Mr. Darcy is perceived by the Bennets and their peers as a very solemn and proud individual. His lack of an upfront sense of humor puts forth a sense of detachment. Due to this, his words are often misinterpreted, particularly by Elizabeth, who is very critical of Darcy’s character. Elizabeth’s presumptuous mindset towards Darcy leads her to misjudge him immensely. There are several instances in Pride and Prejudice when Darcy’s complements to Elizabeth go directly over Elizabeth’s head. This is partially due to Elizabeth’s prejudice towards him, but blame is also owed to the somber way in which Darcy conducts himself. Darcy attempts to demonstrate his fondness for Elizabeth in the most anxious and ambiguous ways imaginable. When Elizabeth waits on Jane in Jane’s illness at Netherfield, Elizabeth and Darcy share an exchange in which Darcy implies that Elizabeth is an accomplished woman: “[To be an accomplished woman] she must yet add something more substantial, in the improvement...
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... more fine clothes and fine carriages than Jane. But will that make you happy?’” (324). Mr. Bennet here recognizes the shallowness of many women’s motivation to marry; he also acknowledges that he knows Elizabeth has more depth than that. Mr. Bennet in all of these aforementioned examples quietly laughs to himself at the world of people outside of his library, particularly his wife.
Comedy or lack thereof in Pride and Prejudice serves as a device to reveal truths about the characters’ belief systems and insecurities. Used differently in each character, sense of humor proves most vital in Fitzwilliam Darcy’s, Elizabeth Bennet’s, and Mr. Bennet’s characters. Comedy acts an important role in the way in which Darcy is perceived by Elizabeth; in conveying Elizabeth’s personality to the reader; and in showing Mr. Bennet’s disregard for the concerns of those around him.
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