EESE 3/2007

A Stylometric Approach to Investigate the Role and Nature of Power in Hard Times and Pride and Prejudice

Mohammad Mohseni Far (Shahid Chamran University, Ahvaz, Iran)



The present research is intended to argue that Jane Austenís Pride and Prejudice and Charles Dickensí Hard Times present very different perspectives of the role and nature of power in England in the first half of the nineteenth century. At the same time, they each portray a society in which the economic basis of power prevails, with Austen focusing significantly on the domestic realm and Dickens zeroing in largely on the public realm. Both works can be seen as social critiques, although, again, Dickens concentrates on public issues (education, labor, capitalistic economics and so on.), while Austen is much more engrossed in the private sphere (love, marriage, etc.). In doing so, this paper employs statistical procedures and analysis (inferential statistics) so as to support the argument more elaborating and upon a well-grounded basis.

1. Introduction

Both Charles Dickens and Jane Austen have written these two works about the English life in early 19th century. Since in that period, we deal with unprecedented growth of industry and business in Britain, the conflict between those in power with the common masses of laborers and the poor comes into being. Charles Dickens influenced by such a dramatic change writes his novel to portray the condition of life in Britain at that time. There also exists other important literary fact argued by the authors through this period that are accounted for such as country life versus city life. Accordingly, in the wake of such atmosphere, Austen pens her novel mirroring the life of her day.

Since the subject matters of the novels are different, they take in special setting and environment commensurate with the theme intended to be conveyed. So it is logically accepted those words forming a piece of work, especially story plots, reflect the social and cultural milieu in which characters live.

For developing the theme of a work, the author employs a person technically known as protagonist. The writer extends the plot from protagonistís point of view or one angle of view directly and much more connected with him/her. Thereupon, those settings in which the protagonist is placed display terms and concepts closely related to the theme of the story. The central character frequently is shown in particular places, also being with special persons and doing particular actions. The words suggesting a place, an idea and something correlative with the plot and theme exactly are the signs, indicators and, as a result, tools for fulfilling the authors expectations through creating a work.

We are dealing with two novels, with rather solely one subject matter that is description of life in England in 19th century, but still with two different focuses on setting and theme. Each novel contains characteristics of its own. Dickens homes in on more public issues, in particular labor, education, capitalistic economics in a town implying its own aspects, while Austen directs toward the private sphere, especially marriage, love and pride in a country. The present researcher is aimed to examine the considerations of two writers in terms of aforementioned aspects by resorting to the analysis and applying statistical procedures (inferential statistics). For doing so, the investigator has prepared some words standing for as representatives of concepts and terms closely connected with the two proposed realms in order to find whether these realms of two descriptive novels are the same or not. Another question may be raised, while taking gender of novelists into consideration, the paper then attempts to inquire about the effect of sex on extending the plot of a story and its interaction with the realm as well.

2. Method

To analyze the argument proposed in this paper, first two groups of words were selected, necessarily those ones closely allied with the theme and setting of the story. These words are particularly extracted from the novel closely based on the title and setting, and in some cases they boast exactly direct relation with the theme of the narrative. So these words can be as criteria for comparing two novels with each other, both based on their titles and that of mentioned domains. (Table 1,2)

Each group comprises ten words. These ten-word groups are collections of terms by which plot of the story extends, its theme becomes significant and the protagonist is mainly involved in that situation. So these words are seen as the representatives of their own realm and title. Each word can be a reference for those incidents and ideas behind them. Since each word is considered as a criterion for referring to a special realm, this is hypothetically propositioned that words of a group are of equal interval value. Since this proposition exists for the other group as well, this group also has equal interval value.

For best judging about the setting of the story and also the selection of words representing thematic concepts, in Appendix section, a collection of 10 parts of each novel are randomly selected. Each part covers two consecutive paragraphs. These paragraphs nearly picture the setting & theme of the novel.

Table 1.Words implying the public domain

Hard Times

Work Factory Bank Smoke Street Hard Train Railway School Engine

*Selected terms are the representatives of the setting in which the story is formed besides the concepts along with the theme and the title progress, e.g., Dickens criticizes the hard life and hard working in factories managed by capitalists. Other instances are the appearance of city and an industrial society implied by words such as train, railway, school, street, and smoke. These words frame a public setting in which narrative goes ahead.

Table 2.Words implying domestic realm

Pride and Prejudice

Love Marriage Pride Uncle Married Aunt Marry Cousin Letter(s) Party

*Selected terms are the representatives of the setting in which the story is formed besides the concepts along with the theme and the title progress, e.g., Austen depicts a family in which the mother tries to see all her daughters married, one of her daughters, Elizabeth, is the protagonist misjudging about a gentleman, Mr. Darcy, she thinks of his pride, implying that she is involved in this matter and these are based on misunderstandings coming into being throughout the story. Her sister falls in love with a gentleman, Mr. Bingley, their love relations extend one of plotís aspects. The other words such as Aunt, Uncle and cousin underlie the fact that the relationship is confined to such domestic territory in which the relative sights come into existence much more as compared with Dickensí Hard Time.

* Letter in this novel plays significant role in line with storyís private themes and it is attached by great importance for laying particular stress on the domestic sphere.

