Illustration of Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy with neutral expressions on their faces

Pride and Prejudice

by Jane Austen

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What does Elizabeth's statement in Pride and Prejudice about teasing and laughing at someone imply?

"Nothing so easy, if you have but the inclination, we can all plague and punish one another. Tease him—laugh at him.—Intimate as you are, you must know how it is to be done."

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Just prior to this statement, Mr. Darcy spoke and fairly explicitly explained why he would not wish to join the women in their stroll around the room. He says they likely know their figures appear to "greatest advantage" while moving in this way, so he can admire the two women best while seated. Miss Bingley, with false alarm and fake offense, asks Elizabeth how they should "punish" Mr. Darcy for such a claim. Although Miss Bingley is not sincere and truly has no wish to punish Mr. Darcy for anything—this is all just a part of her terrible and totally unrequited flirtation with him—Elizabeth answers her sincerely. She claims the best way to punish Mr. Darcy would be to laugh at him, implying that wounding his pride would be the surest way to punish him for anything. Further, because the Bingleys and the Darcys are such good friends (this is the "Intimate as you are" part), she believes Miss Bingley is well-qualified to ascertain on which subjects Mr. Darcy could be teased.

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