that Lydia has run away with Wickham, Mary uses imagery to highlight the ways that, in their particular context, single young women’s reputations are particularly fragile:

“Unhappy as the event must be for Lydia, we may draw from it this useful lesson: that loss of virtue in a female is irretrievable; that one false step involves her in endless ruin; that her reputation is no less brittle than it is beautiful; and that she cannot be too much guarded in her behaviour towards the undeserving of the other sex.”

By describing young women’s reputations as “brittle,” Mary communicates the fragility of single unmarried women’s reputations during this time period in England in a way that she couldn’t accomplish with a literal description alone. Readers know what brittle things feel like and that tactile imagery adds to the intensity of the climax of this story—the Bennet sisters waiting to find out if Lydia and Wickham will get married, which throws into question whether or not their brittle reputations will end up intact or not.

This moment also underlines how the Bennets in particular need their reputations to survive this scandal because they do not have the type of wealth of the aristocratic class and will lose their home as soon as Mr. Bennet passes. The Bennet sisters have to protect their fragile virtue or else they will end up with nothing.

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