Jane Austen

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How does Jane Austen imply a different attitude than the essence of her narrative statement by using verbal irony?  Not taking verbal irony strictly to imply that the speaker or author means the...

How does Jane Austen imply a different attitude than the essence of her narrative statement by using verbal irony? 

Not taking verbal irony strictly to imply that the speaker or author means the opposite of what is stated even though this is the case at times, but taking verbal irony as having the speaker or writer impling a different attitude other than that of the substance of his/her statements. 

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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I'm not certain your language correctly describes the operation of Austen's verbal irony. You say, in paraphrase, her ironic attitude differs from the attitude of her statement: e.g., the statement is serious; she is laughing. When we analyze this closely, we may find that her ironic attitude accords with her statement because it is the statement that contains the verbal irony, since without the statement we cannot know her attitude is differing and ironic. Analysis might show that, in fact, Austen's ironic attitude, shown by verbal irony, differs from the attitude of the characters, actions, ideas or events she is describing. Let's look at an example, analyze it and see.

Her most famous ironic statement employing verbal irony opens Pride and Prejudice:

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

Let's analyze this starting from the subject and going to the grammar and syntax. The essential subject is a simple one, in paraphrase: Wealthy single men wish to marry. The particular subject is that an unidentified "someone"--probably "women" since Mrs. Bennet speaks first--believes a wealthy single man's ambition is to marry. These/this subject is itself laughable because wealthy single men often had so much fun being wealthy and single (i.e., Wickham, Colonel...

(The entire section contains 664 words.)

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