Whenever, we, being the readers, study Jane Austen’s Limited Range in her any literary work as drama, novel, poetry prose, criticism, etc. we start thinking about its appeal, message, subject matter, theme, etc. whether it is limited one or universal one or spiritual one. As far as the scope or subject matter of Jane Austen‘s novel Pride and Prejudice is concerned, it seems inevitably to begin with her limitations. It does not mean implying her inferiority, to other novelists. We may begin, our discussion by pointing out some of the things which are not found in Pride and Prejudice and her other novels.
Let us itemize some of the things that we have not observed in “Pride and Prejudice”. Death, which is an absolute truth, metaphysical experiences of life, ‘great agonies of human experience, darker side of life, etc. we find that she does not show any of these. Apart from these, we see nothing of hunger, poverty, misery; her novels do not deal with any of these grand passions or terrible vices which one finds in life. Though her novels give the lesson of morality of high sort yet we see nothing of God, very little of a spiritual sphere of life. But she presents a limited range of human society and people whom she herself knows. Most of them belong to the landed gentry, the officers corps of the military. She does not deal with problems, worries, concerns of the lower classes and even excludes the industrial masses of the big cities, the agricultural laborers who were in large numbers around Meryton and Longboum.
Her novels don’t deal or present the political side of the people or political situation of the specific areas. It seems that the people of Meryton have no special concern to the political affairs of the country or London which are disturbing the world.
Another side of the life of human beings in the universe which Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice does present or deal with, is the reference of nature. It is one of the ironies of English Literature that at a time when the English romantic writers like Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Shelly, Keats and others were discovering or writing about the external nature. While Jane Austen kept or dealt the characters inside the doors. That’s why, we have no reference of the natural descriptions and settings. There is only one description of nature in Pride and Prejudice and it is the description of Pemberley but it is also very brief and short and fairly generalized. If there is any lesson from the natural beauty which Jane Austen finds and that is that to be mistress of Pemberley might be something!
Perhaps, Jane Austen follows the views of the Pope that
“the proper study of mankind is man.”
And the “man”, she observes, would be a man in doors who were away from nature. Apart from this, there is another very strong and important limitation which we observe in the novel and it is this that her characters are devoid of any strong passions, the violent emotions which one finds in the fictional creations of Dickens and other 19th century novelists. Most of her characters are socially reasonable and sensible and they do not disturb by showing irrational acts, violence, furies, etc. But this does not mean that they are wooden, unemotional puppets and they do not interfere in the general affairs of human beings.
Having many packages of human life as well as of universal kinds, a reader may well wonder how a novel can still be so appealing and great if so much is missing. As some critics find her world limited, shallow and restricted but Jane Austen herself gives the answer of this question and she admits her limitations by saying that “3 or 4 families in a country village are the very thing to work upon.” Charlotte Bronte is of the view that Jane Austen‘s art is a “Chinese fidelity, a miniature delicacy in the painting,”
Now we come towards the conclusion and can say it forcefully that there is no doubt that she is an ironist and a detached observer of life, but it does not mean that her novels are in lackage of moral values and concerns. As it is said that irony in her hands is
“the instrument of a moral vision, it is not a technique of rejection”.
In the remaining concluding remarks, we are now in the position to say though her range may be limited or her material may be trivial yet her achievement is not insignificant. It is through her art of writing that she has developed significant themes of the broadest level which sometimes go beyond social record and she speaks in a didactic tone which ultimately shows or presents her moral intentions and concerns of human society.