Throughout Pride and Prejudice, as in all her novels, Jane Austen deftly uses a light tone as she reveals dark aspects of British society and individual attitudes and behaviors. Although it is a serious novel in many ways, the novel is also a comic romance. The lightness of Austen’s touch—especially in the voice of the omniscient third-person narrator—serves to reassure the reader that everything will be harmoniously resolved in the end. The narrative tone is obviously ironic from the outset, as this unnamed narrator draws in the reader by sharing their knowledge of the universal truths about marriage.
Characterization helps establish the light tone and contrasting darker themes. A good example is the marriage between William Collins and Charlotte Lucas. Collins’s speech and behavior clearly mark him as a foolish man, leading Lizzie to dismiss him. However, Charlotte accepts him because her situation is much different than her friend’s: she must marry, for her own sake and that of her family. When Charlotte gently corrects Lizzie for calling him “ridiculous,” the reader is likewise encouraged to be kind and to recall women’s limited opportunities.
Another important case of the light and dark contrast occurs with Mr. Wickham. His charm, which captivates the Bennet girls as well as their mother, is evident in the first half of the book. It later becomes evident that this persona masks a scoundrel who misleads young girls. By establishing him as an amusing companion, Austen makes palatable the otherwise unpleasant resolution of his marriage to the oblivious Kitty, who remains convinced that she has made an enviable match.