discuss wit and humour in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudicegive illustrations from the text

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thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Jane Austen uses wit to emphasize social norms. Like many other satirists,  she holds to a strict sense of what are appropriate forms of social and interpersonal intercourse, and uses ridicule to indicate disapproval or unmask hypocrisy. Wit and humour are expressed verbally in the voices of the narrator and Elizabeth Bennett and often situationally or unintentionally as other characters unmask their own foibles with inappropriate actions or words.

Technically, Austen often uses indirect discourse to create humour. He omniscient narrator looks at what Elizabeth is thinking, and expresses what Elizabeth is too polite to say -- the humour often is created by the contrasted between what is thought and what is said, e.g.  To Elizabeth it appeared that, had her family made an agreement to expose themselves as much as they could during the evening, it would have been impossible for them to play their parts with more spirit or finer success…”

Mr. Collins is another major source of humour in the novel, in that his pompous pronouncements are often in conflict not only with everyday reality but also with common sense. His praise of and obsequiousness towards Lady Catherine de Bourgh is both funny, that she is unpraiseworthy, but also the contrast reveals the serious social issue of her wielding vast power gained simply by being born to the right parents rather than by instrisic merit; what makes Jane Austen's wit worth re-reading and why it has endured is that it expresses graceful indignation at injustice.

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Pride and Prejudice

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