Illustration of Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy with neutral expressions on their faces

Pride and Prejudice

by Jane Austen
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Austen wrote, "These are little matters of great importance." Is this a true critical opinion for Pride and Prejudice regarding items listed below? This question is regarding the items of (1) Jane Austen's ironic humour; (2) everyday activities in the novel; (3) the impact of even small sayings of dialogue on plot development; (4) the theme of marriage. The above statement is quoted from one of Jane Austen's letters to her sister Cassandra.

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The earliest instance of the principle of "little matters of great importance" related to Austen's ironic humor occurs when that brilliant ironic voice introduces the subject of eligible bachelors newly come to the neighborhood wanting wives. It is a topic of little matter--neighborhood gossip--but for the young women who fall in love with the bachelors, Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy, and are fortunate enough to receive their offers of marriage, it is of great importance.

Elizabeth and Darcy give an example of how everyday activities reflect this principle. A country walk is an everyday activity for Elizabeth (though not so often when it is "dirty" out after a rain) and therefore a little matter, yet when this little everyday activity takes Elizabeth to Netherfield, it comes to be of great importance because it is then that Darcy is first struck with the power of a "fine pair of eyes" and begins to fall in love with her.

The most memorable instance of this principle of "little matters of great importance" in relation to dialogue driving plot development is Darcy's famous "little" comments about Elizabeth being tolerably pretty but certainly not fit to dance with at the Meryton ball. It is Darcy's remark, overheard by Elizabeth, that becomes of "great importance" as it sets the whole conflict in motion and leads to the lessons about pride and prejudice that both Elizabeth and Darcy learn.

Finally, the theme of marriage might be considered a "little matter" since most people marry, making it one of the most common social occurrences, yet to each person in each couple, marriage is one of life's events of greatest importance. Marriage is indeed a "little matter of great importance."

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