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Satire and irony in Pride and Prejudice.

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Introduction

Satire and Irony in Pride and Prejudice... A good satire, often humorous, is thought provoking and insightful about the human condition. Jane Austen (1775 - 1817) writes in a gentle or Horacian satire and has perfected the art with her witty, yet subtle irony which comes in various disguises. Sarcasm, wit, parody, ambiguity, caricature, hyperbole and understatement add to the impression that Austen was extremely amused by the world around her. She had the ability to step back and analyse at the events around her in order to show how really absurd some of the ritual customs of the rich were. The shallowness and materialistic nature of this society is often exaggerated in her characters to demonstrate her viewpoint. This gentle irony creates humour and explains the satire to show how ridiculous this conventional Victorian country life was and, as she to was part of this society, Jane had first hand experience of the types of people she wrote about. In her humorous treatment of a serious subject, Austen opens the novel with what appears to be a sarcastic sentence, which acts as a springboard for the action and motivation of the story. She writes, "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, Penguin, pg 5). ...read more.

Middle

Jane Austen is ridiculing the false values held by many people of her day, and pointing out that people should be valued for their true worth and not for any other reason. So while Mr. Collins's views are merely the most extreme and obvious. The satire directed at him is also more subtly directed at the entire social hierarchy. Elizabeth Bennet's ability to laugh off her misfortunate and to continue to be optimistic, considering her situation, contributes to the amused tone of the novel. Her view of society is a cynical, ironic one, heightened by the presence of brainless family members and neighbours. The story is told through Elizabeth, but not in first person and as a result, the mood of the novel lacks dramatic emotions. Therefore Austin's tone is detached and her attitude impersonal in that she does not portray her emotions or ideas in her writing. Instead she uses Elizabeth, and her deliciously wicked wit, to speak for her in novel. This can be seen when Elizabeth says, "I hope I never ridicule what is wise or good. Follies and nonsense, whims and inconsistencies do divert me, I own, and I laugh at them whenever I can." ...read more.

Conclusion

Bennet and Elizabeth serve to directly express the author's ironic opinion. Jane Austen powers of subtle discrimination and shrewd perceptiveness are revealed in Pride and Prejudice; she is able to convey a complex message using a simple, yet witty, style. Austen had an overabundance of social commentary to make, and although women in her time period were not generally outspoken, she used her novels as a means to show that women could be intelligent, humorous, and strong. This delightful tongue in check tone can be found everywhere in the book; in its character descriptions, imagery, but mostly in its conversations between characters and their sharp repartee. The atmosphere in the novel is intellectual, cold and delicately lucid. While her writing conveys none of the lyricism of the Romantics who would succeed her, it is full of intelligence and precisely crafted to convey its often-subtle meaning. Jane Austen wrote tales of small town uneventfulness, tending to explore character rather than event. She throws in cultural messages of the day, which most of the time are mocking or disapproving. And her irony is devastating in its exposure of foolishness and hypocrisy. She does not favour anyone who does not have the general characteristics that the age demands. Through Darcy and Elizabeth's marriage, however, Austen shows that you do not need to be a romantic to fall deeply in love. ...read more.

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