The social conventions of a time are reflected in a text.
The social conventions in a text can show us how people communicated.
The social conventions of the past, the present and the future can tell us about the way people communicated, communicate now, and will potentially communicate. Some of the social conventions of the past are reflected in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, where correspondence was the primary form of communication for both social and business matters. Nowadays we make use of not only correspondence, but also online communication, through medias such as e-mail, texts, and Facebook, the beginnings and effects of which are depicted in the movie The Social Network. While these are still
Pride and Prejudice:
In Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, the social conventions of the time are reflected in the text. Written letters were the main form of communication during the turn of the 19th century, when this novel was set. The letters in Pride and Prejudice reflect the social expectations of the middle and upper classes of the time.
Letters were used to communicate both socially amongst friends and relatives, as well as for conducting business. An example of this is when Miss Bingley says to Mr Darcy as he is writing a letter to Miss Darcy
“How many letters you must have occasion to write in the course of a year! Letters of business, too!...” (pp??)
The letters of the day followed formal patterns, were grammatically correct and used a very flowery form of English. Beetons’ The Complete Letter Writer for Ladies and Gentlemen reflects the format that letters were written like. Letters were extremely important and the etiquette of the day was to send a note or letter before any action would occur. When one was to visit another, the essential prerequisite was to leave a ‘calling card’, which was just a small card with the inquirer’s name on it. There were very specific rules regarding this, such as after leaving the note, one would not expect to be admitted at first, rather they would receive one at their own home in response. If there was no response, the one who admitted the card was unwelcome or discouraged to visit. There were conventions such as if the corner of the note was turned, it meant that the note was left by the inquirer in person, rather than a servant or other. Calling cards nowadays have evolved into what we know as business cards.
The letter that Mr Collins writes to Mr Bingley, although considerably ‘rude’, still followed the rules depicted in Beeton’s book, so therefore was technically acceptable. This shows us that Mr Collins is smarmy and intelligent. It is uncustomary in the time to invite oneself, let alone state a time and date of arrival. “…If you should have no objection to receive me into your house, I propose myself the satisfaction of waiting on you and your family, Monday, November 18th, by four o'clock, and shall probably trespass on your hospitality till the Saturday se'nnight following, which I can do without any inconvenience…” (pp107)
Mr Bennet argues that “…if you listen to his letter, you may perhaps be a little softened by his manner of expressing himself”. (pp) The social conventions of the time would usually mean that Mr Collins would ask rather than tell. The formality of visiting stretches to afternoon visits to friends and the use of calling cards.
The Complete Letter Writer for Ladies and Gentlemen written by Beeton reflects the many books and articles that depict the correct etiquette and social interactions, much like we have self-help books today. It outlines the formality of the conventions in the time of Pride and Prejudice.
The Social Network:
The movie ‘The Social Network’, amongst many other texts, reflects the current social conventions of today. It also depicts the effects that online social media has on society. In the movie, Mark Zuckerburg creates an online social communication platform, dubbed ‘The Facebook’. Not only does this…