The Presentation of Speech and Thought in Jane Austen’s "Pride and Prejudice" and in Joe Wright’s Film Adaptation

Bachelor Thesis, 2007

51 Pages, Grade: 1,7



I. Introduction

II. The Presentation of Speech and Thought in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and in Joe Wright’s Film Adaptation

1. Speech and thought presentation in the novel
1.1 Categorization of speech presentation
1.1.1 Direct Speech
1.1.2 Indirect Speech
1.1.3 Free Indirect Speech
1.1.4 Summary of speech presentation in a graphic model
1.2 Categorization of thought presentation
1.2.1 Direct Thought
1.2.2 Free Indirect Thought
1.2.3 Comparison of speech and thought presentation in a graphic model

2. Analysis of speech and thought presentation in the novel Pride and Prejudice
2.1 Speech presentation
2.1.1 Direct Speech Characterisation through dialogue
2.1.2 Indirect Speech
2.1.3. Free Indirect Speech
2.2 Thought presentation
2.2.1 Direct Thought
2.2.2 Free Indirect Thought
2.2.3 Letters

3. Speech and thought presented in Joe Wright’s film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice (2005)
3.1 Speech presentation
3.2 Thought presentation

III. Conclusion

IV. Appendix

V. Bibliography

I. Introduction

Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice has been a widely read and studied novel and has been known to serve as a suitable model for the research of different topics. A special emphasis has been placed on the way Austen portrays her characters’ speech and thoughts. To her, dialogue is described as the most appropriate means in order to achieve a preferably close approach to reality.

Due to the fact that Austen strived after combining a realistic depiction of her characters and their surroundings with psychological depth, she had to find gradations of the ordinary dialogue between the characters. Utterances could be regarded as important or less important, a character could appear more strongly than another in the course of the story or whole scenes could excel others in their prominence.

In order to be able to illustrate the different emphasis and to present these contrasts comprehensibly to the reader, the dialogue in Pride and Prejudice is expanded with direct and indirect versions of speech. The same applies to the portrayal of characters’ thoughts, which accounts for a dominant part of the novel. By alternating between the various possibilities to depict speech and thought, thus putting emphasis on certain situations, it was possible for Austen to insert her own views on specific circumstances and characters.

Nevertheless, direct speech is the prevailing method to display the characters’ utterances since it is the nearest and most dramatic manner. The vivacity of the characters’ persona, their feelings and different tempers are perceptible through their dialogues and provide a narration that is as realistic as possible.

In the following, the different versions of speech and thought presented will be analysed in terms of their occurrence in the novel, their importance and their meaning to the narrator and the reader, as well as exemplified on the basis of selected passages. This can be achieved after giving a detailed description of the terms.

Furthermore, the analysis will proceed to a brief, but close investigation of how speech and thought are dealt with in the most recent film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. The novel was first transcribed onto screen in 1940, followed by diverse adaptations for British television. Joe Wright filmed the novel once more in 2005 and aimed at a faithful visual realization of the original by putting the emphasis on the most realistic transcription. “I told the actors to improvise as much as possible […] to give a kind of reality and freshness.” (DVD Stolz & Vorurteil, Bonus "Director’s commentary") The way Joe Wright adopted the presentation of speech and thought from the written medium into the visual one and which methods he used for the 'translation' onto screen will be looked at closely. In addition, the two different sorts of media will be compared by means of their similarities and discrepancies concerning the presentation of speech and thought and which difficulties appear when transcribing a novel into a film.

1. Speech and thought presentation in the novel

1.1. Categorization of speech presentation

Before it is possible to give an account of how speech is represented in Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice, it is at first necessary to have a closer look at the definitions of the various speech presentations in general. There are several choices available to the author to demonstrate a character speech as well as thought. These choices enable the author to endue the narration with different viewpoints and meanings. “[…] Variation in speech presentation […] allows the authors to indicate how important a piece of speech is. In general terms, Indirect Speech appears to be a backgrounding, and Direct Speech a foregrounding device.” (Short 1996, 292-293)

However, there are more options one can choose to present speech acts than solely direct and indirect speech. In order to give a complete review of the different possibilities of speech presentation, the researcher will begin with the least direct and most minimalist form, the Narrator’s Representation of Speech (NRS), using Short’s term. (compare: Short 1996, 293 ff.) The narrator here informs the reader that a speech act has taken place without giving any further details about the topic or the tone. 'He was talking with her for a while' is an example of NRS which reveals the narrator’s complete control over the speech act, but with a perspective so distanced from the original words of the conversation that the reader only comes to know that a speech act occurred but is unaware about the topic and the tone of the speakers.

