How to Marry Your Daughters

By Helen Garner

Summary

Garner’s How to Marry Your Daughters is a literary review of Jane Austen’s famous Regency era novel Pride and Prejudice. The review captures Garner’s reaction to the social conventions explored by Austen while reflecting on the text’s significance in the contemporary era. By examining the way in which Austen wrote of the pressures facing women in particular in Regency-era England, Garner satirises the way in which similar forces exist today, to demonstrate how little has changed in the lives of young men and women despite the developments that have shaped the world in the more than 200 years since Pride and Prejudice was first published. Accordingly, Garner’s text oozes with irony – seen in “A toast to the empress, Jane Austen”, as she both celebrates and condemns the principal characters, and Austen’s enduring commentary on social relationships.

Analysis

By intertwining her personal recollection of reading Pride and Prejudice with a critical examination, Garner creates a dynamic interplay on the impact and legacy of Austen’s classic literary text. Garner casts her critical literary eye on the construction and techniques used by Austen, emphasising the enormity of the task through ‘In order to keep my eye on how Austen was actually doing things, I was having to work hard against the seduction of her endlessly modulating, psychologically piercing narrative voice, her striding mastery of the free indirect mode.’ This literary jargon and accumulation underscores the complexity of Austen’s construction, building her literary prowess in the eyes of both Garner and the reader. Yet, Garner’s review conveys her personal critiques of Austen and her characters, such as the sarcastic elucidation ‘Here Austen gives us five enthralling pages of Elizabeth thinking. She reasons like a lawyer, or rather, a jury, weighing up evidence, assertion, argument,’ which helps Garner create an engaging work. Despite her range of perspectives on Austen, her text, and her characters, Garner ironically proclaims ‘A toast to the Empress, Jane Austen,’ encapsulating the totality of her reading and literary review of Pride and Prejudice.

QUOTE TABLE

Quote
Technique
Effect
‘A toast to the Empress, Jane Austen’
irony
tone conveys Garner’s range of views on Austen
‘She pushes the girl’s narcissism so far that it becomes grotesque, hilarious; yet I laughed with heart in mouth.’
descriptive language, metaphor
physical reaction to reading
‘Here Austen gives us five enthralling pages of Elizabeth thinking. She reasons like a lawyer, or rather, a jury, weighing up evidence, assertion, argument.’
sarcasm, simile
characterising Elizabeth’s actions and Garner’s interpretation of Austen’s focus
‘In order to keep my eye on how Austen was actually doing things, I was having to work hard against the seduction of her endlessly modulating, psychologically piercing narrative voice, her striding mastery of the free indirect mode.’
literary jargon, descriptive language, accumulation
intertwining the experience of reading Pride and Prejudice with critical engagement
‘They’re part of the tissue of every literate person’s mind. But I confess when I opened the novel last week … I wasn’t quite sure when, or even whether, I had read the book before.’
juxtaposition
declaration of universality of knowledge then undercutting self for lack of knowledge; self-deprecation

Advanced: Metamorphosis

Advanced: Spotty-Handed Villainesses
 

Advanced: Love & Honour & Pity & Pride & Compassion & Sacrifice

Advanced: Father and Child
 

Advanced: How to Marry Your Daughters