Irony As The Main Literary Device In Jane Austen’s Pride And Prejudice
In fiction, irony has been used to create a sense that reality. It is a way to contrast the superficial meaning of what is being said or done with the true, underlying meaning. It is commonly used to communicate with others or to challenge stronger characters. Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is a classic example of irony, which Jane Austen uses to make the time in history have an effect on the reader. It has become one of English literature’s most popular works of nineteenth-century English literature.
It is ironic that the book begins with a sarcastic utterance at the beginning, in the very first chapter.
Although it is perhaps the most iconic ironic statement from the book, many people have taken it to mean literal. The author uses verbal irony to suggest the society of the time. This in turn is a criticism of that society, showing dissatisfaction as well as disagreeing. First of all, not everyone’single male in possession’ wants a woman to marry. In fact, women were looking for husbands with large fortunes to ensure their future. Needless, it was not easy for women to have the means or rights to survive during those times. Marital unions were their only hope.
While we’re talking about absurd utterances like that above-mentioned one, this dialogue shows a more’sensible and interesting’ behavior. Many readers, including myself, didn’t pay enough attention to it, and didn’t consider it ironic.
Kitty, don’t continue to cough so much, for the sake of heaven! You can show some compassion to my nerves. They are shredded.
“Kitty can now cough as much as she likes”
The irony of the conversation’s content is obvious once it is stressed. Kitty is being scoffed by Mrs. Bennet. Kitty eventually coughs after the humorous Mr. Bennet has finished. This irony might seem obvious but I was unable to see it in the first book.
It’s not something that you can do by yourself. This is another example verbal irony. Mrs. Bennet is blaming Kitty for coughing.
Another type is irony of character. This is when a character’s behavior, thought patterns, and mannerism represent irony. One of these is Mr. Collins, and the following statement from him perfectly reflects it:
‘You must forgive them as Christians, but you should never admit them to the sight of your eyes or permit their names to be mentioned at your hearing.
Mrs. Collins is a minister at Lady Catherine de Bourgh’s estate. His advice to Mr. Bennet is in response to Lydia’s flight. His position as a clergyman within the church is one of leadership, providing guidance and support to the faith and teaching the doctrines.
However, Mr. Collins seems to have a different perspective. His religious background should have influenced his notion of forgiveness. However, it seems that Collins is not forgiving. He does not believe in the religion he is supposed to be practicing, and he also contradicts himself unconsciously. This is a prime example for irony within this novel.
Speaking of forced marriages the union of Charlotte Lucas and Mr. Collins is another example Austen’s Pride and Prejudice demonstrates.
“My dear Charlotte is my only mind. I think one way. We share a remarkable similarity in character and ideas. It seemed like we were meant to be together.”
This is where the irony lies. One must first understand the background of the union. It was a convenience marriage. Mr. Collins proposes Charlotte Lucas, Elizabeth Bennet’s best friend, after proposing to her. Given that the first proposal was rejected, this proposal was the easiest to make in order to give Charlotte and Mr. Collins a secure future.
However, Mr. Collins stated that their marriage was perfect. The fact that their characters coincided is certainly not why they are getting married. As Mr. Collins did not pay much attention Charlotte, Elizabeth later rejected. Austen has again shown mastery in describing the society of the time and the critiques that it entails.
The dialogue that follows is an example irony in a novel. Elizabeth, however unexpectedly, is at the centre of it all. She is described as someone who is well aware of her surroundings. And not easily manipulated by others.
“This is shocking!” He is a disgraceful person.”
“Sometimes or other he’ll be — but not by him.” I will never be able to forget my father until then.
This dialogue is an exchange between Elizabeth Bennet, Mr. Wickham and her aunt, where they discuss Mr. Darcy, his father, and other topics. He discusses his relationship and past events with Darcy’s relatives. Wickham begins by stating that “Till my father forgets me, I cannot never defy nor expose him”. This is ironic. This statement is contradictory because he tells Elizabeth all about Darcy’s family and he claims he can’t expose him.
This ironic incident is centred on Elizabeth, who, like us, can immediately see that Wickham is actually doing the exact opposite to what he claims. Because Elizabeth was overwhelmed by all the information, Wickham doesn’t realize what she is doing.
Jane Austen has masteredly portrayed ironic moments throughout this novel. Jane Austen has used every type of irony: verbal, situational and dramatic, and she is able to accurately portray her life and the society in which she lived.
Austen created a masterpiece of literary art by using this simple literary device. This book has been highly praised by both contemporary and past critics. The book’s style, topics, and characters throughout it are timeless masterpieces.
Zhao, H. (2011). A relevance-theoretical approach to verbal Irony: A Case Study of Ironic utterances In Pride and Prejudice. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S037821661000233XJournal of Pragmatics, 43(1), 175-182.
Sumathi R., and Alexander K. Irony In Pride and Prejudice. https://www.academia.edu/35869943/Irony_in_Pride_and_Prejudice
Brownstein, R. M. (1988). Jane Austen: Irony and authority. Women’s Studies. A Multidisciplinary Journal, 15 (1-3), 57–70. (https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00497878.1988.9978717?journalCode=gwst20)
Sherry, J. (1979). The Constraints of Society in Pride and Prejudice. Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900, published a paper in its 19th volume, 4th issue, examining the topic in depth over the span of 609-622 pages. (https://www.jstor.org/stable/450251)
Pescosolido, B. A. (2006). Sociology and social networks play a role in the integration and prevention of pride and prejudice. Journal of social and health behavior, 47(3). 189-208. (https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/002214650604700301)