In comparison to NRS, the Narrator’s Representation of Speech Acts (NRSA) provides the reader with slightly more information about what is said. Though still completely under the narrator’s control, a particular act of speech is now being presented and in some cases even the subject matter that is talked about. “'Speech Act' is the term used to designate ACTS performed by saying something e.g. complaining, instructing, questioning, pleading, arguing.” (Short 2005, 1) In the example 'He told her about his upcoming holidays' the reader gets an indication of the speech act the speaker uses as well as the topic he talks about. Yet the reader is still left uninformed about what the person said precisely and “as a consequence, [this phrase] can be seen as a summary of a longer piece of discourse […]”. (Short 1996, 293) The two forms of speech presentation mentioned so far, NRS and NRSA, indeed are possibilities to inform the reader that a speech act has taken place but are nevertheless not expressive enough to be analysed in Pride and Prejudice. These forms are merely mentioned for the sake of completeness.

In the following research, the analysis will be limited to direct, indirect and free indirect speech in the novel as well as the presentation of thoughts as an indirect version of speech acts. As the following forms of speech and thought presentation will be analysed further down in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, the example-quotes will be extracted from this very novel.

1.1.1 Direct Speech

As opposed to the minimalist presentation of speech in NRS and NRSA, the form which expresses characters’ words directly without being filtered through the manipulation of a narrator is Direct Speech (DS). “DS contains the actual words and grammatical structures which the character used in the original utterance, not those of the narrator.” (Short 2005, 1) One has to bear in mind that, unlike in a real-life conversation, the author of the novel quotes utterances which he made up and are not based on a prior speech situation. “When we read, we pretend to ourselves that a character whose speech is being reported said the words at some previous point in the fictional world of the novel.” (Short 1996, 290) Although the words a person uttered are expressed truthfully in DS without any changes in style or grammar, one could argue that the narrator still has a minimal influence on what is said by indicating the utterance with a reporting clause, such as 'he said', 'he shouted', or 'he asked' before or after the reported clause.

The two clauses belong to two different discourse situations - the reporting clause relates to the situation where the narrator is talking to the reader, and the reported clause relates to a previous discourse situation where a character said something to another character. (Short 2005, 1)

DS 'translates' an utterance by repeating all the linguistic features used by the original speaker marked off within inverted commas and by defining the reported clause with the reporting clause, which identifies the speaker, selectively the addressee and additionally informs the reader about the tone of the utterance by choosing an appropriate verb. An example sentence for DS could be: ‘“Do not you want to know who has taken it?” cried his wife impatiently.’ (Austen 5) Here the original utterance is quoted directly within quotation marks and concluded with a question mark which indicates the enquiring nature of the sentence. Furthermore, the reader learns in the reporting clause who said the sentence and in which tone it was phrased. In the most free form of DS even the inverted commas and/or the reporting clause can be omitted whereby the narrator’s influence is reduced to zero.

"What is his name?" "Bingley."

"Is he married or single?"

"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!"

"How so? how can it affect them?" (Austen 5-6)

Free Direct Speech (FDS) is mostly used to accentuate the reported clause by delivering it from the presence of the narrator without withdrawing the contextual information the reader needs to consider the text coherent and without

causing confusion or reader difficulty […]. Once this possibility has been noticed, more experimental authors can then use these freer forms of DS to create special effects, bordering on bewilderment for the reader in some cases, but also allowing the delicate perceptual membranes which separate what is done, what is said and what is thought to be explored in interesting new ways. (Short 1996, 304)

Generally speaking, DS is used to offer the reader the most unchanged form of the actual spoken words of a person including colloquial expressions, grammatical mistakes and ejaculations to portray the entire vividness of the utterance and to depict the character of the person speaking.

