The Subtle Humor Of Pride And Prejudice

Essay, Research Paper The Subtle Humor of Pride and Prejudice Of all the novels that Jane Austen has written, critics consider Pride and Prejudice to be the most comical. Humor can be found everywhere in the book;

Essay, Research Paper

The Subtle Humor of Pride and Prejudice

Of all the novels that Jane Austen has written, critics consider Pride

and Prejudice to be the most comical. Humor can be found everywhere in the book;

in it’s character descriptions, imagery, but mostly in it’s conversations

between characters. Her novels were not only her way of entertaining people but

it was also a way to express her opinions and views on what surrounded her and

affected her. Her novels were like editorials. Austen uses a variety of comic

techniques to express her own view on characters, both in her book and in her

society that she lived in. We, the readers are often the object of her ridicule,

and Austen makes the readers view themselves in a way which makes it easy for

the reader to laugh at themselves. She introduces caricatures and character

foils to further show how ridiculous a character may be. Pride and Prejudice

has many character foils to exaggerate a characters faults or traits. Austen

also uses irony quite often to inform the readers on her own personal opinions.

The comic techniques caricatures, irony, and satire, not only helped to provide

humor for Austen’s readers, but they also helped Austen to give her own personal

opinion on public matters.

When an action is exaggerated on stage by an actor, it becomes all the

more noticeable to the audience. An author can exaggerate a character in order

to make fun of them. Austen exaggerates many of her characters and therefore

makes caricatures of them in order to emphasize their ridiculousness. Mrs.

Bennet is such a character. Her extremely unpleasant manner and reactions

causes readers to delight in the situations which Mrs. Bennet places herself

into. Mrs. Bennet’s harsh tongue and simple mind causes the reader to laugh,

because it is so exaggerated that the reader thinks that such a person cannot

exist. Mr. Collins is another exaggerated character in the novel. But would

such characters seem humorous without somebody to react to them? Not at all.

Such exaggeration works only when you place them besides another character who

seems very real. Mrs. Bennet is placed besides her husband to make her look

all the more ridiculous and Mr. Collins, when placed especially by Elizabeth,

seems to be unbelievable at times. His proposal to Elizabeth would not be as

humorous without Eliza’s reaction and response to him. Therefore, caricature,

the exaggeration of character is an essential tool to Austen as means of

portraying irony in the novel.

Irony is an excellent way for authors to combine wit and drama at the

same time. It works well in many parts of Pride and Prejudice. Irony can be

found in the gradual revelation of Darcy and Elizabeth’s feelings for each other.

It provides humor for the readers, yet at the same time, it revolves around the

basic plot of the story. It is a great balance between ironic dialogue and

movement towards the scenes in the climax of the novel, when the relationship is

developed. Another great example of her ironic wit can be found in the first

chapter of the novel, when Mrs. Bennet and Mr. Bennet discuss the new tenant of

Netherfield Park, Mr. Bingley. Every sentence of that conversation can come

back to the opening line of the novel: “It is a truth universally acknowledged,

that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

(p.1) Now for this sentence, Mrs. Bennet begins by giving one definition of

‘universally’, while Mr. Bennet gives another.

“Is he married or single?”

“Oh! single, my dear, to be sure! A single man of large fortune of four

or five thousand a year. What a fine thing for our girls!”

“How so? how can it affect them?”

“My dear Mr. Bennet,” replied his wife, “how can you be so tiresome! You

must know that I am thinking of his marrying one of them.”

“Is that his design in settling here?”

“Design! nonsense, how can you talk so!” (p.2)

Mr.Bennet’s conversation is quite ironic and very satirical, because of

his extreme politeness and playful innocence, which in result, upset Mrs. Bennet.

That provides humor for the reader as a result of her dramatic character. Mrs.

Bennet’s character is not ironic in the least, but it is the blending of both

characters that bring about the irony. Such foils points out to the readers the

ridiculousness of human nature.

Pride in Prejudice is also very rich in satire. Satire, in it’s

simplest form, is a “wit, irony, or sarcasm, used for the purpose of exposing or

discrediting vice or folly”. Satire is commonly used for many reasons,

including ridiculing public opinion. Austen disapproves of the way that public

opinion always considers itself to be above all other opinions. She

demonstrates the arrogance of public opinion in the matter with Darcy and the

ball. Darcy “drew the attention of the room by his fine, tall person, handsome

features, noble mien; and the report which was in general circulation within

five minutes after his entrance, of his having ten thousand a year. The

gentlemen pronounced him to be a fine figure of a man, the ladies declared that

he was much handsomer than Mr. Bingley.”(p.7) The reasons which cause the

ladies to consider him much handsomer than Mr. Bingley is because his income is

much more handsome as well. Public opinion considers Darcy to be a great man,

simply on account of his large income. However, once public opinion hears of

Darcy’s pride and supposed arrogance, it immediately states that it knew Mr.

Darcy was a horrible man, and that it always assumed so. Elizabeth, throughout

the majority of the novel, follows public opinion on the view of Darcy. She’s

simply a sheep, following the rest of the herd. Austen demonstrates that public

opinion is so quick to change minds that it often develops an opinion without

informing itself of all the details or facts. This becomes, to the readers,

something to laugh at, although most readers do follow public opinion, one way

or another.

The great display caricatures, character foils, irony, and satire of

provides humor for Austen’s readers. Many of the characters that Austen writes

about are often subjects of ridicule. The characters and situations that Austen

enjoys satirizing were real for her in her time as well. However, the ultimate

irony falls on us, Austen’s readers, who laugh at Austen’s characters. We are

the characters in the novel to Jane Austen. We recognize ourselves in the

characters that Austen enjoys criticizing. It’s that recognization of ourselves

that we laugh at and what we find amusing is the fact that Austen makes us view

ourselves this way. We laugh at our own faults.