What methods has Jane Austen used to convey her views of the period of time that the book Pride and Prejudice was written?

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Austen has employed negative and positive characterization to indicate which characters have views with which she disagrees and with whom she agrees.  Elizabeth is obviously characterized in a mostly positive way: she is independent, concerned about love and respect more than money, and she is intelligent and compassionate.  Thus, Austen (for the most part) appreciates Elizabeth's view of the world: it is more modern than many of her contemporaries -- she believes in the importance of equality in a relationship, something that not many of her peers do.  Miss Bingley, however, is much more interested in impressing Mr. Darcy, maintaining her social superiority and status over the Miss Bennets, and keeping Jane and Mr. Bingley apart than she is in educating herself or exercising compassion or intelligence.  We can understand, then, that Austen doesn't care for Miss Bingley's take on the world: the ideas the status should be preserved above all else and that the woman's job to impress and secure an eligible man is the most important of her life (a common idea at the time).  Likewise, Mr. Collins is described in the clearly negative terms: he is "not a sensible man," and he is a "mixture of pride and obsequiousness, self-importance and humility."  We can understand, then, that Austen disagrees with his views on the importance of status, the reasons for marriage, even his views on women's reading -- that they ought to do it for instructional purposes rather than entertainment: all of which are fairly common ideas for this time.

Further, Austen employs irony in order to convey her views on popular ideas of her time period.  The first sentence of the novel is a fantastic example.  The narrator says, "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife."  We can tell that such a statement is ironic because it becomes obvious quickly that such a belief is neither a "truth," nor is it "universally acknowledged": Elizabeth, Jane, Mr. Bennet, and Darcy, at least, all seem to think differently.  Moreover, it is characters like Mrs. Bennet and Caroline Bingley and even Lady Catherine who seem to subscribe to this belief, and they are hardly representatives of truth or universal belief.  Ironies like this help us to understand that Austen disagrees with her contemporaries who subscribe to ridiculous and short-sighted ideas about marriage and wealth.

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Pride and Prejudice

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