Every irony is defined by a contradiction between reality and appearance. Jane Austen employs irony in a variety of ways. She employs it in her narrative style to reveal the inconsistencies, if not outright contradictions, that lie underneath the surface harmony, giving her style a deep nuance and depth and allowing it to be examined and understood on many levels. Her characterisation uses irony to reveal her character’s misinterpretation of others as well as their own self-deception. Her conversations are full of dramatic irony; they have one meaning for the speaker and a completely other one for the reader, who has more knowledge than the speaker. In light of what occurs later in the book, specific words said by a certain character and certain circumstances are sometimes imbued with sarcastic meanings. Jane Austen’s use of irony gives her narrative compactness, clarity, and complexity, depth to her characters, a humorous touch to her storyline, and keeps her reader titillated and entertained.
Ironic theme in ‘Pride and Prejudice’
The subject of Pride and Prejudice, like those of Jane Austen’s other works, lends itself to a sarcastic reading. Pride and Prejudice shows the difference between “intricacy and simplicity as those words apply to personality” on an ironic level. The complexity of Darcy and Elizabeth contrasts with Jane and Bingley’s simplicity. The first two have depth, but it is because of their depth that they are exposed to the perils of Pride and Prejudice. The last two are straightforward, and their simplicity proves to be a strength. But the readers must decide which is more appealing and even preferable: the complexity of the first two or the simplicity of the third. Both complexity and simplicity have their advantages; both are desired; on the other hand, both have their drawbacks. One may want to be both complex and straightforward at the same time, but the irony is that they are mutually exclusive and irreconcilable.
The narrative has an ironic tone to it.
The sarcastic tone of Jane Austen’s book is set in the opening sentence: “it is truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession a good fortune in must be in want of wife.” The first part of the phrase implies that the book is about some great ‘universal’ truth. When this fact is discovered to be connected with a common societal problem—marriage—there is an ironic deflation in the second part. People believe that a well-to-do young guy should be on the lookout for a suitable bride based on the phrase alone. It hides a sarcastic notion that things could be the opposite way around in actuality. It’s quite possible that the women in this young man’s area want such a spouse, and he may be the hunted rather than the hunter. When the young man is referred to as the “rightful property” of some young woman in the following line, Jane Austen’s connotations become apparent. “The business of her life was to have her daughters married, its consolation was visiting and news,” Jane Austen says in the same chapter, summarising Mrs. Bennett’s character. The sarcastic inference here is that she is unlikely to exhibit much discriminating in who they select as their husbands, a reality subsequently reinforced by Lydia’s feeling of exaltation in Wickham’s marriage. As the readers got familiar with their pride, elitism, and selfishness, the sarcastic connotations of the phrase “very beautiful women” became apparent. The book is written in such a sarcastic tone.
Comment on the use of wit and irony in the novel Pride and Prejudice.
The irony of the situation
The ironic twist has been added to the majority of the events and situations in Pride and Prejudice. Mr. Darcy says of Elizabeth, “She is not beautiful enough to entice me,” but is quickly enthralled by her big eyes. He removes Bingley from Netherfield because to the imprudence of a marital connection with the Bennett family, but forms the same relationship himself. When Elizabeth’s heart is too full of Wickham, Collins proposes to her. Darcy proposes to her just when she despises him the most. Mr. Collins is certain that Elizabeth is not the kind of girl who would turn down the first marriage proposal and accept the second, yet that is precisely what she does. The militia’s departure from Meryton was supposed to put a stop to Lydia’s flirtations; instead, it leads to her elopement.
The scandal surrounding Lydia’s misdeeds may have ruined Elizabeth’s chances of marrying Darcy, but the affair actually pulls them closer together. Miss. Caroline Bingley takes no chances when it comes to throwing doubts on Elizabeth and her family. But she only succeeds in exposing her own bad breeding and alienating Mr. Darcy by doing so. Lady Catherine’s involvement in preventing Elizabeth and Darcy from marrying helps to hasten the process. There are many examples of this kind of irony throughout the book, and they may be found at any point.
