Humour and Irony in Pride and Prejudice
Jane Austen is one of the greatest novelists of English Literature. She has been called the pure novelist. She occupies a high place in English novel. She imparted realism and pioneered the the comedy of manners. She always receives praise for the use of humour and irony in her novels.
Jane Austen's novels are domestic comedies of a high order. She was mainly interested in the comedy of human nature. Her comedy was confined to human beings in their personal relations. Her novels look like novels of manners. It is because they depict the manners, customs and follies of her limited social circle. She laughs at follies and vices. For that she employs humour and irony that are charming.
Jane Austen's attitude towards life is that of a humorist. Like a true comedian her first literary impulse was humorous. Humour appears on every page of her novels. She laughs at follies and nonsense, whims and inconsistencies. Folly is the chief source of laughter in her novels.
Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice is the finest picture of sunny side of life. She creates comic characters that produce nothing but laughter. Her comic characters are Mrs. Bennet, Sir Walter Eliot, Mrs. Norris, Mr. Collins and Mr. Woodhouse. She laughs at each one of them because of their foolish actions. Mr. Collins is the main source of humour in the novel. He makes other people laugh at his words and deeds. Mrs. Bennet, Lady Catherine and Lydia are also reach sources of humour. Apart from these characters this novel is full of comic scenes and humorous situations. One of the comic scenes describes Mr. Collins proposal to Elizabeth. Mr. Collins is ridiculous but the humour that he produces is quite unconscious.
Jane Austen took delight in the comedy of human folly but her humour is never malicious. She is a gentle humorist. She has a keen sense of the absurdities of men and women but she is never harsh and unkind. She is never angry at her characters. Her humour is neither boisterous nor bitter. It is delicate and ironical.
Jane Austen brilliantly uses irony in her novels. Her gentle stokes of irony are charming. This irony is the very substance of her style. It sparkles out in every phrase. Its perfume is to be felt everywhere. Even the cruelest shafts of her irony are feathered with the brightest streames of humour.
We know that irony is a literary device by which we say one thing and intend its opposite. This device is the soul of Austen's novels. In her novel we find all type of irony - verbal irony, irony of situation and irony of character. The opening sentence of Pride and Prejudice is a fine example of verbal irony. Mr. Collins' proposal to Elizabeth is a fine specimen of irony of situation. Wickham is the best example of the irony of character. He looks good but at heart he is a villain.
Jane Austen , no doubt, is a great mistress of irony. Irony is her weapon through which she ridicules. Every kind of folly receives ironical treatment. It is ridiculed and exposed at every step.
Thus Jane Austen is a great novelist who is known for the brilliant use of humour and irony. These devices run through the very fabric of Pride and Prejudice and serve the purpose of the novelist.