This GCSE English Literature quiz challenges you on context in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. A text’s context refers to the specific environment in which it was written. Context thus includes the author’s political and social environment, along with the time and geographical location in which he or she was writing. This particular collection of influences might sound familiar to you. If so, the reason might be that these same elements within the text are discussed as “setting”. Setting refers to these aspects of a text’s created, fictional world, whereas context refers to these aspects of the author’s own world. Context inevitably has some impact on a fictional work, because authors do not live apart from the world, but are affected by political and social issues, as well as by historical events they have experienced. Personal beliefs also have an effect on the text, although discerning the impact might not always be easy.
It is usually a good idea to learn as much as you can about the context of a fictional work. Your efforts will help you to develop some insight into the important influences shaping the text. This is not to say that context dictates the meaning of a text. The influence can be subtle and the relationship between context and meaning is never simple and straightforward. Your knowledge of context can nevertheless provide some useful information to bear in mind as you analyse a text.
The context of Pride and Prejudice is interesting because so many of Austen’s characters are given similar circumstances to those in which she and members of her family lived. Sometimes readers find it very tempting to suggest that characters are based on “real-life” figures known to Austen. Of course, even where particular characteristics and personal circumstances have been fictionalised, it is most often the issues, society, and sometimes politics of Austen’s day which are the focus of her satirical fiction.
Research the context of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, remembering everything you have learned in English lessons, and try these questions to see how much you know about the context of the novel.
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