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Irony and Satire in Jane Austen novels

Irony, satire, and parody are the soul of Jane Austen’s novels because of the humorous aspects of life she presents in her novels. The aspects are visible to good sense in their contemplation of erroneous judgments. Both novels present the reader with a several characters that play different roles in bringing out the aspects of humor and wit in the two novels. It can also be noted that the stories unfold from different angles as the author brings out several vices that are either morally or ethically unaccepted.   

Irony is the hall mark of her style because this irony is not merely a particular way of saying or creating things (Bhattacharyya 80). Irony in this tale is rather the expression of the infinite within a man who has at once a delicate, sensitive, and subtle perception of the contrasts and contradictions with which human life is filled. On the other hand both novels make use of one common device throughout that is satire. Satire is a literary attitude used to make pleasurable aspects of character vices or weakness.

This is done with the purpose of modifying the subject being attacked. Besides this satire utilized in the story confirms how excitement is poked at things that are collectively unacceptable and downplayed, creating an ironic sense of wit. Quintero says that pride and prejudice demonstrated satire when women in her tale were supposedly animated by sentiment (290). According to Quintero the definition of satire as a genre meant to expose vices for the purposes of correction lingers on in this novel (290). In addition Bhattacharyya says that pride and prejudice tale is not laughter provoking but they have a rippling sense of pleasure behind them (80). In this novel satire connotes moral purpose but the author never lashes human follies.

Colebrook says that while irony in the pride and prejudice and zombies consequently delimits human life by positing an elevated concept that is not realized, satire examines life and its inherent propensities (108). In this tale Jane Austen (1775-1817) parody is depicted in the way several characters take their local sentiments for universal truths. Colebrook says that “the author displays the blindness of the characters who believe themselves to be in simple possession of either a moral law or a social code” (108).

 While satire brings out individual characters against the morals of parody in this novel is portrayed by the vanities and tendencies of human nature and they also present characters that arrive at fulfillment only through knowing and reflecting upon social nature of man (Colebrook 108). On the other hand Austen shows satire through the art of fiction and recognition through examining the follies of others with a full perception of our own weakness. In this story satire unlike parody assumes the common ground of man and therefore works against the traditional aim of irony and elevated or urbane point of view above and beyond natural life (Colebrook 108).

Moreover, Bhattacharyya also indicated that in the story pride and prejudice, irony is a mode of speech in which the implied attitudes or evaluations are opposed to those literally expressed (81). The tale is in many occasions irony is a contrast between reality and illusion. For example Bhattacharyya says that the first sentence of the novel is tinged with irony as the sentence runs “it is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife” (81). This is not a truth that is universal to every man because the contrast appears to be true in most cases.

On the other hand, satire is also demonstrated in the novel since the author does not reveal enough about what Darcy is supposed to be thinking. Walder says that “in Elizabeth’s crucial conservations with Jane, the antithetical technique, contrasting Elizabeth’s satire with Jane’s candor (231). Satire is depicted in the novel because as a whole intelligence is represented as faulty in the novel. The readers admire Elizabeth’s wit and sharing her lively and satire vision. Walder further says that reformation is not complete until near the end of the novel and everyone notices that the second, less satire and extrovert half of pride and prejudice is less enjoyable than the first. 

Bhattacharyya says that “irony is being used as an instrument of revealing the difference between appearance and reality is always a source of inspiration and amusement” (81). This is depicted when Darcy remarks about Elizabeth that “she is not handsome enough to tempt me” and soon after gets captivated by a “pair of fine eyes” of Elizabeth” (Bhattacharyya 81). In addition irony of character is even more prominent in the novel than irony of situation. For example “Elizabeth prides herself on her perception and disdains Jane’s blindness to the realities is herself quite blinded by her own prejudices” (Bhattacharyya 82)

The novel pride and prejudice and zombies it is a complete parody but then it comes out in a complicated form. Austen has mirrored the original work effectively enough so that the flow is fresh and funny.  In addition, Ross says that the novel explores the purpose of parody that ranges from a playful imitation to harsh satire (49). Compared to irony, the author also portrays successful parodies in which the element of celebration is clearly shown.

