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

Pride and Prejudice

by Jane Austen

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Why is the mood in Pride and Prejudice considered practical and realistic rather than romantic, emotional, or comic?

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Pride and Prejudice rises out of the eighteenth-century world of satire, but with realistic characters and situations that provide a bridge into the nineteenth-century novel. Austen does not romanticize head-over-heels love in the novel (though it does end with two love matches). She shows how love and courtship can be compromised because young women have to marry in order to have money and status. A satire pokes fun at human weaknesses: in this novel, we see Mrs. Bennet's single-minded obsession with getting her five daughters married, an obsession based on the reality that, without an inheritance and their home going to a male heir, her single daughters will be destitute. Austen thus critiques a society in which women have no other option than to sell themselves to the highest bidder.

 Austen critiques the marriage market and yet also shows herself to be a cool-headed pragmatist rather than an emotional romantic. While Elizabeth Bennet is initially aghast at her close friend Charlotte Lucas marrying the socially inept Mr. Collins, when she goes to visit her friend after her marriage, she has to admit that Charlotte has devised a sensible arrangement: Elizabeth revises her view that a marriage based solely on practicality must be a disaster and begins to think that perhaps it can work. On the other hand, the narrative is nothing but condemning of Lydia's impulsive decision to run off with Wickham. At its best, marriage is based on love and mutual esteem, as in the case of Elizabeth and Darcy, but it is also to be pursued in a practical manner, based on sufficient income and maturity, which Elizabeth and Darcy also bring to the marriage. 

While the novel may not be laugh out loud funny, I would argue that Austen does use humor: she pokes fun at Mrs. Bennet, Mary, Mr. Collins and Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Overall, the tone of the novel is measured and rational as well as satiric, valuing good sense over excessive emotionality. 

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The mood of Pride and Prejudice is practical and realistic because Charlotte marries Mr. Collins, even though she's not in love with him because he's not a bad guy and can provide for her.  Lydia was always going to marry Mr. Wyckham even though he's not that great of a guy and likely is going to always have a ton of debts because she disgraced herself by running away with him.

Jane and Lizzy can't just marry for love (though they will not marry without it), they need to marry men who have property and money so that their families are provided for since daughters in their family can't inherit.

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