• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Irony in "Pride and Prejudice"

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

"Irony is central to the meaning and effects of Pride and Prejudice." How far and in what ways do you find this to be the case? Jane Austen initially worried that Pride and Prejudice was a work "rather too light, and bright, and sparkling" to justify its moral themes - yet it is for its dazzling ironic wit that the novel is prized today. The multi-faceted device of irony is deftly manipulated by Austen: first the mischievous narrator, who finds "great enjoyment in occasionally professing opinions which, in fact, are not [her] own," then the "explorer of incongruities", (Mudrick) exposing the absurdities of character, and finally the moralist, revealing complex principles and themes. The most immediately apparent form of irony in Pride and Prejudice is its verbal irony, which is used by both the narrator and a few characters to highlight the absurdities of other characters to comic effect, "for what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbours, and laugh at them in our turn?" Nowhere is this more enjoyable than in the double act of the Bennet marriage, in which Mr Bennet amuses himself with ironic statements whose true meanings are intended to elude the "mean understanding" of his wife: "if your daughter ... ...read more.

Middle

The art of "feigned ignorance" - appearing to miss the point but in fact delivering a shrewd insight - is one of which Austen is a master. Thus irony is not only a tool to understanding, but as Mudrick proposes, a weapon against stupidity - and (for it is both more subtle and less aggressive than direct male confrontation) a woman's weapon, utilised to great effect by Austen. A feminist reading could view irony as an empowering device, its oblique nature enabling Austen and her heroine to target the upper class in a way that a young woman of the gentry could not more explicitly do. Elizabeth uses her natural "quickness" to politely evade Lady Catherine's interrogations (suspecting herself "to be the first creature who had ever dared to trifle with so much dignified impertinence"), and her "playful disposition" to tease Darcy, a man of many times her "consequence". Here the feminine weapon of irony has a flirtatious edge, for "having rather expected to affront him", Elizabeth's "sweetness and archness of manner" inadvertently makes it "difficult for her to affront anybody; and Darcy had never been so bewitched by any woman as he was by her." As an intrinsic part of a comedy of manners, mockery of the upper classes is also achieved by narrative irony as Austen satirises the affectations and manners of many social groups. ...read more.

Conclusion

Dramatic irony (the reader's knowledge over that of a character) serves a double purpose: as a narrative device to aid suspense and conflict, and to highlight the self-deception of the protagonist. Just as in the Greek tragedies in which dramatic irony became common, in Pride and Prejudice the perceptive reader is, from various narrative and character hints, aware of Darcy's attraction, of the dangers of Jane's excessive modesty, and most importantly of the true natures of Darcy and Wickham. From Elizabeth's viewpoint do we see her dismiss Jane's, Charlotte Lucas's, Miss Bingley's and Mrs Gardiner's advice on the subject, all the while priding herself on her quick judgment and believing herself a "studier of character". Only upon reaching the "resolution" stage of the dramatic irony - her epiphany in discovering that "she had been blind, partial, prejudiced, absurd" - does she begin to develop as a character, and overcome the titular pride and prejudice. Austen's irony has many faces: dramatic and situational irony which contributes structure, irony as a powerful weapon against class hypocrisy, and irony as "the instrument of moral vision" (Wright) in exposing character flaws. Finally, there is the signature irony of Austen: the double-edged sword of verbal irony, relished for its "humour tinged with cruelty", and its two-fold meaning, the second of which must be divined by the perceptive reader: "I leave it for yourself to determine." ?? ?? ?? ?? 1 ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Jane Austen section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Jane Austen essays

  1. Marked by a teacher

    Plot-Construction of Pride and Prejudice

    4 star(s)

    Elizabeth's pair of fine eyes, he realizes that it is dangerous to pay too much attention to Elizabeth and observes a studied reticence.

  2. Marked by a teacher

    Is it possible to see Elizabeth Bennet as a feminist heroine?

    3 star(s)

    The Bingly sisters had disapproved of Elizabeth since her early entrance to Pemberly, exaggerating her state after walking of having a mucky petticoat and messy hair to call her 'wild'. Interestingly it seems she is not only referring to how she looked, but also condemning her out of the ordinary behaviour, determined to look down on the people of Meryton.

  1. How does Jane Austen present the themes of love and marriage in the novel ...

    He fears that Jane will be miserable with a man as such as Frank Churchill, but hopes that she will improve him. Mr Knightly admits that he envies Frank in one respect, and Emma fears that he will mention Harriet, but Mr Knightly professes his love for Emma.

  2. Importance of Marriage in Pride and Prejudice

    Austen presents Elizabeth as a character who goes through the typically romantic process of falling in love with someone - both Elizabeth and Darcy must overcome a variety of obstacles in order for their love to Blossom, their story starts with bad first impressions of one another, with Lizzy assuming

  1. The Impact of First Impressions - Pride and Prejudice

    At once, Jane Austen portrayed Elizabeth Bennet as "not half so handsome as Jane, nor half so good humoured as Lydia" but was often preferred by her father over her four sisters (Austen, 2). She is also quick-witted, confidant, and had a "lively, playful disposition, which delighted in anything ridiculous" (Austen, 7).

  2. Do you believe that Austen's final title; Pride and Prejudice is a more appropriate ...

    Bennet's approach is justifiable, thus proving our original prejudices towards Mrs. Bennet to be wrong. Austen uses Pride in ones family to show another side of the pride one can possess, and to show different sides to her characters. Mr.

  1. Is Northanger Abbey truly a Gothic Romance?

    In Northanger Abbey however, Jane Austen has a witty sarcastic style 'he was not in the least addicted to locking up his daughters' which adds to the parodying of characters and plot, and I feel that it makes the language more realistic and down to earth.

  2. The presentation of speech and thought in Pride and Prejudice

    Collins? words which gives readers an impression that he knew Lady Catherine was not proud at all. Obviously, the narrator would not have this comment according to the description of Lady Catherine is a proud character based on the whole novel.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work