THE MANIPULATIVE NATURE OF LETTERS IN 19TH CENTURY BRITISH TEXTS WITH A FOCUS ON AUSTEN AND WILDE
Azam, Fatima Faraz
Epistles, within or without the framework of a novel, may have the authority to manipulate. They can plausibly have a deep impact on the thinking processes and emotional reactions of not only readers but also of the writers. In Pride and Prejudice, Mr. Darcy's letter to Elizabeth, after his failed proposal, is a petition that forces readers in the role of judge and jury; the written is substituted for the writer's physical actions. With Sense and Sensibility, Lucy Steele's short letter indicating she is married moves Edward to action and attempts to removes her guilt; it thus helps shapes two relationships. Very near the conclusion of Emma, Frank filters his somewhat explanatory letter through his stepmother in order, ironically, to make his voice heard; he attempts to recreate his identity through an epistle but doesn't quite succeed. Furthermore, the deceptively simple note of Lord Henry to Dorian after Sybil Vane's death in The Picture of Dorian Gray illustrates how one can condemn without risk, using an extended, unorthodox form of the letter as paper mask. With The Importance of Being Earnest, Cecily proves to readers/audience and Algernon how letters can make the false real; she wields the sometimes disturbing power of the written word. The analysis of these letters seems to coalesce in De Profundis, a synecdoche of letters within letters, in which the writer is the author, the character, and the reader. Using critical discourse that focuses on epistolary forms and letters both within and without novels, this thesis seeks to illustrate how letters are manipulative and further how they impact narrative arc, readers, writers, and recipients.
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