Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

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Why is the first sentence in Pride and Prejudice ironic?

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D. Reynolds eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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This is an oft-repeated, very famous example of irony in English literature:

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.

Irony is saying the opposite of what is meant. What is actually being "universally acknowledged" in this sentence is that everyone in the village wants either themselves to marry or have their daughters or female relatives wedded to well-off men. Everyone, in other words, wants a well-to-do husband (having a fortune didn't necessarily mean wealth at that time, but having a comfortable income) or a...

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puckie | Student

One of the main themes of Pride and Prejudice is stated in the first sentence of the novel: "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife" (Austen 5). In this statement, Austen has cleverly done three things: she has declared that the main subject of the novel will be courtship and marriage, she has established the humorous tone of the novel by taking a simple subject to elaborate and to speak intelligently of, and she has prepared the reader for a chase in the novel of either a husband in search of a wife, or a women in pursuit of a husband. The first line also defines Jane s book as a piece of literature that connects itself to the 18th century period. Pride and Prejudice is 18th century because of the emphasis on man in his social environment rather than in his individual conditions. David Monaghan notes, the use of satire and wit, a common form of 18th century literature, also contributes to label the book as 18th century (Monaghan 15). In the figure of Elizabeth, Jane Austen shows passion attempting to find a valid mode of existence in society. Passion and reasons also comes together in the novel to show that they are complementary of marriage

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