Satire In Pride And Prejudice

What are examples from Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice of satire used to mock Mr. Collins.

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Austen certainly satirizes Mr. Collins through everything she has him do and say. As we are limited to space, below are a couple of ideas to help get you started.

One example of Austen satirizing Mr. Collins can be seen in his proposal to Elizabeth. His proposal clearly portrays his arrogance, conceit, and especially his obsession with Lady Catherine de Bourgh. First, Austen uses dramatic irony to satirize Mr. Collins. He foolishly mistakes Elizabeth's very obvious attempts at leaving the room and getting out of listening to his proposal as a sign of her "modesty" and says that her "little unwillingness" makes her more "amiable in [his] eyes" (Ch. 19). This is an excellent example of dramatic irony because the reader knows, unlike Mr. Collins, that Elizabeth really has absolutely no desires to hear Mr. Collins out and that Mr. Collins is grossly misjudging the situation due to his vanity. This same dramatic irony continues when she finally has a moment to speak and reject Mr. Collins. The reader knows that she is being perfectly sincere; however, Mr. Collins again interprets this rejection as a sign of modesty and proclaims he knows full well that modest young women often reject the man's proposal that they mean to accept and sometimes reject the proposal "a second and even a third time" (Ch. 19). Therefore, his vanity has again led him to misinterpret Elizabeth's sincerity. His vanity and obsession with Lady Catherine even show up in the words of his actual proposal. Just as a romantic woman like Elizabeth would want, as if it was a business meeting, he begins by laying out his reasons for wanting to be married, which are that it's his duty as a clergyman in "easy circumstances," meaning financially well-of;, that it would increase his own pleasure and happiness; and most importantly--Lady Catherine has told him to do so. His reflection on his own personal wealth and personal gain in his proposal show us just how vain and conceited he truly is. In addition, he had already assumed beyond a doubt that Elizabeth's answer would be yes, which again underscores his vanity and conceit.

A second example of Austen satirizing Mr. Collins can be seen in the consolation letter he writes to Mr. Bennet upon hearing that Lydia has run away with Wickham. Mr. Collins' letter is an excellent example of verbal irony because he says he has written to "condole with [Mr. Bennet] on the grievous affliction [he is] now suffering under"; however, the rest of the letter is an attack on Lydia's character and even the character of her parents who raised her to be licentious through a "faulty degree of indulgence" (Ch. 48). Not only that, in arrogance, he condemns the rest of the daughters by arguing that Lydia's behavior will impact their prospects of marrying well, "for who, as Lady Catherine herself condescendingly says, will connect themselves with such a family" (Ch. 48). All in all, this was not as much of a letter of condolence as it was a letter of judgement and reproof. In addition, his insults to the whole family and his reference to Lady Catherine's condescension shows us that he judges himself to be morally superior to the Bennet family, which clearly depicts again his vanity, arrogance, and conceit, as well as his obsession with Lady Catherine.

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Pride and Prejudice

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