Mr Collins’ Significance

Write a critical commentary on the following passage (from Chapter 15), relating it to the presentation of Mr. Collins and his significance in the novel.

Mr Collins, in the passage, is depicted as a man of hubris and extreme self-importance. His lack of humility as the clergyman, an authoritative religious figure, seems to be Austen’s way of criticising the supposed morally significant characters in the Regency era. The flippant attitude he holds towards marriage, reveals his nature as superficial, in the pursuit of a wife, highlighting the censure Austen holds for the transactional value marriage has been reduced too. Lastly, Collins is also presented to be highly sycophantic man. The cumulative effects of his ill traits puts him in a position of thorough dislike and abomination by the readers, as he embodies the ugly traits due to the societal structure and of Regency era.

Firstly, Collins’ self-importance is clearly shown through the omniscient narrator, who lays out the fact that Collins has ‘a very good opinion of himself, with the absolute ‘very’ intensifying the narcissism he has. Furthermore, anaphora is employed in ‘his authority as a clergyman’ and ‘his rights as a rector’ to highlight the sense of hubris he had for his position. With the choice of ‘authority’ and ‘right’ holding connotations of influence, lifting himself to appear more powerful than he was. The ironic lack of humility in his character, as a moral ambassador, serves to illuminate the subversion of moral standards in the Regency era. The failure of a clergyman, in this case, Collins, to behave in utmost civility and gentility as he should have serves as a satire of the religious leaders in the period. He thought himself to be ‘excessively generous and disinterested on his own part’ conveys a delusional sense of hauteur. The dramatic irony lies in how the reader is perfectly aware of the imperious attitude he embodied, while he seems to be blind of his own flaws. His compliments directed at himself, is juxtaposed with ‘a mixture of pride and obsequiousness, self-importance and humility’. The sarcasm in ‘humility’ is portrayed by the diametric opposites of the three words before it, thus mocking Collins, setting him to be highly impertinent and lacking manners that he ought to embody. Thus, the horrifically ‘self-important’ Collins, confirmed by the narratorial voice, enhances the truth worthiness of the account of Collins, where his conceit is of a tremendous scale, underscoring Austen’s mockery of religious leaders in the Regency era, especially she epitomises Collins to be the least ‘sensible man’ in the passage.

Mr Collins’ view of marriage, where he chooses his wife via superficial means, paints him t be insincere. ‘Mr Collins had only to change from Jane to Elizabeth’ with ‘only’ underscoring the lack of serious consideration he puts into marriage, amplified by the attitude revealed by the tone of nonchalance he held, enhances the sense of his insincerity. His quickness in ‘alteration’ of his choice of marriage partner, from the ‘first evening’ to ‘the next morning’, presents him to view marriage with little emotions lvalue, and willing to settle easily. Furthermore, the pauses effected by the em dashes in ‘–and it was soon done–’ highlights the absence of serious thought and consideration he prescribes to marriage, further amplifying his insincere nature. The em dashes seek to create the pause to highlight how quickly, how ‘soon’ he could switch his perspective. As long as they were ‘handsome and amiable’, had ‘birth and beauty’, Collins would settle for them. These words of superficiality and appearance reveal his prioritising tangible outward appearance, confirming his superficial and insincere nature. In relation to other parts of the novel, Mr Collins states that ‘the establishment [he] can offer would be [highly desirable]’, added with his ‘good house’ and ‘very sufficient income’. Mr Collins is superficial in the way he views marriage as a sacrosanct institution which he can pick and buy wives as long as he is of financial stability. His value prescribed to money rears its ugly head in the way he ‘chose one of the daughters’ since they were of the ‘Longbourn family.’ The property and monetary value ranks high in his important priorities, casting him to be a character that readers censure due to his superficial means. It also reveals the social structure of viewing marriage as a transactional system, where marrying out of love and affection is subverted.

Mr Collins’ sycophantic self is shown in his eagerness to please Lady Catherine. The ‘receipt he felt for her high rank’, coupled with ‘the veneration for her as his patroness’ is equipped with similar sentence structure and same number of words, builds up the sense of adulation he had for the higher gentry. The use of ‘high rank’ and ‘patroness’ connotes wealth and authority, which Mr Collins worships. The deferential attitude he has for the upper class, as he ‘[talks] with little cessation, of his garden and house at Hunsford’ as well as the anaphora of ‘Hunsford’ paints him to be obsessed with his relations to one that is of landed gentry. The hyperbolic description of ‘little cessation’ further signifies his servile attitude in exalting feverishly to Lady Catherine’s riches, such as her property of ‘house’ and ‘garden’. Thus Mr Collins identifies himself with his relations to the higher gentry, revealing his desperation to be linked to the wealthy upper class .he excessive veneration is met with Mr Bennet’s ‘[most] anxious to getting rid of’, thereby portraying Collins to be intolerable in his mentions of the higher gentry. Austen brings up Mr Collins having his self-worth defined by his external relations, making him sycophantic and subservient to the high-ranking individuals. Through the obsessive exaltation, Austen seeks to bring out the preoccupation with class distinction and a desire to be related to the upper class.

Wong Xin Yi (18-I4)

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