Pride and Prejudice

“The Season of Courtship”: Time, Marriage, and Narrative Discourse in Pride and Prejudice College

At a critical juncture in Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice, Jane Bennet makes a perceptive declaration to Elizabeth on the topic of her thwarted courtship with Bingley: “But if he returns no more this winter, my choice will never be required. A thousand things may arise in six months!” (Austen 92). This pronouncement offers commentary not only on the elusive nature of time but also on the definition and realization of female identity and existence through timely male action. As Peter Brooks writes in “Reading for the Plot,” “memory [...] is the key faculty in the capacity to perceive relations of beginnings, middles, and ends through time, the shaping power of narrative” (Brooks 11). Trapped in the stasis of unattached maidenhood and the increasingly dysfunctional condition of their family unit and ancestral home, both the characters of Elizabeth and Jane are subject to the natural feminine trajectory towards marriage, an escape and resolution that can only be achieved through the dynamic narrative agent of male “return” and remembrance. The question of timeliness thus propels the narrative of the novel, which becomes charged with the opposing forces of delay and urgency and complicated by the characters of Darcy and Mr....

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