A NORTAV Analysis of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice

For instructions on performing a NORTAV analysis, see The NORTAV Method for Writers. To read a copy of Pride and Prejudice , click here.

Narrative Mode: NCE 1

Narrator: Omniscient

Narrative Intrusion: Yes

Focal Character(s): Mr. Bennet

Prose Type(s) and/or Beat Types(s): NCE mixed with Narration that leads the reader through the story. NCE often includes no narrative presence within dialogue.

Narrative Tense: Past

Additional Constraints: None

Narrative Pattern: Style use NCE 1 throughout.

Source: Chapter 1;Paragraphs 1-24


    [N1] It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

Austen opens the story with an omniscient narrator who addresses the reader directly through a beat of Narration, [N1]. Here the narrator begins to set the stage for the events to come by relating to the reader a general axiom regarding rich, single men.

    [N2] However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters.

[N1] leads to Narration beat [N2], where Austen’s narrator begins to apply the general axiom to the specific story that’s about to be told.

    [No3] “My dear Mr. Bennet,” said his lady to him one day, “have you heard that Netherfield Park is let at last?”

Here the narrator introduces a focal character, though it’s by inference, in the beat of Narrated Observation [No3]. The reader now feels the shift in prose types, as the reader no longer just “hears” the narrator’s voice, but now starts to experience the story through a character (“him”) simultaneously. This, of course, tells us the prose type has shifted from Narration to NCE. This is not a change in the narrative mode, however, as the narrator’s continued and noticeable presence maintains a consistent narrative feel overall.

    [Nv4] Mr. Bennet replied that he had not.

Here [No3] triggers a response in the focal character, in this case Narrated Vocalization beat [Nv4]. Notice we now know the name of the focal character. Notice also that the Narrated Vocalization beat is rendered completely through the narrator as a summary of what was actually said. Thus the narrative mode maintains a somewhat distant feel.

    [No5] “But it is,” returned she; “for Mrs. Long has just been here, and she told me all about it.”

Here initiating Narrated Observation beat [No5] continues the conversation. It also maintains the distant feel through the use of the tag “returned she.”

    [Nv6] Mr. Bennet made no answer.

[No5] triggers Narrated Vocalization beat [Nv6]. Again, this is summarized, keeping the narrator’s presence up front in the style.

    [No7] “Do you not want to know who has taken it?” cried his wife impatiently.

The conversation continues in the same manner and style. [No7] is an initiating Narrated Observation beat. Note that in this beat, the inclusion of “impatiently” is a tad ambiguous. Because the reader is now accustomed to receiving information from the overt narrator as well as through the focal character, we don’t exactly know if it is the narrator telling us the woman is impatient, or if this is the focal character coming to that conclusion, or both.

      [Nv8] “


    want to tell me, and I have no objection to hearing it.”

[No7] triggers Narrative Vocalization beat [Nv8]. Notice here that the narrator has now disappeared. She provides the reader only with the direct vocalization itself. Again, this is typical. Often when a writer is creating a long passage of dialogue/conversation, the narrator will often step aside so the reader will experience the conversation directly. This, of course, technically means the prose is being rendered in DCE. But, since the narrator’s presence has been up front all along, and as we know it will eventually return, we consider this as all part of the writing style or narrative mode (NCE), and it’s notated as such. Certainly this entire passage could have been notated as having three different narrative modes along with a narrative schema that described how the author purposefully used them to transition back and forth. It’s a matter of the reader/analyst’s perception of the prose.

    [N9] This was invitation enough.

Here the narrator interrupts directly with [N9], a beat of Narration that provides the reader with some commentary on the events. This beat is also a bit ambiguous, as this could potentially be the focal character’s realization.

    [No10] “Why, my dear, you must know, Mrs. Long says that Netherfield is taken by a young man of large fortune from the north of England; that he came down on Monday in a chaise and four to see the place, and was so much delighted with it, that he agreed with Mr. Morris immediately; that he is to take possession before Michaelmas, and some of his servants are to be in the house by the end of next week.”

Here we go back to an initiating Narrated Observation beat, [No10], that has no detectable presence of the narrator.

    [Nv11] “What is his name?”
    [No12] “Bingley.”
    [Nv13] “Is he married or single?”
    [No14] “Oh! Single, my dear, to be sure! A single man of large fortune; four or five thousand a year. What a fine thing for our girls!”
    [Nv15] “How so? How can it affect them?”
    [No16] “My dear Mr. Bennet,” replied his wife, “how can you be so tiresome! You must know that I am thinking of his marrying one of them.”
    [Nv17] “Is that his design in settling here?”
      [No18] “Design! Nonsense, how can you talk so! But it is very likely that he


    fall in love with one of them, and therefore you must visit him as soon as he comes.”
    [Nv19] “I see no occasion for that. You and the girls may go, or you may send them by themselves, which perhaps will be still better, for as you are as handsome as any of them, Mr. Bingley may like you the best of the party.”
      [No20] “My dear, you flatter me. I certainly


    had my share of beauty, but I do not pretend to be anything extraordinary now. When a woman has five grown-up daughters, she ought to give over thinking of her own beauty.”
    [Nv21] “In such cases, a woman has not often much beauty to think of.”
    [No22] “But, my dear, you must indeed go and see Mr. Bingley when he comes into the neighbourhood.”
    [Nv23] “It is more than I engage for, I assure you.”
    [No24] “But consider your daughters. Only think what an establishment it would be for one of them…”

Finally, [Nv11] through [No24] is a continuation of the exact same style. We have a conversation, rendered through an exchange of initiating Narrated Observation beats and triggered Narrated Vocalization beats, all of which contain no sense of the narrator’s presence.

In this sample, Austen has employed a style typical of the period. The narrator’s presence is very up front as she tells the reader the story, as opposed to many modern styles where the reader is more likely to experience the entire story through the senses of one or more focal characters. Unlike some other authors of the period, however, Austen does allow the reader to periodically experience events through the focal character alone, making her style less distant than some of her contemporaries. And as we saw in a few cases, when using an NCE-based narrative mode, there are often ambiguities where it’s unclear if a certain beat is coming from the narrator or from the focal character.

Source Copyright

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Work in Public Domain

Excerpted for this analysis under Title 17 of the U.S. Copyright Law.


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