For example in the novel Pride and Prejudice and zombies parody is depicted when Darcy says “which do you mean? And turning round he looked for a moment at Elizabeth till catching her eye, he withdrew his own and coldly said “she is tolerable but not handsome enough to tempt me; I am in no humor at present to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men” (Austen 13). In this case the style in which parody is been shown is pretentious one because it is deflated by mockery hence its function is challenged so as to renovate and renew it (Ross 49).

Like satire, irony in pride and prejudice is clearly depicted when a rich and influential man falls in love with a relatively poor and powerless young woman. It appears as a surprise to Elizabeth that Darcy finds himself in love with her while the author Austen makes it clear how wonderful it is that such a man should fall in love at all (Polhemus 29). In the beginning of the story there is more irony because the match was not very compelling because the reason why he fell in love with Elizabeth and marry her but at the end the match between the two looks perfectly reasonable.

Pride and prejudice shows how from historical perspective the association between the sexes where men could seem princes and women scullery maids. The ironic part of the story is depicted on the basis that though Elizabeth comes to love him by the end it is not at all clear that  she ever falls in love with him because in their romance man falls in love with woman and that fall into love is the fortunate fall of Austen’s erotic faith (Polhemus 29).

The story further shows the readers that the world is often a sordid, dull, menacing, and disappointing place without love. The irony is that the power of love in pride and prejudice works to generate faith, hope, and charity. Parody on the other hand is depicted when the story explores that Darcy’s love for Elizabeth curbs his arrogance and makes him a kinder and better man (Polhemus 29).   

Among the utmost and most exhibited satires in the story is illustrated through the most humorous man Mr. Collins. Mr. Collins character is rather hilarious in the entire text because of his apparent foolishness and his lack of understanding to his vices. Mr. Collins persistently acquaints himself with people of the superior class than his, for example Lady Catherine and Mr. Darcy who are regarded as high status people. He relates so much with these two people by the means of continued trips to the Rosins estate and Balls. Mr. Collins began to relate himself with Lady Catherine and Mr. Darcy, making himself comes out as higher class individual than he really is. With this phony sense of being Mr. Collins indisputably makes a fool out of himself giving the readers a clear picture of satire (MRU database).

Like irony, satire is employed in the entire novel Pride and Prejudice. This is because Austen starts to put across her own dissatisfactions of her own personalities and also reveals her own dilemma with the way in which society was footed upon class during her era. This application of satire becomes supplementary than just a mechanism that conveys humor to the readers. It is also a device that shows the communal issues that were there in Victorian England in Austen’s time making it an essential element to the story.

Satire is employed in Pride and Prejudice by the author to show the shortcomings in moralities and ethics of the subjects that Austen criticizes of. Satire is thus used hit at the characters in order to bring new changes. The type of characters she ridicules is ignorant in the author’s context. For example Jane Austen condemns Mr. Collins causing her to bother and satirizes him. Because of staying with Lady Catherine, Mr. Collins has demoralized himself.  This is because he imagines and speaks highly of individual’s superior than himself, such as, Lady Catherine DeBourgh. This is demonstrated when he was invited by Lady Catherine Mr. Collins tells Elizabeth who he was proposing to "Do not make yourself uneasy, my dear cousin, about / your apparel. Lady Catherine is far from requiring that elegance of dress in us which becomes herself and / daughter. I would advise you merely to put on whatever / of your clothes is superior to the rest / ...she likes to have the distinction of rank preserved" (Austen 137).

Austen in both novels illustrates that satire is the lesson while parody is the game. Ross says that parody can never have the force of satire because it seeks to undermine established attitudes in the author’s work (49). Darcy for example shows the original form of parody of the existing social order but it can be seen as an authorized transgression of norms. For example Elizabeth in both novels was displayed as the anti-heroine of romance a parody that accounts for the tough personality of the conqueror and her challenging of modesty by conversation and action (Austen 13). The characters and incidents in the novel pride and prejudice are used to give the audience a taste and critical sense of parody because every incident unfolds in a manner in which it advances the progress of the story (Austen 13). This can be elaborated when “Darcy walked off, Elizabeth felt her blood turn cold because she had never in her life been so insulted hence the warrior code demanded she avenge her honor” (Austen 13).

