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I'm trying to find specific textual examples of satire in Jane Austen's Pride and...

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hemingwaylover1 | eNotes Newbie

Posted August 13, 2013 at 7:26 PM via web

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I'm trying to find specific textual examples of satire in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. Is this quote satire? 

"A lady's imagination is very rapid; it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony, in a moment." 

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted August 13, 2013 at 8:31 PM (Answer #2)

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Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen, is replete with satire; though it begins with the opening lines, examples can be found throughout the novel. Satire is generally used to point out the flaws and faults of something or someone in order to improve them, and Austen certainly has plenty of targets in mind as she writes. Satire takes many forms in life and in this novel, so if you find something humorous, ironic, or painfully true as you are reading, it is probably satire.

When Mr. Collins wants to marry Elizabeth, her father tells her:  

“An unhappy alternative is before you, Elizabeth. From this day you must be a stranger to one of your parents. Your mother will never see you again if you do not marry Mr. Collins, and I will never see you again if you do.” 

Without saying it directly, Mr. Bennet has just called Mr. Collins the most unsuitable man that Elizabeth could ever choose--and his wife a foolish woman for thinking Mr. Collins is a suitable match for any of her daughters, but especially Elizabeth.

Another humorous satiric line is spoken by Elizabeth when Jane is sick and forced to stay at the Bingleys, a circumstance which the girls' single-minded mother finds most satisfying. 

“If Jane should die; it would be comfort to know that it was all in pursuit of Mr. Bingley.”

When Lady Catherine comes to see Elizabeth and warn her away from Mr. Darcy, she says:

"And that I suppose that is one of your sisters."

This is such an ironic (satiric) statement because it is spoken by a women of supposed class and breeding who obviously has her own clear-cut prejudices and misplaced pride. 

The quote from your question is another example of humorous satire. Elizabeth criticizes the shallowness of women who base their love on nothing but whim, fancy, and feeling:

"A lady's imagination is very rapid; it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony, in a moment." 

Austen intends each of these statements--and the hundreds more which can be found in this novel--to be a commentary and/or criticism of the rigid and hypocritical social structure of her day. Her use of satire serves as a somewhat painless but pointed attack on the prides and prejudices so common among both the rich and the poor. Austen clearly wants her readers to reflect on their own misplaced pride and unwarranted prejudices as they recognize them in the characters, actions, and particularly the dialogue of this novel. 

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Lori Steinbach

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