1.1.2 Indirect Speech

“In addition to the [original] speech act[s] the character uses we are also given the propositional content of his/her utterance but in the narrator’s words.” (Short 2005, 1) In other words, in DS the narrator quotes the utterance verbatim without any intervention, whereas in Indirect Speech (IS) the narrator reports the subject matter of what was said, using his own words. “In the novel, the words of Direct Speech are clearly those of the character concerned. The words of Indirect Speech, on the other hand, usually belong to the narrator.” (Short 1996, 289) The difference can be best seen when translating the example in Direct Speech given above into Indirect Speech:

DS: "Do not you want to know who has taken it?" cried his wife impatiently.

IS: She asked her husband in a heatedly tone if he didn’t want to hear who had taken


When converting the DS sentence into IS, the following changes take place:

(i) The inverted commas around the reported clause as well as the question
mark are removed.
(ii) The reported clause is introduced with the conjunction 'if' which transforms
the independent reported clause in DS into a subordinated position in IS.
(iii) The tense of the verbs in the reported clause undergoes backshift.
(iv) The second person pronoun changes to a third person pronoun.
(v) The verb 'know' in DS is replaced by the verb 'hear' in IS.
(vi) In DS it is common to place the reporting clause after the reported clause, whereas the order usually changes in IS.

It is striking that the grammatical difference (ii) leads to a difference in the expressive tone of the reported words. Due to the subordinated position the reported clause in IS receives, the reported words are assessed a minor status. The vividness the words express in DS is lacking here since expressive signs such as the question mark and the rather colloquial style are omitted. Furthermore, the indirect version shows no optical difference to the normal third person narration of the novel. As a result, IS is not apt for conveying liveliness of a person’s utterance, neither for letting the reader experience the character of a person by means of the way this person says something. In general, IS is used to sum up passages of talk that are not considered as important by the narrator to explain a person’s character with appropriate adjectives and to offer the reader a fluent reading.

1.1.3 Free Indirect Speech

Any mixture of DS and IS features can be entitled Free Indirect Speech (FIS). Typically FIS has the grammatical characteristics of IS. The tenses and pronouns of the reported clause usually stay related to the narrator, but at the same time some of the original production features are of DS.

Its most typical manifestation is one where, unlike IS, the reporting clause is omitted […] [which] allows the reported clause, which is always subordinate in indirect versions, to take on some of the syntactic possibilities of the main clause, and in this respect share some of the features typically associated with DS. (Leech, Short 325)

It is often ambiguous to ascribe with certainty whether the character’s or the narrator’s words are being presented. In any case, FIS always bears the signature of the narrator; “its characteristic features in the novel are almost always the presence of third-person pronouns and past tense, which correspond with the form of narrative report and indicate indirectness, along with a number of features […] indicating freeness.” (Leech, Short 325) An example-sentence taken from the novel Pride and Prejudice demonstrates the blend of character and narrator. “How differently did every thing now appear in which he was concerned!” (Austen 201) Although at first sight this sentence might look like a very free form of DS for inverted commas - in the original text - and a reporting clause are not present, the narrator controls the utterance by using the backshift of the tense. In DS the sentence might look as follows: 'How differently does every thing now appear in which he is concerned!' Obviously the grammatical form of IS is mingled with the “vivacity of direct speech, evoking the personal tone, the gesture, and […] the idiom of the speaker […] reported.” (Pascal 137) Hence, the narrator’s and the character’s voice are being fused through vocabulary, sentence structure and intonation, which eventually could be understood as a 'dual voice'. “The [reader] thinks in the third person but understands him in the character’s own terms, his own ejaculations and intonation.” (Pascal 23) This duality of character and narrator, of mixing original language with distancing effects, may be heard as a tone of irony.

