Revisiting the Pride and Prejudice Essay
The Prompt period 3:
Novels and plays often include scenes of
weddings, funerals, parties, and other social
occasions. (Subtext: look at the SOCIAL
OCCASIONS). Such scenes reveal the
values of the characters and the society in
which they live. (subtext: your scene should
reveal these things too) Select a novel that
includes such a scene and, in a focused
essay (!), discuss the contribution the scene
makes to the meaning of the work as a
whole. (subtext: author’s intent/theme/
overall function/message)
Initial thoughts and mistakes p. 3
You didn’t pick a social occasion; you
picked a private moment of reflection OR
you picked too many moments, and that
forced you to treat each one superficially
because of the constraints of time, rather
than taking the time to fully develop the
implications of one.
You confused characterization for meaning.
Meaning means themes and ideas, not
character arc/transformation
The Prompt period 6
In The Writing of Fiction (1925), novelist Edith
Wharton states the following,:
“At every stage in the progress of his tale the novelist must
rely on what may be called the illuminating incident to
reveal and emphasize the inner meaning of each
situation. Illuminating incidents are the magic
casements of fiction, its vistas on infinity.”
Choose a novel that you have studied and write a wellorganized essay in which you describe an
“illuminating” episode or moment and explain how it
functions as a “casement,” a window that opens onto
the meaning of the work as a whole. Avoid mere plot
Common Error: You confused characterization for meaning.
Meaning means themes and ideas, not character
Initial thoughts and mistakes all
Themes are STATEMENTS, not words or
phrases. There is not a “theme of
marriage” or “theme of class divisions.”
What about this phrase?
Example of a proper thematic statement:
“Through the events at the initial dance at
Meryton, Austen conveys that, in matters
of social hierarchy, status is not
proportional to breeding.”
Period 6 prompt issues
What does “illuminating incident” mean??
Sounds like somebody has to learn or realize
something. So you’d better choose your
incident wisely, and I’d bullet-point a list of
things learned.
2nd part of prompt: HOW does this reveal/lead
to meaning of the work? Vistas must be opened
and this is where people spent lots of time
discussing only character transformation and
growth instead of how the moment leads to a
Period 6 prompt issues in development
You had to tell me exactly what specific behaviors
Elizabeth was forced to confront in herself and her
family when she read that letter from Darcy, not just
that she realized “her first impressions about Darcy
needed to be re-examined” or that “she let her pride
overcome her better judgement” HOW?
You also had to include specific text support to
reference and SUPPORT the realizations she was
For example, here’s how you weave text support and specific ideas:
Lizzie’s enlightening and pivotal moment when reading
Darcy’s candid letter serves to criticize both characters’
stubborn hearts of preconceived notions and careless pride
and prejudice. (good with the specifics here; nice TS)
Before the proposal and letter E and D had a cold
relationship of misunderstanding, resulting from his
snubbing her at the Meryton Dance and her misinterpretation
of Darcy’s role in allegedly ruining Wickham’s inheritance.
Darcy’s gradual feeling of love compelled him to approach
Elizabeth with affection such as during the Netherfield Ball
where he bravely asked her to dance with him or during
those evenings at Rosings where he hovered over her at the
pianoforte. However, Elizabeth had misinterpreted Darcy’s
true intentions (as what??) and never considered that he
would have any other feelings besides indifference or hate.
(Yes, but what gives her that idea?) However, the letter
provides a window through which Elizabeth is
able to understand Darcy’s perspective and
point of view (which is?) After Darcy sincerely
apologizes about Bingley and Jane as well as
thoroughly explains the incidence with
Wickham (bravo!) Elizabeth immediately
breaks down into self-critical awareness. An
understanding of Darcy’s point of view helped
her realize that she had been wrong to judge
Darcy based on her own ill-willed prejudice. In
addition (Wait a minute! Before you jump to
another idea, go back to the specific behaviors
E and her family had and what she is forced to
confront other than the fact that she was
Common Mistakes
Parroting back to me class phrases w/o showing
any new ideas or insights (like, Austen shows
that first impressions need to be re-examined or
Darcy and Lizzie are blinded by their first
Saying the same message over and over
w/slightly different phraseology (see above)
Not having enough “apt and specific and
consistent text support,” even w/o book, you
should be able to recall enough moments.
