This essay attempts to explain the function of the most famous entail in literary history. The essay begins with a brief survey of the legal history of entailment, focusing in particular on the contradictory notions of agency and obligation embedded in the English fee. The author argues that Austen is familiar with this history and these contradictions, and that in Pride and Prejudice, the entail - which had seemed a threat to social obligation - becomes a model form of sociability. What is entailed in Pride and Prejudice, she concludes, is an argument about short- and long-term obligations: an argument on behalf of a model of obligation whose durability and impersonality is enabled by the technology - at once conceptual and historical - of entailment.
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