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Examples of Literary Devices in Pride and Prejudice:

1. Characterization:

-In the introductions of many of the important characters, she uses characterization in order to slowly reveal the characters’ role in the plot and to add humor to her novels. Mrs. Bennet, the first character to be introduced in the novel, is described as “a woman of mean understanding, little information, and uncertain temper. When she was discontented she fancied herself nervous. The business of her life was to get her daughters married; its solace was visiting and news” (Pride and Prejudice 5). Through this direct characterization, readers are given a preview of Mrs. Bennet’s personality and an explanation for the ridiculous behavior she exerts in order to get her daughters married.

-Mr. Bingley, the romantic interest of Jane, is described as, “good-looking and gentlemanlike; he had a pleasant countenance, and easy, unaffected manners” (Pride and Prejudice 8).

-While Mr. Bingley is painted in a good light, Mr. Darcy, the eventual romantic interest of Elizabeth, is described as quite the opposite. “He was discovered to be proud, to be above his company, and above being pleased; and not all his large estate in Derbyshire could then save him from having a most forbidding, disagreeable countenance, and being unworthy to be compared with his friend” (Pride and Prejudice 9).

These uses of direct characterization lends itself to readers as a good description of their contrasting behaviors. Although they are different, these two characters formed a good friendship. They show that it is possible for two people of differing mindsets to get along well with one another. Their descriptions and the main male characters’ friendship give a prelude to how the other relationships in the novel will be formed.

2. Irony:

-Irony can be found in this profound sentence: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife” (Pride and Prejudice 3). Jane Austen opens Pride and Prejudice with this famous and ironic statement to set the tone for the rest of the novel and introduce readers to one of the central themes: marriage. It is an important ironic statement because it lays before readers a misconstrued image of marriage and its desired conventions. Readers see that it is not the rich man who wants a wife, but in fact, the mothers and ladies who want the rich husband and believe in this not-so-universal truth. Mrs. Bennet is a prime example of a mother who greatly values the appearances of rich men in order to render her daughters with a prospective husband. It is essentially her job and duty to acknowledge this “universal truth” much to the chagrin of characters such as Mr. Darcy.

-Austen also uses irony frequently to ridicule several characters and their narrow views. For example, she uses irony to paint Mrs. Bennet in an even more ridiculous light such as when she speaks to Elizabeth about her dashed hopes regarding Jane: “Well, my comfort is, I am sure Jane will die of a broken heart, and then he will be sorry for what he has done” (Pride and Prejudice 148). This ironic statement shows the misplaced values Mrs. Bennet possesses. Rather than despairing at a child’s death, Mrs. Bennet views Jane’s death as a potential comfort. Mrs. Bennet is thus more preoccupied with the prospect of marrying off her child rather than the actual well-being and health of that child.

-Another example of how Jane Austen uses irony to paint another character in a ludicrous way is Mr. Collins. When he speaks about Lydia’s transgression to Elizabeth, Mr. Collins says an extremely ironic line: “You ought certainly to forgive them as a Christian, but never to admit them in your sight, or allow their names to be mentioned in your hearing” (Pride and Prejudice 232). Mr. Collin’s notion of forgiveness is not forgiveness at all. He is subconsciously stating that rather than forgiving a person, he would rather ostracize and avoid them, the very opposite of forgiveness. Jane Austen’s use of irony in Pride and Prejudice showcase the flaws of her characters in a lighthearted manner and this humorous manner is consistent throughout the novel.

3. Conflict:

-In Pride and Prejudice, the most obvious conflict is between the two main characters. Both Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy possess a strong sense of pride and prejudice which lead them to misunderstand one another. The two of them clash at social functions and they are determined to disagree with one another until this clash leads to a romantic tension. Their conflict started with misunderstandings and did not resolve until they were able to peel away their pride and prejudice to truly understand one another.

-Elizabeth’s internal conflict comes from choosing between either duty or heart. Elizabeth carries with her the burden of choosing between marrying for financial reasons or marrying for love. When deciding whether to marry Mr. Collins, Mr. Bennet provided Elizabeth with an ultimatum to help her decide: “An unhappy alternative is before you, Elizabeth. From this day on you must be a stranger to one of your parents. Your mother will never see you again if you do not marry Mr. Collins, and I will never see you again if you do” (Pride and Prejudice 76). With this ultimatum, Elizabeth makes the difficult decision to keep rejecting Mr. Collins which is synonymous to rejecting an opportunity for financial security. This decision was revolutionary back in the 19th century where it was almost unthinkable to reject such a secure offer, but it also helps readers reflect back on Jane Austen’s decision to reject her own marriage proposal.