The irony arises because FIS is normally viewed as a form where the [narrator’s] voice is interposed between the reader and what the character says, so that the reader is distanced from the character’s words. This is explicable if it is assumed that DS is a norm or baseline for the portrayal of speech. (Leech, Short 334) (see 1.1.4)

Consequently, it is the distance to the character’s original words that allows FIS to be used as a means for imposing irony. Here the narrator has the possibility to let his own opinion slip into the character’s words without changing them into IS, where he could use his own words, but rather giving them a sense of directness which produces a vivid, thus real and believable tone for the reader. “This ability to give the flavour of the character’s words but also to keep the narrator in an intervening position between character and reader makes FIS an extremely useful vehicle for casting ironic light on what the character says.” (Leech, Short 326-327) This also shows how FIS can be used to contrast the role and attitude of characters according to how the narrator intends to picture them, putting them into a back grounding position or highlighting them. “This variation can also be used for more large-scale strategic purposes; for example, to channel our sympathies towards one character or set of characters and away from another.” (Leech, Short 335)

To sum up, FIS is often used to convey irony because the slight distance from the norm of DS allows this form to include two different points of views, the one of the character and the one of the narrator. Nevertheless, FIS does not automatically always contain irony, but can likewise serve as a means of depicting more thoroughly a person’s character than DS or IS can.

As a means of reproducing someone else’s argument it is a pleasant variant from direct quotation, which is often too long or awkward to fit in, and from simple reported speech, which can easily grow clumsy and wearisome. It allows one to give the actual words and tone of the writer, and to fit them smoothly into one’s exposition. (Pascal 136)

Accordingly, Free Indirect Speech can operate at a relatively minor level in the interpretation of a dialogue and sometimes at a higher level in producing tactical effects. In any case, it has to be mentioned, that textual studies require to be based on the original text, and particularly in the case of free indirect speech, since the character of a statement may be decisively established by idiomatic usages of different kinds, a particular tense, certain particles, slight stylistic nuances, that sometimes cannot be rendered in another language or require different means. (Pascal 36)

1.1.4 Summary of speech presentation in a graphic model

All the different speech presentations mentioned so far can be placed on a continuum which illustrates the degree of the blending of character and narrator at different points on the scale:

illustration not visible in this excerpt

As indicated above, DS is considered the norm of speech presentation since it represents the character’s words as original as possible, merely including a reporting clause and inverted commas. In contrast, IS yet conveys the speech acts used and the content of the utterance but not the original words of the character. NRSA and NRS solely mention that speech has occurred but offer too little or no information about the topic and the original words. Therefore, these forms put even more distance between the reader and what the character says than IS does. FIS is put between IS and DS on the scale as it is a mixture of indirect and direct elements of narrator and character. With the most extreme form of direct speech, FDS, the reader gets the impression that he is witnessing what the character says without any interference from the narrator. In other words, any movement to the right of DS on the above scale will produce an effect of freeness, as if the [narrator] has vacated the stage and left it to his characters; whereas any movement to the left of the norm will usually be interpreted as a movement away from verbatim report and towards 'interference'. (Leech, Short 334)

1.2 Categorization of thought presentation

Although the focus of the above part was directed at the presentation of speech, novelists, especially in the nineteenth and twentieth century, have sought to portray the thoughts of their characters, the “'internal speech', [the] vivid […] flow of thought through a character’s mind.” (Leech, Short 337)

One should keep in mind that any representation of a character’s thinking, even being in an extremely indirect form, is always artificial. One cannot access the thoughts of others, but can only deduce them from peoples’ actions, speech, facial expressions etc. Nevertheless, thought presentation is often used to explain motivations for a character’s actions and attitudes. As a novel is a medium in written form, these thoughts can only be expressed by writing them on paper, which then seem as an indirect version of speech presentation. It is as if the narrator would say, “This is what the character would have said if he had made his thoughts explicit.” (Leech, Short 345)

The categories a novelist uses to portray the thoughts of his characters are the same as those used for speech presentation. However, Direct Thought and Free Indirect Thought differ in their effects from DS and FIS, which will be examined further down. In order to provide a completeness of the terms of thought presentation as well, the less important forms briefly have to be looked at. The less direct form of presenting thoughts is the Narrator’s Representation of Thought (NRT), whereupon the reader is merely informed that a thought act has taken place. 'He was thinking about her for a while.' represents the act of thinking, whereas the example 'He was thinking about her unreliability.' presents the reader little more information about the topic the person was thinking about, accordingly entitled the Narrator’s Representation of Thought Acts (NRTA).

