Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

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Inrony in "Pride & Prejudice" By: Julia E-mail: Pride and Prejudice is one of the most popular novels written by Jane Austen. This romantic novel, the story of which revolves around relationships and the difficulties of being in love, was not much of a success in Austen's own time. However, it has grown in its importance to literary critics and readerships over the last hundred years. There are many facets to the story that make reading it not only amusing but also highly interesting. The reader can learn much about the upper-class society of this age, and also gets an insight to the author's opinion about this society. Austen presents the high-society of her time from an observational point of view, ironically describing human behavior. She describes what she sees and adds her own comments to it in a very light and easy way. She never seems to be condescending or snubbing in her criticism but applies it in a playful manner. This playfulness, and her witty, ironic comments on society are probably the main reasons that make this novel still so enjoyable for readers today. Some rules and characteristics depicted in the story seem very peculiar and are hard to conceive by people of our generation. Nevertheless, the descriptions of the goings-on in that society are so lively and sparkling with irony that most people cannot help but like the novel. Jane Austen applies irony on different levels in her novel Pride and Prejudice. She uses various means of making her opinion on 18th century society known to the reader through her vivid and ironic descriptions used in the book. To bring this paper into focus, I will discuss two separate means of applying irony, as pertaining to a select few of the book's characters. The novel is introduced by an omniscient narrator, unknown to the reader, who describes and comments on the given situations throughout the novel. The narrator serves to represent and speak for Jane Austen, enabling her to aim her criticism not only through the characters, but also in a more direct fashion. She uses this unspecified person, who is outside of all the novel's action and gives explanations, as a medium of communication to present her own opinion in an allusively open way. This narrator is the first means of making ironic remarks. Through the narrator a certain mood is created that prevails throughout the novel. The very first sentence of the novel shows this with the following sentence, "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife" (Pride and Prejudice, p. 3). The irony of this statement is the universal validity with which assumptions are made in that upper-class society. It is assumed that there is nothing else for a man of high rank to want but a wife to complete his possessions. Along with his money, land, riches etc. she acts as nothing more but another piece of property, which was a common attitude in those days. Austen manages to make the attitude towards matrimony upheld by this upper class look rather ridiculous and incredible. Another ironic description is given, for instance, when Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst take care of the sick Jane, who stays at their house. They present themselves as very affectionate and caring friends to Jane. However, that does not stop them from talking very bad about Jane's relations. The real ironic comment is that the narrator lets us readers know that after those two ladies have finished bad mouthing Jane's sister Elizabeth and the rest of her family, they return to Jane "(w)ith a renewal of tenderness" (p. 27). These high-society women are well versed at putting others down and whimsically, and as they think wittily, insulting the characters of those who are of a "lower class" - and Austen comments on it ironically by describing their behavior with irony. Through the narrator, Austen shows us how fickle this society is; being based on class and rank. The narrator exposes the...
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