The Theme of Change and the Change of Theme
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There is a theme of change in each of the four novels we are studying. However, the idea of change takes a different form in each text. In the extract from Pride and Prejudice we examined in Chapter 4, we noticed that the conflict between Elizabeth and Lady Catherine de Bourgh hinges on two different perceptions of society, a more reactionary view in conflict with the ‘modern’ view articulated by Elizabeth; whereas in Emma, the heroine’s progress leads her towards a deeper appreciation of Mr Knightley’s serious principles, and her traditional role of patronage in society. Emma moves away from her initial light-hearted attitude, which values amusement and entertainment more highly. In this chapter we begin by taking a short extract from each of the novels, to discuss the form a theme of change takes in that particular text. Later in the chapter, we search more widely and freely through the novels, seeking to understand Jane Austen’s underlying concept of change and how this develops between her early and later works.
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