The rules for IS apply for Indirect Thought (IT) in the same way. The narrator uses his own words to describe what a character was thinking about and it is left in the narrator’s sole discretion how detailed he wants to work out a thought process. 'He thought that she would not be on time.' is a very simple example for an indirect account of a person’s thought. As the rules and effects for mentioned forms of thought presentation are exactly the same as for the analogical forms of speech presentation, the focus will now be turned to Direct Thought and Free Indirect Thought since the effects of these two categories turn out to be different from the equivalent speech forms.

1.2.1 Direct Thought

Assuming that the thoughts of characters in a novel are accessible to the narrator, Direct Thought (DT) is, like DS, the form that presents the thoughts of a character most genuinely and closely, which can be seen in an example from Pride and Prejudice. ‘"What will be his surprise," thought she, "when he knows who they are! He takes them now for people of fashion."’ (Austen 244) At first sight such a DT example looks as if it was expressed aloud, by reason of the inverted commas and the exclamation mark, and solely marked off as a thought act through the reporting clause. Novelists tend to leave out inverted commas and reporting clause to free this thought presentation of the appearance of DS and to turn it into Free Direct Thought (FDT). Furthermore, as it can be noticed in the example mentioned, DT is frequently used to present imaginary conversations characters have with themselves, which is why it often has the nature of conscious thinking. The example therefore is placed within inverted commas in order to stress the fact that it concerns an imaginary conversation. Besides, it has to be observed that any presentation of thought requires an omniscient narrator, who can provide an insight into characters minds.

Because any portrayal of character thought must involve the presence of an omniscient narrator, the more direct forms of presentation, DT and FDT, take on a somewhat different value from their speech counterparts. In the presentation of speech, the use of DS or FDS produces the impression that the character is talking in our presence, with less and less authorial intervention. Similarly, in DT and FDT authorial intervention appears minimal; but as the result is effectively a monologue, with the character 'talking' to himself, the thoughts he produces acquire a conscious quality. (Leech, Short 342)

1.2.2 Free Indirect Thought

Similarly as DT takes on a different value than DS, Free Indirect Thought (FIT) has a different effect than its speech counterpart. “Instead of indicating a move towards the narrator, it signifies a movement towards the exact representation of a character’s thought, [hence producing] a more vivid and immediate representation of the character’s thoughts as they happen.” (Leech, Short 344) “We feel close to the character, almost inside his head as he thinks, and sympathise with his viewpoint. This 'close' effect is more or less the opposite of the effect of FIS, which makes us feel distanced from the character.” (Short 1996, 315)

Another effect FIT can import is the representation of subconscious thought. Whereas the reader generally in FIT has the possibility to slip into the character’s mind to take part in his thought process, the free indirect form is occasionally used to let the reader know that some thinking process is going on, without the character being aware of it. Usually these thoughts are a matter of the subconscious cognition about the person’s own character or about being at fault about something. The form of FIT, on the other hand, stays the same as in FIS, using a mixture of Direct and Indirect Thought: “Oh! how acutely did she now feel it.” (Austen 266) Here again, as it has been the case in FIS, “it is impossible to tell by the use of formal linguistic criteria alone whether one is reading the thoughts of the character or the views of the narrator. The tense and pronoun selection are appropriate to either.” (Leech, Short 338)

The first person novel has provided a solution to this problem. Since the hero is the narrator at the same time, he can describe his thoughts and feelings from his knowledge and his perspective. Limited in this case is the presentation of other character’s thoughts. In contrast, an omniscient narrator is allowed the right of access to all characters’ thoughts; in return though, it is difficult to tell which mode is being used. This means, as well as in FIS, can be utilised to manipulate the reader’s view on the characters to a negative or a positive stance.

