What quotes serve as good examples showing satire in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice can certainly be considered satirical, especially a work of indirect satire, which uses irony and exaggeration in order to criticize any "stupidity or vice" (Dr. Wheeler, "Literary Terms and Definitions"). Jane Austen can certainly be considered a social critic of her time, and one of the social circumstances she criticizes and satirizes in Pride and Prejudice is the typical behavior of the noble class.

Austen uses her characterization of Lady Catherine de Bourgh to satirize the behavior of the noble class. We especially see Lady Catherine's satirical characterization expressed in Mr. Collins's absurd admiration of her and her treatment of him. As he phrases it, "He had never in his life witnessed such behaviour in a person of rank--such affability and condescension, as he had himself experienced from Lady Catherine" (Ch. 14). Elizabeth and Mr. Bennet would see irony in Mr. Collins's comment because no dignified human being, regardless of rank, should be "condescended" to. Therefore, Mr. Collins's characterization of Lady Catherine is ironic and a perfect example of satire.  

We further see Lady Catherine being satirized in her treatment of Elizabeth. The best moment is when Lady Catherine ventures to Longbourn to make Elizabeth promise she will never enter into an engagement with Mr. Darcy. Lady Catherine's argument is that Elizabeth is not equal to Darcy. As she states, Darcy is "descended, on the maternal side, from {a] noble line; and, on the father's, from respectable, honourable, and ancient--though untitled--families" (Ch. 56).  Elizabeth, on the other hand, though a gentleman's daughter, on her mother's side is a descendant of the merchant class. This heritage is not good enough for Lady Catherine and she further tells Elizabeth that if she "were sensible of [her] own good, [she] would not wish to quit the sphere in which [she has] been brought up," meaning, that she would not have the ambition to marry outside of her class (Ch. 56). Austen best portrays how she views Lady Catherine's thoughts on family line and ambition to be absurd and ironic with Elizabeth's response, "He is a gentleman; I am a gentleman's daughter; so far we are equal" (Ch. 56). Hence, we see that Austen is using Lady Catherine's views on class equality to satirize the ridiculous notions of the noble class. Elizabeth is very obviously equal to Darcy, regardless of her mother's lineage.

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Pride and Prejudice

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