Irony of personality
Character irony is considerably more prevalent than situational irony. Isn’t it strange that Elizabeth, who prides herself on her vision and scorns Jane’s lack of awareness of reality, is blinded by her prejudices? Darcy has always prided himself on being a gentleman, but his proposal to Elizabeth is far from gentlemanly. Wickham may seem elegant on the surface, polished and rewinding his manners, but he is an unredeemed monster at heart. The Bingley sisters despise the Bennets’ vulgarity, yet they are as vulgar. The truth is that inconsistencies and contradictions are inherent in human nature, and Jane Austen, delighted by them, depicts them for the entertainment and enlightenment of his readers.
Irony as a rich source of humour
Jane Austen’s irony is always a vehicle for great humour. She loves portraying character inconsistencies, yet she never lets them spoil the mood of pleasure and laughter that pervades her books. The suitors are repelled by Mrs. Bennett’s vulgarity, but only for a short time. Lydia’s irresponsibility threatens her reputation, yet her marriage to Wickham does come to fruition in the end. It’s worth noting that the wicked figures Wickham and Lady Catherine are the ones that bring Elizabeth and Darcy together. One of the most notable aspects of Pride and Prejudice is dramatic irony. At each step, the distinction between appearance and reality is stressed.
Wickham looks elegant and intellectual on the surface, yet he is a villain. Darcy seems to be a slob, yet the reader finds him to be a gentleman. Caroline attempts to get Darcy to dislike Elizabeth, but the more she disparages her, the more he is drawn to her. Mrs. Bennett’s attempts are intended at luring suitable suitors in, but all she manages to do is scare them away. Lydia’s elopement with Wickham is intended to put Elizabeth’s marriage to Darcy in jeopardy; it really makes it happen. Lady Catherine tries to prevent the marriage, but she only succeeds in making it possible. Darcy forbids Bingley from marrying a Bennett girl, but he eventually marries one. Elizabeth assures Collins that she isn’t the kind of girl to turn down the first offer and accept the second, yet she does just that. On a narrative level, there is a tragic irony that pervades almost every page of the book. After all, Mrs. Bennett reminds her husband, their children can’t be expected to understand their parents. And what smart parents they are. Mr. Bennett declares that Wickham is his favourite son-in-law, and why shouldn’t he be after all the trouble he’s caused?
Both the action and the characters in Pride and Prejudice grow via conversation. Jane Austen seldom makes straightforward observations, descriptions, or analyses. She usually stays in the background, letting her drama play out on its own or revealing her characters via short, snappy conversations.
What others have to say about her characters may also help the reader understand more about them. Mr. and Mrs. Bennett are introduced in the opening chapter, followed by a summary of their key characteristics by the author. Before he makes a physical visit at Long Bourn, the reader gets to know Mr. Collins via his letters. Lady Catherine is initially seen via Collins’ eyes, then through Wickham’s, and lastly through the reader’s eyes at Rosings. Some of the moments have a lot of emotional intensity and vividness. The hero Darcy, Elizabeth’s repartees at Netherfield, the two proposal sequences, and Elizabeth’s confrontation with Lady Catherine Jane Austen shows herself to be a great playwright with a flawless ear, a perfect sense of timing, and a keen sense of climax and anti-climax in such situations.
Jane Austen’s irony isn’t bitter or cynical, and it doesn’t represent her cynicism. It’s funny, but it’s not simply for the sake of local amusement. It elicits introspection on some of life’s most pressing problems. As a result, irony is neither indifferent nor responsible in her hands. Jane Austen is impartial in her observation and portrayal of life’s fact, but not in her assessment of the moral principles that govern it. She has her own ethos, her own set of values (whether or not they are sufficient is a separate matter), and she is remarkably consistent in her pronouncements about human behaviour. As a result, in her hands, irony is a tool for moral insight rather than a rejection tool.