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Written by BarbaraB
(6/18/2007 6:50 p.m.)
in consequence of the missive, Condescension, penned by Amanda Lee
"Keep in mind that the English class system was accepted as a fact of life in Austen's day. A nobleman who acted pleasantly toward a social inferior was considered admirable and courteous. In other words, doesn't pull rank. This concept is known as condescensiion---being nice to those who rank lower than you do.
But the characters in Austen's novels didn't always follow this notion. If you take a look at Lady Catherine in PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, you see her acting in the worst condescending way: She gives Mr. Collins his orders to marry, tells him what kind of woman he should marry, and then tells the new Mrs. Collins how to care for her poultry. Lady Catherine's behavior is anything but pleasant. Mr. Collins idiotically observes that Lady Catherine "'...likes to have the distinctiion of rank preserved'". His inability to see the difference between friendly condescension and the snobbish superiority that Lady Catherine displays is another mark of his stupidity.
Through Lady Catherine's behavior, Austen reminds us that even titled folks could let their titles and status go to their heads. Instead of behaving the way she should---with "condescention" that is pleasant---Lady Catherine is proud, overbearing, and never lets anyone forget that she is the daughter of an earl." Joan Klingel Ray (There is another paragraph that cites how Mr. Knightley displays proper condescension but that is for another board.) Hope this helps Amanda. :)
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