The Subtle Humor of Jane Austen




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