Table 3.The frequency of each word in two novels

Public Realm:

  Work Factory Bank Smoke Street Hard Train Railway School Engine
Hard Times 116 6 59 22 39 39 15 7 46 8
Pride & prejudice 9 0 0 0 17 9 0 0 2 0

Table 4. The frequency of each word in two novels

Domestic Realm:

Love Marriage Pride Uncle Married Aunt Marry Cousin Letter(s) Party
Pride & prejudice 125 71 21 68 72 74 25 45 137 21
Hard Times 33 17 6 1 17 1 14 0 24 6

Table 5.1.Calculations (1)

Public realm
Factor B
Charles Dickens/Male
(Hard Times)
Jane Austen/Female
(Pride & prejudice)
Domestic realm
Factor A
Charles Dickens/Male
(Hard Times)
Jane Austen/Female
(Pride & prejudice)

3. Results and data analysis

For analyzing the data, the researcher applies the two-way ANOVA method in order to support the argument. Realm of depiction of life in early 19th century is considered as factor A, which has two levels including Public realm & Domestic realm. The gender (sex) of two novelists, i.e. Dickens (male author) and Austen (female author) is taken into account as factor B, which contains two levels; Male and Female.

Factor A is considered as an independent variable and its mean is computed based on the procedures that follow. Since the words of two groups are of the same value, their scores have equal value. Frequency of each word is considered as a score for the realm. As a result of equal interactive relationship between the way of calculating the frequency of terms in two groups, there is no need to specify a definite top level for the scores. In other words, based on interval scales, the frequency of the words are calculated (number of each word), ten words implying public realm are counted in two novels, then the frequency of each word in each novel stands for its score for the public realm in that novel, then those ten words suggesting domestic realm are also counted in both novels and their numbers stand for their scores for domestic realm. (Table 3,4)

Finally, based on the scores assigned for each realm, the mean of each realm in a novel is calculated.

(Table 5.1)

Factor B, referring to the gender of author, is considered as an independent variable that may be effective by itself or in interaction with the realm and theme of the story.

Having calculated the means, the researcher computed those procedures needed for analyzing gathered data of the two-way ANOVA method. (Table 5.2, 5.3)

The actions are respectively taken as follows:

  1. The calculation of SST and SSB
  2. The computation of SSW ( SST- SSB)
  3. The computation of SSa & SSb
  4. The calculation of Fratio for factor A & B and at finally their interaction(AB)

Table 5.2.Calculation (2)

SSab=SSS - (SSa-SSb)=23045.9-2778.4=20267.5
d.f. total=N-1=40-1=39
d.f. within=N-K=40-4=36
d.f. for A=q-1=2-1=1
d.f. for B=q-1=2-1=1
d.f. for AB=(d.f.A)(d.f.B)=(1)(1)=1
Source of Variance between groupsd.f.SSMS
Realm x Sex120267.520267.5
Within groups3626638739.9

Table 5.3.Calculation (3)

Fratio for factor A (realm) =
Fratio for factor B (sex) =
Fratio for interaction (realm & sex) =
Fcritical for interaction (realm & sex) = 4.49 (for 1/16, for .05 level)
Fcritical for factor A (realm) 5.24 > Fcritical (4.49)
Fcritical for factor B (sex) 1.4 < Fcritical (4.49)
Fcritical for interaction (realm & sex) 27.39 > Fcritical (4.49)

4. Concluding remarks

The null hypothesis is:

H0 = Two novels describe the life in nineteenth century in England; the difference between both novel means which represent the same realm of portraying the life in the Britain at that era is zero.

Based on calculated data, since the Fratio of the factor A is larger than that of critical, the null hypothesis is rejected. It means that the factor of realm has been effectively considered in forming the story and its theme(s). Therefore, particular issues (public or domestic), represented by words implying them, have been consciously and carefully employed to construct the novel. On the other hand, Charles Dickensí Hard Times portrays condition of English peopleís life in 19th century, while emphasizing on public matters, and in the other side, Austenís Pride & Prejudice represents the life of the same age in England, concentrating on private and domestic matters.

For Fratio for factor B doesnít exceed 4.49; the gender (sex) by itself does not affect on expanding and developing the plot and the considered setting of the narrative with a special realm.

But the Fratio for the interaction of two factors is significantly larger than Fcritical. This means that while one realm of affairs and actions is emphasized by the author, as compared with the other novel, it may be due to the second factor that is gender (sex). (Table 6.1)

Based on the Means computed, the difference between two realms (Public & Domestic) in the Dickensís work is much less than Austenís. So, it can be concluded that Dickens, making a point of public notions, is also interested in domestic concerns, however, Austen laying her emphasis on domestic domain, is nearly so much indifferent to public impressions. (Figure 6.2)

Table 6.1ANOVA for extending special plot story of Dickenís Hard Times and Austenís Pride & prejudice related to the realm and sex

Realm (A)3880.913880.95.24**
Sex (B)1102.511102.51.4
A x B20267.5120267.527.39**
Within groups2663836739.9
*Factor A (realm) & the interaction of two factors (AB) are larger than Fcritical.

Figure 6.2.Means

*Public realm:*Domestic realm:


Charles Dickens (1991). Hard Times, ed. by Colin Swatridge (London: Macmillan Education).

Jane Austen (1959). Pride and Prejudice, ed by Mark Schorer (New York: Dell Publishing).

Hatch & Farhady (1981). Research Design and Statistics (Tehran: Rahnama Publication).


Further Reading

Thomas Rommel (2007). "New Directions in Digital Studies," English Studies Today. Recent Developments and New Directions, ed. by Ansgar Nünning and Jürgen Schlaeger (Trier: WVT), 205-221.



Mohammad Mohseni Far, M.A.
Department of English,
Faculty of Letters & Humanities,
Shahid Chamran University, Ahvaz, Iran
Member of Young Researchers Club (YRC), Islamic Azad University, Ahvaz-Iran.
Member of Iranian National Foundation of Elite.