Discuss the use of humor in Pride and Prejudice. 

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M.P. Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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It is generally known that Jane Austen uses humor in a subtle (yet effective) way in her writings.  Humor is infused into the story through the actions of specific characters whose traits are quite salient from the rest. These characters are often obnoxious (Mr. Collins, Mrs. Bennet, Mary), “full of themselves” (Miss Bingley, Mrs. Hurst, Darcy, Lady Catherine, and Mr. Collins), or foolish (Lydia, Charlotte, Sir Lucas).

These secondary characters’ traits often clash with the main character, creating with their actions a remarkable contrast that results in humor. A good example of this would be the visit of Mr. Collins to the Bennet household.  After the reader witnesses his mannerisms and his fixation with Lady Catherine De Bourgh, his aristocratic patroness, it is evident that Mr. Collins and the main character, Elizabeth, are complete opposites. When he then proposes marriage to Elizabeth, the weirdness of it all creates a very funny situation in which both characters end up in a very awkward conversation. The result was that Elizabeth rejected Collins, and his ego was hurt tremendously.

Therefore, Jane Austen does not openly break from the flow of the narrative to create a funny situation. Instead, she presents specific characters whose behaviors are curious, interesting, and funny. It is through their actions that humor occurs in the story.

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