How is Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice seen as a comedy of manners?
Pride and Prejudice belongs to the genre of a comedy of manners; this is a type of comedy depicting and satrizing the manners and customs of fashionable society.
How does Jane Austen use this technique in Pride and Prejudice?
2 Answers | Add Yours
Pride and Prejudice is, if you really pay attention, quite the scathing commentary on the etiquette and customs of the time. Think about it this way: Elizabeth can't just walk up to Darcy and say, "What's the deal with us?" In the England of the early 1800's, there were very strict expectations for how children were supposed to act toward their parents, how both women and men were supposed to conduct themselves and interact, and how people of certain social statuses were supposed to act around one another. There were many, many layers of expectation and politeness that contributed to what were really, at least in comparison to today, very artificial communications.
Austen was ahead of her time enough to catch on to this, and put her characters in situations where the tension between what a character truly wants to do/say comes in direct conflict with what he or she MUST do/say according to their gender and social position.
This creates many comedic and tense situations for the characters who act according to their station--for instance, Jane and Bingley's mutual aching to be with one another is never expressed (and instead quite awkwardly misunderstood) for the majority of the novel because (A) Jane's place as a women is to act passively and not initiate any aspect of the relationship and (B) Bingley, with added pressure from Darcy and Ms. Bingley, sees his place as a wealthy young man as that of a station far above Jane Bennet's. Therefore, neither of these characters can "allow" themselves to act on what they really feel.
Similar expectations act on Elizabeth and Darcy throughout the novel as well, but Austen gives her heroine a small spark of rebellion--enough that when she is pushed enough (as in Darcy's initial proposal) she is able to miraculously overcome the ways in which she is "supposed" to act as a young women from a lower class family. It's this addded resistance of social expectations that makes her rejection of Wickham, rejection of Darcy, and grand telling-off of Lady Catherine de Bourgh so spectacular, funny, and heroic.
Pride and prejudice is the story which shows the artificial conduct most of the people carry on throughout their lives. Mrs Bennet is a woman who worries only about her daughters' marriage. Her ettiquetes and her manners are all a show off just to attain her objective. As for the other lady i.e. Mrs Bingley ,she is engrossed with her own activities that she deems to be of higher level.
The conversation of Elizabeth with Catherine is used as a form of self defence.Her rejection of Darcy seems to be a step taken by an intelligent woman so that she can retain her autonomy in the face of marriage to a social superior.Non communicativeness of the Bingley sisters in the story though initially seems to be high class mannerisms , turns out to be snobbery which extreme pride has granted them.
Join to answer this question
Join a community of thousands of dedicated teachers and students.Join eNotes