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|Servility and Self-Importance
Written by KatharineW
(4/20/2010 4:41 p.m.)
in consequence of the missive, Mr. Collins, penned by Cheryl
I agree with Cheryl that Jane Austen's abilities as a writer are at their best with this character. He is funny and cringe-inducing at the same time. You feel sorry for him and you would like to hit him over the head.
I could almost be tempted to see all of Ms. Austen's characters through bi-focals as it were. A mixture of pride and prejudice, sense and sensibility, shyness and strength (Fanny, Anne), and so on. But this would be too easy. Mr. Collins is pitiful. Somehow, he survived being raised by an illiterate and stingy parent. He managed to make it through Oxford doing enough work to earn ordination. (And he didn't have the family background to allow him to coast on the "gentlemens' C.")
Yet Jane Austen allows this character to speak for himself in his letter to Mr. Bennet. This epistle is a mistress-piece in the fine art of letting characters reveal themselves through the twice written word. The text is Austen but the spirit is Collins in all its obsequious glory. (I often wonder if Charles Dickens used Mr. Collins as the inspiration for another obnoxious 'umble person Uriah Heep?
Yes, Mr. Collins offers his hand in marriage first to a Bennet daughter. I would like to think his motives were noble. However I suspect that Lady Catherine was more likely responsible. Five unmarried daughters of a country gentleman should be desperate enough for one of them to accept clumsy Collins (probably his Oxford nickname) as the only alternative to destitution. Knowing that Lady Catherine's "bounty and beneficence" are very important to Mr. Collins, it is easy to imagine his accepting her advice on the matter of matrimony. But more on this later as I do not wish to jump ahead of this week's assignment.
Jane Austen has created a bumbling booby of a country cleric. Yet his character is not two dimensional. We do feel sorry for the man even as we thank Providence that he is not amongst our acquaintance. We rejoice that Lizzy has sense and wonder that Charlotte's fears of poverty and desire for her own establishment could make her accept this educated idiot in marriage.
I'll stop now.
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