Satire

Pride and Prejudice

by

Jane Austen

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Pride and Prejudice: Satire 3 key examples

Definition of Satire
Satire is the use of humor, irony, sarcasm, or ridicule to criticize something or someone. Public figures, such as politicians, are often the subject of satire, but satirists can take... read full definition
Satire is the use of humor, irony, sarcasm, or ridicule to criticize something or someone. Public figures, such as politicians, are often the subject of... read full definition
Satire is the use of humor, irony, sarcasm, or ridicule to criticize something or someone. Public figures, such as politicians... read full definition
Chapter 5
Explanation and Analysis—Prideful People:

Though the “pride” mentioned in the title of the novel most often applies to Elizabeth and Darcy, Austen makes it clear by the end of the book that they have both reflected on their behavior and come to change their ways. Unlike the central couple, however, there are several prideful and wealthy characters who Austen includes in the book in order to satirize the ways that wealth and over-the-top pride tend to go hand-in-hand.

Charlotte’s father—Sir William Lucas—is one example of this. In Chapter 5, the narrator describes him thus:

Sir William Lucas had been formerly in trade in Meryton, where he had made a tolerable fortune, and risen to the honour of knighthood by an address to the king […] The distinction had perhaps been felt too strongly.

Here, the narrator implies that, upon becoming wealthy and being knighted, Sir William Lucas has settled into a sort of arrogance ("the distinction had perhaps been felt too strongly"), allowing his status to go to his head.

Lady Catherine de Bourgh, Darcy’s aunt and Collins’s patron, is also a satirical character. She is exceedingly rude to everyone she considers below her station. This comes across in Chapter 29, during the first conversation that Lady Catherine de Bourgh has with Elizabeth at Rosings, when she criticizes all aspects of Elizabeth’s upbringing and is shocked when Elizabeth does not answer all of her offensive questions:

Lady Catherine seemed quite astonished at not receiving a direct answer; and Elizabeth suspected herself to be the first creature who had ever dared to trifle with so much dignified impertinence.

This commentary encourages readers to understand Lady Catherine as an exaggeratedly proud character who is deserving of Elizabeth's "dignified impertinence."

Chapter 7
Explanation and Analysis—Mrs. Bennet:

With the character Mrs. Bennet, Austen satirizes a particular type of unmannered mother who, in the class-stratified society of England in the early 1800s, unabashedly sought “advantageous” marriages for her daughters. Through her use of satire, Austen is critiquing the ways that some landed gentry were willing to do anything to hold onto their class position (or move up in status), including sacrificing their own daughters to any well-off man who expressed interest in them.

The exaggerated and satirical nature of Mrs. Bennet’s character comes across in several key scenes, such as in Chapter 7, when she sends Jane to meet Caroline Bingley at Netherfield on horseback because she knows a rain storm is coming (and wants Jane to have a reason to prolong her time with the Bingleys). Elizabeth’s reaction captures the absurdity of her mother willingly risking Jane’s health in pursuit of a man:

“If she should die; it would be comfort to know that it was all in pursuit of Bingley, and under your orders.”

In a much later scene (in Chapter 49), Mrs. Bennet behaves in an over-the-top, satirical way upon learning that Lydia and Wickham have been wed. Even though she knows Wickham manipulated Lydia and was willing to ruin her reputation (and those of all of the Bennet sisters), Mrs. Bennet's daughter’s nuptials immediately push all of that out of her brain. She ends up unabashedly celebrating the wedding, shouting:

“Well! I am so happy! In a short time I shall have a daughter married. Mrs. Wickham! How well it sounds!”

The other Bennets are more nuanced characters and therefore retain their anger and disgust about Wickham and Lydia’s actions, whereas Mrs. Bennet is purely delighted to have successfully married off one of her children.

