Since its composition in 1797, Jane Austin's Pride and Prejudice has
enjoyed two centuries of literary esteem not because of its witty dialogue
or its tantalizing plot, but because of its universal themes that allow
modern readers to identify with early Victorian life. Although the novel
focuses on the etiquette of courtship, related social rituals are also
prevalent throughout the story. William Collins, a rector in Pride and
Prejudice, uses excessive flattery to persuade people to look upon him
favorably. He even lavishly praises himself to enhance his self-esteem.
While the sycophant's peculiar behavior is comical at first glance, its
emphasis in the story portends a greater social meaning that is
illuminated upon evaluation of his flattery with relevance to the plot. In
Pride and Prejudice, Austin suggests through Collins' mannerisms that one
flatters others to enlist their future support and one flatters oneself to
ensure individual prosperity. Pertaining to others, Austin endows Collins
with a motive of personal gain and later removes that objective,
establishing a strong correlation between flattery and selfish advantage.
As the legal heir to the Bennet family's estate once its patriarch dies,
Collins offers unwarranted praise along with his hand in marriage to one
of the daughters. Apart from flattering the family to marry one of its
girls, his profuse compliments also extend to his wealthy benefactress and
also, of course, to himself. However, Collins' compliments toward the
family end after he fails to marry on...
... middle of paper ...
...lattery may have academic
influence, she allows Collins to smother praise on anything that might
prove advantageous to his affluence, from which one may surmise that
flattery contributes to personal prosperity in any form. This truth
becomes readily apparent upon contrasting Collins' behavior in situations
wherein he may or may not have something to gain through flattery. Of
course, this mundane reiteration about flattery must be particularly
monotonous to a reader who has already demonstrated a profound grasp of
literature by deftly maneuvering through and deliberating upon mistakes
previous to this point, so it is for that intelligent and sophisticated
reader that this paper ends abruptly.
Austin, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. Norwalk: The Easton Press, 1997.
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