The main chunks

How does this snippet work as a whole?

We can divide it into five chunks:

Mr. Bingley had soon made himself acquainted with all the principle people in the room; he was lively and unreserved, danced every dance, was angry that the ball closed so early, and talked of giving one himself at Netherfield. Such amiable qualities must speak for themselves. What a contrast between him and his friend! Mr. Darcy danced only once with Mrs. Hurst and once with Miss Bingley, declined being introduced to any other lady, and spent the rest of the evening walking about the room, speaking occasionally to one of his own party. His character was decided. He was the proudest, most disagreeable man in the world, and everyone hoped that he would never come there again. Amongst the most violent against him was Mrs. Bennet, whose dislike of his general behaviour was sharpened into particular resentment, by having slighted one of her daughters.

This snippet is a nice example of Austen's love of symmetry and contrast:

  • We introduce the first character, who fits into the social group.
  • We pivot to the second character.
  • We see how the second character does not fit into the social group.
  • We summarise the group opinion of the two characters.
  • We expand on that conclusion by highlighting one specific person's beef with the second character.

Jane Austen was a witty, wry, ironic writer—she could describe her characters in a way that is both endearing and acidic, and she surveyed the society of her time with a keen and critical eye: the restricted gender roles, limited class mobility, and the economic precarity that threatened women's lives.

She approached her writing almost like a wildlife documentary narrator—observing everyone in her slice of society, commentating on their courtships, their schemes, their struggles, hopes, despairs, desperations, triumphs. Her genius was in being able to write stories in a way that was simultaneously intimate and big-picture.

Part of the way she achieved this was through the use of omniscient point of view, meaning she would describe the actions and thoughts of any character at any time. (As opposed to, for example, limited first person point of view where we only get the actions and thoughts of one character.)

In practical terms, this point of view means Austen can tell us a few different things:

  • what individual characters think about themselves and each other
  • what a whole group of characters think about someone collectively
  • what Austen as the narrator thinks about a character or characters (though it can be hard to tell sometimes whether an opinion belongs to a character or to Austen as the narrator).

With that in mind, you should be able to look at this snippet and see how it is a zoomed-out narrative summary, with no specific character point of view. It reads like someone summarising an event they attended but weren't directly a part of.