Bhattacharyya says that it interesting to note how the author deals with parody, satire, and irony in both novels. Bhattacharyya says that “the readers can notice that the Elizabeth-Darcy story is told with surface romanticism and it contains most of the verbal irony of the novel” (89). On the other hand it is important to note that “the Wickham-Lydia and Charlotte-Collins episodes are treated romantically with a solid foundation in social realism and with rather sordid and happy implications which in them the functions of parody comes out clearly” (Bhattacharyya 89).

 Another example of parody is through Darcy’s realization of his mistake that gradually leads to reconciliation between Jane and Bingley. Besides this we notice that Lydia’s sudden elopement with Wickham leads to the marriage between Elizabeth and Darcy and also Charlotte’s sudden acceptance of Collins’s proposal leads to theirs (Bhattacharyya 89). Parody is demonstrated in the above series of events because one incident leads to the occurrence of another event (marriage) between the characters in the novels.

In this context irony is evident. This is because the story becomes uncharacteristically clumsy from this point. This is because irony is illustrated when the reader realizes that the proud man is writing meekly to the girl who has rejected him unconditionally. Bhattacharyya says that satire is demonstrated through the novelistic technique of seduction as a suitable climax which Austen shows a standard chase by an outraged father, a friendly uncle and a now impeccable hero who makes devoted efforts to wed the scheming profligate Wickham to the innocent victim Lydia (90). 

In contrast to parody, satire is demonstrated by Austen in pride and prejudice and zombie when Charlotte says “I wish Jane success with all my heart and if she were married to him tomorrow I should think she had as good chance of happiness as if she were to be studying his character for a twelve month. He further comes out clearly and says that happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance and it is better to know as little as possible of the defects of the person with whom you are to pass your life” (20). Satire in this passage is evident because it appears like he is offering a lesson to Jane of what to do and learn when she enters into marriage.

In pride and prejudice as well as pride and prejudice and zombies, Jane Austen has given a multitude of characters that bring out the picture of irony, satire, and parody. This is because according to Bhattacharyya the characters are perfectly discriminated from one another as if they are the most eccentric of human beings (94). There is also a sense of pervasive irony in the characters of Jane Austen’s novel. Bhattacharyya says that “the irony is betrayed in her portraiture of the characters of Elizabeth, Darcy, Collins, Wickham and others” (95). Irony is the soul of the author’s comic view of life because she recognizes the antithesis in human experience that is the contrast between reality and appearance (Bhattacharyya 95).

Satire is illustrated through Collins character who besides being a humorous character. Bhattacharyya says that had it not been for Collins, Elizabeth and Darcy could not have come together as they do in the end (97). This is because it was Collins who first gave the information of engagement of Darcy and Elizabeth. Parody on the other hand is demonstrated through Mrs. Bennet who is seen as a woman of mean understanding because though she has been married for twenty years she is shown as unable to judge her husband (Bhattacharyya 97). Her remarks adds parody to the novel and at the same time she does not see the stupidity of Collins but tries to force her daughter to marry him though without success.

In conclusion, the functions of satire, parody and irony in the two novels is evident. These three aspects in the two novels help us to gain a good understanding of the characters. They bring humor to the novels thus the comic characters used by the author are significant in different angles of the novels. They act as a guide and to an extent they portrayed in such a manner as to make satire, parody, and irony in their portraiture not too blatant. Satire, parody, and irony do not just give the picture but lets the reader make his or her own judgment.

Works cited

Bhattacharyya, Jibhesh. Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. New Delhi, India: Atlantic Publishers & Distributors 2005.

Grahame-Smith, Seth and Austen, Jane. Pride and prejudice and zombies: the classic Regency Romance. San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books 2009.

Polhemus, Robert M.  Erotic Faith: Being in Love from Jane Austen to D. H. Lawrence. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press 1995.

Quintero, Ruben. A companion to satire. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell 2007.

Ross, Alison. The language of humour. New York, NY: Routledge 1998.

Walder, Dennis. The realist novel. New York, NY: Routledge 1995.






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