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Chapter 24
Explanation and Analysis—Collins:

Like Mrs. Bennet, Collins is an intentionally exaggerated character. His ridiculous behavior is Austen’s way of satirizing the worst-case scenario for arranged marriages—though Elizabeth marrying him might be “advantageous” (to use Mrs. Bennet’s words), it would also make her miserable because Collins is not an appealing partner. Austen hopes that readers will agree with Elizabeth when she shares her view of Collins:

“Mr. Collins is a conceited, pompous, narrow-minded, silly man; you know he is, as well as I do; and you must feel, as well as I do, that the woman who married him cannot have a proper way of thinking.”

Introducing Collins as a character is also Austen’s way of satirizing landed gentry who center the needs and wishes of the higher aristocratic class over everything else. Collins is completely fixated on winning the approval of Lady Catherine de Bourgh as a way of securing on-going financial support.

Of course, Lady Catherine does not (and likely will not) see him as an equal, but he still continues to try to win her approval in humorous and absurd ways, such as installing shelves in an upstairs closet in her home simply because she suggested it in passing.

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Chapter 29
Explanation and Analysis—Prideful People:

Though the “pride” mentioned in the title of the novel most often applies to Elizabeth and Darcy, Austen makes it clear by the end of the book that they have both reflected on their behavior and come to change their ways. Unlike the central couple, however, there are several prideful and wealthy characters who Austen includes in the book in order to satirize the ways that wealth and over-the-top pride tend to go hand-in-hand.

Charlotte’s father—Sir William Lucas—is one example of this. In Chapter 5, the narrator describes him thus:

Sir William Lucas had been formerly in trade in Meryton, where he had made a tolerable fortune, and risen to the honour of knighthood by an address to the king […] The distinction had perhaps been felt too strongly.

Here, the narrator implies that, upon becoming wealthy and being knighted, Sir William Lucas has settled into a sort of arrogance ("the distinction had perhaps been felt too strongly"), allowing his status to go to his head.

Lady Catherine de Bourgh, Darcy’s aunt and Collins’s patron, is also a satirical character. She is exceedingly rude to everyone she considers below her station. This comes across in Chapter 29, during the first conversation that Lady Catherine de Bourgh has with Elizabeth at Rosings, when she criticizes all aspects of Elizabeth’s upbringing and is shocked when Elizabeth does not answer all of her offensive questions:

Lady Catherine seemed quite astonished at not receiving a direct answer; and Elizabeth suspected herself to be the first creature who had ever dared to trifle with so much dignified impertinence.

This commentary encourages readers to understand Lady Catherine as an exaggeratedly proud character who is deserving of Elizabeth's "dignified impertinence."

Unlock with LitCharts A+
Chapter 49
Explanation and Analysis—Mrs. Bennet:

With the character Mrs. Bennet, Austen satirizes a particular type of unmannered mother who, in the class-stratified society of England in the early 1800s, unabashedly sought “advantageous” marriages for her daughters. Through her use of satire, Austen is critiquing the ways that some landed gentry were willing to do anything to hold onto their class position (or move up in status), including sacrificing their own daughters to any well-off man who expressed interest in them.

The exaggerated and satirical nature of Mrs. Bennet’s character comes across in several key scenes, such as in Chapter 7, when she sends Jane to meet Caroline Bingley at Netherfield on horseback because she knows a rain storm is coming (and wants Jane to have a reason to prolong her time with the Bingleys). Elizabeth’s reaction captures the absurdity of her mother willingly risking Jane’s health in pursuit of a man:

“If she should die; it would be comfort to know that it was all in pursuit of Bingley, and under your orders.”

In a much later scene (in Chapter 49), Mrs. Bennet behaves in an over-the-top, satirical way upon learning that Lydia and Wickham have been wed. Even though she knows Wickham manipulated Lydia and was willing to ruin her reputation (and those of all of the Bennet sisters), Mrs. Bennet's daughter’s nuptials immediately push all of that out of her brain. She ends up unabashedly celebrating the wedding, shouting:

“Well! I am so happy! In a short time I shall have a daughter married. Mrs. Wickham! How well it sounds!”

The other Bennets are more nuanced characters and therefore retain their anger and disgust about Wickham and Lydia’s actions, whereas Mrs. Bennet is purely delighted to have successfully married off one of her children.

Unlock with LitCharts A+