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Posted on April 20th, 2012, by

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen and Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole  are two completely different novels written in different styles.  Despite novels are very different there are still features which are common for them. Both authors give much meaning to the settings and use it as one of the means to pass their messages to the readers.

Things which surround characters in both novels help the authors to express their ideas. In both novels settings is full of symbolism.  Despite settings in these two novels possesses different functions it still has an extremely important meaning for the understanding of the authors’ messages.

Pride and Prejudice is a story of the Bennets family, where  Mrs. Bennet is preoccupied by the idea to marry her five daughters. Mrs. Bennet is worried about the future of her children because the family is going to loose the house after the death of Mr. Bennet since they do not have a male heir. Despite the house becomes only the reason of the events which take place in the novel it becomes an important symbol of the novel. Mrs. Bennet is worried abut the future of her daughters and does everything possible to save them from future poverty and misery. She uses different manipulations aiming to find her daughters reputable partners. Descriptions of wealthy and luxurious places make an important part of the novel as these descriptions help the author to underline the importance of social belonging of the characters.

Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole  is one of the first examples of the Gothic novel. The novel tells a story of the Manfired family. The head of the family and the owner of the castle is worried that his family line will stop because his only son dies before his own wedding. Lord Manfired is worried because of the ancient prophesy which states:  “That the castle and lordship of Otranto should pass from the present family, whenever the real owner should be grown too large to inhabit it” (Walpole , 36). The castle and its descriptions have an important function in the novel.

They help to create necessary atmosphere of suspense. Different parts of the setting often become symbols and artistic details in the novel because they help to create necessary effect of fear and mystery. In general,  big role of settings is a common feature of all gothic novels. The authors use different descriptions of dark, gloomy places as one of the main components of Gothic genre. Old castles make very common settings of the Gothic novels and the Castle f Otranto is a perfect example of such a use. In the novel by Walpole the role of settings is extremely important. In some moments is seems that settings cease to posses its secondary function in the novel and become  one of the characters. Castle of Otranto lives its own life and people who dwell in it have to count with this character.

Different supernatural events which happen in the castle become symbols which help the author to develop the plot and influence his characters. The settings creates necessaries effects and impact on the audience.

 The settings possess an important function in Pride and Prejudice as well. Descriptions of homes where characters live gives the readers much information about them. The novel starts when Charles Bingley relocates to Netherfield, a luxurious mention in Hertfordshire.  Descriptions of settings give a very distinct illustration of social class differences. Different descriptions of the houses illustrate different social positions of the characters. Mr. Darcy, the protagonist of the story belongs to the aristocracy. His luxurious house proves his noble origin and high social standing. The Bennet family and Mr. Collins belong to the category of landed gentry. They possess property, have good education and good social position. Their financial state is not desperate but some of these people feel not very well when they start comparing themselves with more rich people. The Bingleys do not belong to the aristocracy but they possess much money and these attract special public attention to them.  At the time described marriage was a serious institution because it determined all further life of a woman. For some people marriage becomes not a union of two people who are in love, but rather an opportunity to gain property and wealth. Charlotte chooses these way and marries Mr. Collins in order not to stay alone.  Descriptions of houses occupy an important meaning in the novel same like it occupied an important place in the lives of people during the time described. Attitude to property in the novel perfectly illustrates its title. Different descriptions of houses and clothes show how property and money were the reason of prejudices. So, the role of settings in Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen is extremely important as it helps the author to reflect social processes of the time descried.

Despite settings is not less important in Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole it possess somewhat different function.

The settings does not have a symbolic and hidden meaning. It creates a necessary atmosphere peculiar to the gothic novel and brings elements of mystery  and fate to the novel. The weather reflects mysterious and frightening events which happen in the novel. Dark castle with closed halls and long corridors help the author to reach necessary effect.

Ghosts and different omens are also important part of the setting. Detailed descriptions help the author to appeal to the imagination of his readers and make them imagine things they read about. All together the plot, the settings and the characters create a classical example of Gothic novel.

In the Pride and Prejudice the author uses the settings in order to illustrate relations between the characters. Love and confrontation of two protagonists Elizabeth and Darcy is illustrated by the descriptions of their houses.

Comparison of Netherfield and Pemberley houses presents a comparison of two different lifestyles. When selecting a book at Netherfield  Miss Bingley  notes: “I am astonished that my father should have left so small a collection of books (Austen 37). The book collection represents lifestyle and social position. Austen very skillfully uses the difference in the book quantity to underline different social positions of the characters. Mr. Bingley had to work hard during his entire life and had little time to choose a good collection of books. This is contrasted  to the collection at Pemberley: That a delightful library you have at Pemberley, Mr. Darcy! It ought  to be good,” he replied, “it has been the work  of many generations” (Austen, 37-38).  By these words Darcy underlines his noble position and aristocracy. Mr. Bingley did not possess such noble position. During his entire life he had to work and earn his living.

Such a simple detail of setting as a collection of books gives the reader much information about the characters. Book collection creates a contrast between Netherfield and Pemberle. These contrast not only gives a meaningful information about the characters but also illustrates one of the main themes of the novel. Descriptions of Netherfield shed light to the attitude of the characters to its owner and also show relations between characters. Mrs. Bennet shows great enthusiasts and affection when speaking about this luxurious place. Her enthusiasms is combined by the great expectations, because she firmly believes: ”It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife”( Austen 15).   Elizabeth’s attitude is reserved and ironical.

The reaction to the house reflect personal reactions of the characters to different situations and different people.

Jane Austen  and Horace Walpole  pay great attention to the settings in their novels. The function of settings is different in two novels but in both of them it conveys an important message to the readers. In Horace Walpole’s Castle of Otranto settings is used in order to create a necessary atmosphere and emotional appeal. Dark and gloomy landscapes and interiors perfectly reflect the genre of the gothic novel and create necessary emotional effect. In Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen settings possesses a rather informative and symbolic function. Descriptions of houses, clothes and jewelry server  as a mean to distinguish social position of people and great meaning they put in all things descried.

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