Jane Austen’s narrative technique is a unique phenomenon. Her use of irony, along with realism and social commentary have earned her spot among critics and well known writers. Pride and Prejudice, first published in 1813, is one of the finest fictional creation of Georian era. Pride and Prejudice, is a novel of manners which includes sub genres such as satire, Realism and Domestic fiction. Pride and Prejudice being novel of manners deals with customs, behaviors, habits and expectations of certain social group at a specific time and place. The story follows the main character, Elizabeth Bennet, as she deals with the issues of manners, upbringing, mortality, education and marriage in the society. Pride and Prejudice can also be categorized in the genre of realism because it deals with the life of common people and doesn’t involve supernational events. The novel also focuses on the personal emotional experiences of characters rather than political or historical events. Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is also a classic comedy of manners that satirizes 18th century society and mainly the expectations placed on women of that era.
Themes of Novel
The novel follows the romantic entanglements of Bennet sisters covers themes of love, class distinction, marriage, society and one might suggest from the title of novel, Pride and Prejudice.
The element of Pride and Prejudice can be traced in all the major and minor characters of the novel. Fitzwilliam Darcy, the protagonist of Novel appears above his company and above being pleased and makes bad remarks about other protagonist of Novel Elizabeth Bennet showing his supeiority of class. One the other hand, Elizabeth is also proud and does not like to be treated as inferior. She percieves in Mr. Darcy a cold aloofness that she attributes to his own inflated opinion of himself. She is so sure of her observation that she refuses to re evaluate Mr. Darcy even when the weight of evidence turns into his favour. Her pride, later, also causes her to misjudge Mr. Wickham. Darcy’s pride gave way to Elizabeth’s Prejuduce and thus creating a chain of misunderstandings between them. Austen also deciepts pride openly in other characters such as Lady Catherine de bourgh and Caroline Bingley. Pride and Prejudice is narrated by a third person narrator. The narrator has an access over all the thoughts of the characters and describes these to readers. The narrator also adds commentary about characters such as Mrs. Bennet as ” a women of mean understanding and uncertain temper”. The novels events are told by Elizabeth Bennet’s point of view. Austen also uses free indirect speech when she presents Elizabeth’s thoughts without mentioning ”she thought” like Wikham’s description as ” Whatever he said was well said and whatever he did, done gracefully.” The context suggest that it belongs to Elizabeth’s perspective not narrator’s description and could be wrong. Major source of conflict for Elizabeth is that she forms judgement quickly and Jane warns us too in her text to be aware and avoid the trap of making rapid judgements. This learning process goes parallel to Elizabeth’s journey throught the novel with the readers.
Economic inequality of women and marriage
Pride and Prejudice dramatize the economic inequality of women showing how women had to marry undesireable mates in order to gain financial security. Women didn’t have the right to vote or own the property thus depending on their male partners. Through five marriages in novel, Jane Austen tells good and bad reasons for marriage. Mr. and Mrs Bennet, Charlotte-Collins, Lydia- Wickham, Jane-Bingley, Elizabeth-Darcy. Though marriage is the end of Jane Austen’s novel yet it involves more than a simple love story There is depth, variety in Jane’s treatment of these topics. Thus, it’s true that the chief preoccupation of Austen’s heroines is getting married as women in her times had no other option of business or profession open to them. However, the subject is dealth with care and depth to highlight good marriage relation based on mutual understanding, love and respect.
Jane Austen’s targeted theme of novel is also Class distinction between upper and lower class of society. It was so common in 18th century and it was prevalent in the realms of both private life, outward social life and education. In the novel, class differences and the impact of their union is shown by Mr. Bingley- Jane and Mr. Darcy- Elizabeth relation. Class relationships are interesting in Austen’s novel because there is no distinction made between class and virtue. Indiviuals from upper class are not portrayed any superior than any lower rank on the base of class but virtue. Elizabeth belonging from lower ranks behaves witty while Bingley sisters act fool. Catherine’s character is also mocked at the people that create class distinction as stated by Collins about Lady Catherine: ”she likes to have distinction of ranks preserved.”
On the other hand, we have Gardiners belonging to Middle class but they are very caring, humble and kind. Jane Austen uses irony to criticize these class differences and shows virtue has nothing to do with status.
One of the themes of novelis Transformation which is seen in major characters such as Darcy and Elizabeth. This ability seprates them from other silly characters like Lydia, Wikham, Mrs. Bennet,Bingley sisters, Mr Collins, Lady Catherine and even good characters such as Charles Bingley, Jane Bennet. Darcy’s transformation of character starts when Elizabeth rejects his proposal on the suit of his pride and arrogrance. He realizes his flaw and love melts his pride. Whereas Elizabeth’s character evolve when she realizes her own prejudice towards Darcy and ends her pride and prejudice. This development of their characters make them a pefect match as Elizabeth says: ”There can be no doubt of that. It is settled between us already that we are to be the happiest couple in the world.”
Jane Austen shows that one should allow the transformation of character and accept one’s flaws and not to be static in life.
IRONY AND SATIRE
Irony is the very soul of Jane Austen’s novels and Pride and Prejudice is steeped in irony of theme, situation, character and narration. Irony is the contrast between appearance and reality. The narrative of Pride and Prejudice too has an ironic tone which contributes much verbal irony as well. Jane Austen’s ironic tone is established in the first sentence of the novel as she writes: ”It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of good fortune must be in want of a wife.”
The irony in this sentence is opposite to what it seems, a single woman must be in a want of man with good fortune. Jane didn’t show any cynicism or bitterness in using her irony to draw satirical portarits. Rather her irony is comedic and light. It’s on the side what is wrong in poeple and society. It is also ironic that villainous characters of Pride and Prejudice Mr. Wikhams and Lady Caterine are responsible indirectly for uniting Elizabeth and Darcy. She uses irony to shake her characters of teir self deception and pretentiousness.
Pride and Prejudice’s theme ironically states that Pride leads to Prejudice and Prejuice invites Pride and both have their consequences bound within them. It is definitely possible to deduce scheme of moral values from her writings.
Human beings do absurd things maybe because it in in their personality or their efforts to fit in a particular group. Satire is a literary device used to point out these absurdity, often focusing on sterotype of society and whom the audience finds ridiculous. Austen uses satire throughout Pride and Prejudice to make these points. Austen uses Mr. Collins and Mrs. Bennat as Satirical figures to show how hard Mr. Collins try to fit in the society and care how it percieves him. He act as a male stereotype of that point. Whereas, Mrs Bennet is a femmale stereotype whose only wish to marry a wealthy person as taught by society. These two characters are ridiculous and Jane Austen also uses Satirical tone of Mr. Bennet to crticize her actions and thoughts.