What quotes are important in the first chapter of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, and how do you analyize them?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One important passage in the first chapter of Pride and Prejudice is the opening line: "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife." This opening line is a perfect example Austen's wit and sets the generally whimsical, gay tone of the novel. This statement is witty due to the ironic fact that it is not necessarily rich men who are wanting wives, rather it is women who are wanting rich men as husbands.

Another important passage is Mr. Bennet's response to Mrs. Bennet's request that he introduce himself and his daughters to Mr. Bingley:

I see no occasion for that. You and the girls may go, or you may send them by themselves, which perhaps will be still better; for, as you are as handsome as any of them, Mr. Bingley might like you the best of the party.

His response is very amusing and also very enlightening. The lines tell us a great deal about his witty, sarcastic character, and how he condescends to his wife. The suggestion is of course ironic because it was very improper for women to introduce themselves to men. Besides being ironic, this passage actually foreshadows a great deal. Mr. Bennet, his wife, and his family, especially the youngest daughters, are about to be accused of lacking discipline and acting with impropriety. More importantly, Mr. Bennet will be blamed for his family's behavior.