In the eighteenth century society where personal interaction was controlled by formal codes of etiquette

In the eighteenth century society where personal interaction was controlled by formal codes of etiquette, the letter represented a rare means of expressing the inner self. Letters were a kind of writing which, more than any other means of communication, exposed the ‘overflowing’ of a writer’s heart. Jane Austen author of “Pride and Prejudice” inherited the epistolary mode of writing novel. Epistolary is actually a “novel told through letters written by one or more of the characters.” The advantage is that it presents an intimate view of the character’s thoughts without interference from the author and that it conveys the shape of events to come with dramatic immediacy. The characters speak to us and we therefore get an intimate point of view of what’s happening. Only the character’s point of view is portrayed and no other.
Letters are a stand-in for the interior lives of the characters. To reveal how useful the letters are in ‘Pride and Prejudice’, we need to look at the history behind letter writing. Jane Austen’s novel, ‘Pride and Prejudice’ was written in 1813. The main form of communication then was by letters. They used to send their mail sent by Mail Coach. Although, you could send the mail by ‘express’, which was where you would pay an extra amount of money to have your mail sent faster, for example Mr. Gardiner’s letter in chapter 44 was sent by express. There were no separate envelopes so letters were folded and the address would be written on the back, often they would seal it using wax. If the letter was private then the writer may have made an envelope which would be made from simply folding paper. In chapter 35 Darcy makes an envelope for his letter to Elizabeth because it is so long. Paper would have been extremely expensive in Jane Austen’s time, so to save paper the writer would write in the margins making sure they used up every space upon the paper.
In total there are 40 letters either paraphrased or directly quoted in the novel ‘Pride and Prejudice’. Letters are useful because they give secrecy between two characters allowing for complete privacy. They allow the characters to express feelings they can never convey aloud, they have time to think. Letters allow one to reveal their thoughts more personally and intimately than they can in person. Staring at a blank page of paper is definitely less intimidating than looking into someone’s eyes. Letters allow you to communicate without travelling yourself. They are good for the use of invitations. Communication is such an important vitality, and letter-writing lacks the loss of words, stuttering, awkward silences, and uneasiness that conversations can sometimes carry. You can read a letter over and over again each time gaining a better understanding. In Chapter 36 Elizabeth reads the letter from Darcy intently it quotes, “commanded herself so far as to examine the meaning of every sentence.” She read and re-read with the closest attention. They show that you can study a letter and read beyond the surface.
The long waiting time for letters create expectation. This anticipation and curiosity of what the contents might say caused the arrival of letters to be an important event in daily life. Although the long waiting time can be seen as a hindrance, the anticipation that built up caused letters to be read more closely and have greater value and significance to the receiver. The news inside the letters, whether good or bad, set the tone for the day, for actions and emotions during the rest of the day reflected the contents of the letters.
The letter by Mr. Darcy to Elizabeth Bennet is seen as the most important of all the other letters, in fact, the turning point of the entire novel. This letter by Mr. Darcy showed his true image to Elizabeth, exposed the tricks of vicious Wickham, and showed her that she isn’t a good judge of the behavior of people. Elizabeth repented about how prejudiced she had been towards Darcy after reading the letter a lot of times to actually overcome the real but bitter truth. Darcy’s letter helps the heroine to a new level of self-knowledge as the new understanding of others reveals a self never before visible. His letter to Elizabeth shows that he respects Elizabeth and desires her good opinion despite his insulting proposal, since he trusts her with an important piece of family scandal. Darcy’s letter is the icing on the cake as after receiving it everything changed i.e., opinions of Elizabeth and readers towards him changed its course from ‘proud’ to ‘protective and truthful’ Darcy.
A complete opposite of Darcy is Mr. Collins. There are many distinctive differences between them. In chapter 13 Mr. Collins writes to Mr. Bennet to invite himself over to Longbourn. He writes the letter so he can meet the daughters and hopefully marry one, which will make him feel better about his inheritance. It is seen as being extremely rude inviting himself, but he assumes it will be acceptable. He writes a brief and formal letter in a pompous tone to reinforce gossip. He uses words such as: ‘honored’, ‘pleased’ and ‘grateful’ to grovel and show his respect, especially towards Lady Catherine de Bourgh who he thinks the world of and boasts about knowing. He thinks he is really important by boasting about his position of the Church of England, he says, ‘as a clergyman, moreover, I feel it my duty to.’ This is an example of him flattering himself. He uses a good range of vocabulary to boast of his intellect. From this letter it reveals that Mr. Collins is already being recognized as a buffoon.
What we learned in ‘Pride and Prejudice’ is that the letters are very useful because they move the plot along and introduce new storylines. They give secrecy between two characters and allow them to express their true feelings. The characters will find it much easier to reveal their thoughts more intimately in a letter then saying it in person. Most importantly they allow us to see what the letter reveals about the writers character and give us a better understanding for their actions and behavior.