Critics have examined Jane Austen’s novel, Pride and Prejudice, since its creation. In this novel, Austen uses and irony to produce a masterpiece.
Austen opens the novel with what appears to be a sarcastic sentence. 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" (Austen 5). Most readers think of this as humorous and quite laughable. It does not necessarily follow that a man with a large fortune is searching for a wife. However, by the end of the first page, the reader may find himself asking, "Was Austen being sarcastic or was she simply stating a fact?" In Pride and Prejudice, the opening sentence is merely a fact. The text presents two men with large fortunes. Moreover, the end of the novel unites both men "of a good fortune" with wives. Austen sealed their ends. What appears mere sarcasm becomes ironic when one realizes "IT is a truth universally acknowledged."
The first character to express sarcasm and irony is Mr. Bennett. Austen brings forth the irony of her opening thesis in his sarcastic speech. The opening dialogue between Mr. Bennett and his wife is a worthy example. She comments on a man leasing a piece of property, Netherfield Park. Mr. Bennett shows very little interest in her story. His disinterest perturbs her and she asks him if he wants to know who has rented the property. He replies "You want to tell me, and I have no objection to hearing it" (5). She remarks that the man is "a young man of large fortune" (5). Aside from asking his name, the first thing Mr. Bennett wants to know about this man is:
"Is he married or single?"
"Oh single my dear, to be sure! A single man of large...
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...e seems like utter stupidity to the reader. Yet the most important irony is the irony between Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth. As the novel progresses, Darcy and Elizabeth put away their pride and prejudice to unite in marriage. Also, Mr. Darcy mutates from the villain to the hero as Wickham goes from hero to villain. Finally, Austen's use of authorial intrusion adds a final touch of sarcasm and irony that completes the novel.
Brower, Reuben A. "Light and Bright and Sparkling: Irony and Fiction in Pride and Prejudice." Ed. Donald Gray. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1966. 374-388.
Mudrick, Marvin. "Irony as Dicrimination: Pride and Prejudice." Ed. Donald Gray. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1966. 388-409.
Wright, Andrew H. "Feeling and Complexity in Pride and Prejudice." Ed. Donald Gray. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1966. 410-420.
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