When we examined the choices of mode of speech presentation we noted that it was possible for a writer to make consistent choices with respect to his characters for general strategic purposes within his work. Novelists can use the presentation of thought in a similar way in order to control our sympathies. (Leech, Short 346)

The reason why DT and FIT imply different values than their counterparts in speech presentation is that the norm for the presentation of thought is IT and not the direct form as it counts for speech. The difference can be best explained on the basis of a scale for thought presentation in comparison with the model for speech introduced above.

1.2.3 Comparison of speech and thought presentation in a graphic model

illustration not visible in this excerpt

It was noted earlier that DS provides a verbatim report of what a character said, but in IS the narrator presents the content of the speech without committing himself to use the original words of the utterance. DS therefore is the natural mode to express speech the way it was originally formed to a listener. On the contrary, thoughts are not directly accessible to a person, which is why a version that features the content of a thought is much more appropriate as a norm, especially in the third person narrative since thoughts usually are not verbally formulated.

If a writer decides to let us know the thoughts of a character […], he is inviting us to see things from that character’s point of view. As he moves along the scale towards the 'free' end of the thought presentation continuum, he apparently gives us the 'verbatim' thoughts of the characters with less and less intervention on his part. (Leech, Short 338)

As one can notice when comparing the two scales, any movement from IT to the right on the thought presentation scale can be interpreted as a step into the character’s mind with the narrator’s control reducing to zero. Any movement leftwards from IT leads to growing narratorial intervention, whereas on the speech scale every form leftwards from DS includes the interference of the narrator. Consequently, any deviation from the norm is perceived as a rather artificial form and can conveniently be utilised to achieve any suitable effect on the reader. (compare: Leech, Short 345) To recapitulate, a broad versatility of speech and thought presentation is available to the narrator to vary in point of view, tone and distance and to manipulate the reader’s perception according to the narrator’s intention.

2. Analysis of speech and thought presentation in the novel Pride and Prejudice

In the following part the terms of speech and thought presentation, defined above, will be analysed in Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice. By far the most part of the account of speech acts is given in DS which predominantly includes dialogue between two or more people. IS, on the contrary, occupies only a small fraction of the narrative, which is why it will be less closely examined in the following section. Although FIS similarly takes up a negligible proportion of the whole story, it plays an important role in the overall essence of the novel and together with FIT will account for the major part of the analysis. The mental process of characters, especially of the heroine, Elizabeth Bennet, is a crucial element of the novel as well. DT is used to shape the story in both structure and meaning, which will be discussed further down.

2.1 Speech presentation

2.1.1 Direct Speech

As it was previously mentioned that DS is the most vivid form of speech presentation, it is not surprising that Austen wrote the novel to a degree of 47% (compare: Bühler 84) in the direct form, the reason being that the story is based on the relationships between people. Especially dialogue scenes are most suitable to demonstrate the vividness and originality of speech acts. “Austen’s descriptions of her characters’ physical attributes tend to be minimal; instead she allows their moral characters to be revealed through their words.” (Todd 28) Mrs. Bennet, whose anticipation to see her daughter Elizabeth married has been frustrated by Elizabeth’s denial of Mr. Collin’s proposal, addresses her unsympathetic husband:

"Oh! Mr. Bennet, you are wanted immediately; we are all in an uproar. You must come and make Lizzy marry Mr. Collins, for she vows she will not have him, and if you do not make haste he will change his mind and not have her."

Mr. Bennet raised his eyes from his book as she entered, and fixed them on her face with a calm unconcern which was not in the least altered by her communication.

"I have not the pleasure of understanding you," said he, when she had finished her speech. "Of what are you talking?"

"Of Mr. Collins and Lizzy. Lizzy declares she will not have Mr. Collins, and Mr. Collins begins to say that he will not have Lizzy."


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The Presentation of Speech and Thought in Jane Austen’s "Pride and Prejudice" and in Joe Wright’s Film Adaptation
Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg
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Presentation, Speech, Thought, Jane, Austen’s, Pride, Prejudice, Wright’s, Film, Adaptation
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Reni Ernst (Author), 2007, The Presentation of Speech and Thought in Jane Austen’s "Pride and Prejudice" and in Joe Wright’s Film Adaptation, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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