Common Mistakes
Being way too general/generic when getting to
how it contributes to meaning, ie.
- Austen shows her hated of the institution of
marriage (really? All marriages, the end?)
- Austen shows her criticism of social class
(what about it?)
- Austen shows a satire of society and class
hierarchy (yes, she does, but what exactly in
society is she satirizing? Which behaviors?)
Note: the above examples are fine in an intro ¶,
but not in the body ¶’s b/c they are too general
Intro Paragraph Samples p. 3
Elizabeth’s first encounter with Lady Catherine at
Rosings reveals their tense, forced conversation in
which Lady Catherine’s condescension and disapproval
required pithy and defensive statements from Elizabeth.
(a social call/visit identified) This unexpected social
call (characterizes the visit) indicates the vanity that
LC’s fortune has created, as well as Elizabeth’s
defensive and resolute nature. (uh-oh, is this going to
be about character?) The interaction between Elizabeth
and LC reveals Austen’s message that there are many
limitations and expectations that are imposed simply
because of one’s social standing, but that good breeding
is no excuse for poor behavior.
Intro Paragraph Samples continued
Man is a social animal who reveals his true
personality when put in social situations.
Austen uses the social animal portion of human
nature in P and P to criticize the idea that the
divide between the rich and the middle classes
will ultimately culminate in pride and prejudice
on both of their parts. But as Austen tells of the
behaviors of the Bennet girls and Mr. Collins at
the Meryton and Netherfield dances, she
suggests that not all rich people are prideful and
not all poor people are prejudiced—one must
look beyond the outer shell to truly understand
character. (see the specific message?)
Intro Paragraph Samples this year…
In essence, women of Austen’s era had very little
leeway with respect to the basic freedoms they were
delegated. Contrary to being a fallacy of either/or, there
were only two types of women in this era. Those who
got married, whether it was to the dregs of society or its
riches, and those who did not marry; the latter being the
epitome of shame, independence, and self-esteem. In P
and P, society is being satirized on its over-emphasis of
class structure as well as its institution of marriage as a
business transaction thus resulting in money becoming
the “social currency” by which some characters’ actions
become dictated. Through the not-so-elegant proposals
of Darcy and Mr. Collins, one can see the value of
communication and humility that is the essential “bread
and water” of this time. Those who are without it
“starve” in finding a suitable companion that Austen
emphasizes is possible, but not very probable with her
society’s current fixation of stability.
Solid Topic Sentences that have ideas, not plot
The first proposal Darcy attempted on Elizabeth
helps to emphasize the social awkwardness
between classes.
With the introduction of the upper class—the
Bingleys, the Hursts, and Darcy—during the
Meryton dance, Austen illustrates how money
creates a social divide between the rich and
The Ball demonstrates the extreme approaches
to the social codes that are both explicit and
implicit in this society.
Making a decent TS even more effective
Before: In her portrayal of the Netherfield Ball, and
throughout the book Austen demonstrates the
importance of having the right amount and kind of
pride. One must care about one’s reputation so that
behavior in public is amiable and honorable, and so that
one has confidence where it is due. At the same time,
though, one must humble themselves to see their own
flaws and be able to improve upon them.
After: As characters of varying social classes commit
faux pas ranging from subtle digs to serious breaches of
decorum at the Netherfield Ball, Austen demonstrates
the importance of having and displaying the proper
amount of pride. One must be socially aware about
one’s reputation so that public behavior is amiable,
honorable, and confident without seeming haughty. At
the same time however, characters must act with
enough humility to recognize their own flaws and
ultimately improve upon them.

Revisiting the Pride and Prejudice Essay 2013