-The third example of a conflict lies in Mr. Darcy’s internal conflict of rationality versus emotions. Mr. Darcy struggles with his feelings for Elizabeth and society’s expectations for him which also affect his pride. His internal struggles come to a climax when he confesses before Elizabeth. “In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you… Could you expect me to rejoice in the inferiority of your connections? To congratulate myself on the hope of relations whose condition in life is so decidedly beneath my own?” (Pride and Prejudice 125-127). In this confession, Mr. Darcy conveys to Elizabeth his internal struggles of how he loves her but does not look favorably upon her situation in life. Mr. Darcy comes upon a resolution for his own feelings but it is appalling to Elizabeth how blatantly Mr. Darcy disrespects her family. Mr. Darcy is rejected but the novel’s end has both Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy marrying happily and ending their internal conflicts when they marry for love, rather than for financial reasons or pride.

4. Foreshadowing:

-The external troubles to Mr. Bingley’s relationship with Jane are foreshadowed by his attitude towards the beginning of the novel. “Miss Bingley was therefore established as a sweet girl, and their brother felt authorized by such commendation to think of her as he chose” (Pride and Prejudice 13) shows how necessary Mr. Bingley feels it is to have others’ approval; which later proves to be a wedge in his and Jane’s blooming romance. This ultimately foreshadows how easily influenced Mr. Bingley is and this is shown when Mr. Darcy drives a block between the two lovers when he forces them apart.

-Charlotte Lucas also acts a medium to foreshadow future events concerning her and the fates of other characters. Jane Austen uses irony and foreshadowing in Charlotte’s speech about how “happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance” (Pride and Prejudice 17) and that it is better to marry a person when one only knows as little as possible about a their defects. Though readers know that happiness in a marriage is somewhat premeditated after truly knowing and loving a person, Charlotte does not think so. This speech foreshadows her decision to marry Mr. Collins out of duty and convenience rather than that of happiness and true love.

-Charlotte also speaks to Elizabeth of how she feels Jane will make out in her relationship with Mr. Bingley when she says, “if a woman conceals her affection with the same skill from the object of it, she may lose the opportunity of fixing him… Bingley likes your sister undoubtedly, but he may never more than like her, if she does not help him on” (Pride and Prejudice 16). This speech foreshadows what will eventually happen to Jane. Mr. Darcy is able to persuade Mr. Bingley to leave for London and leave Jane behind because he believes Jane to be indifferent to Mr. Bingley. Though this is contrary to what Jane actually feels, Charlotte’s speech proves true since Jane unconsciously hid her feelings too much.

5. Theme:

-Jane Austen’s romance novels contain the typical theme of love and marriage. This theme is prevalent throughout Pride and Prejudice which centers around the two main couples as they undergo many hardships that challenge their potential romance; including their own prejudices towards each other. These couples must overcome the many social conflicts that come with the gentleman marrying beneath his social status. For example, even though Jane and Mr. Bingley do not have any internal challenges to their relationship, the outside forces tear them apart for a while. Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy must first overcome their own misunderstandings before they realize their mutual love for one another. Even after overcoming this internal challenge, outside forces such as Lady Catherine de Bourgh and Miss Bingley, are consistently there to interfere in this couple’s relationship. Love and marriage in Pride and Prejudice also brings up the social aspects of 19th century England where women, such as Charlotte Lucas, often entered into marriages for convenience’s sake instead of for love. Marriage is conveyed in a romantic way by Elizabeth when she chooses to marry for love instead of for financial reasons.

-Another prominent theme in Pride and Prejudice lies in the title: the theme of pride. Pride resides in both Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy, which blinds them to the true characters of one another. Mr. Darcy possesses much pride due to his family, social status, and wealth, making him look down upon any who are not within his immediate social circle. On the other hand, Elizabeth also exhibits pride. As she professes her distaste for Mr. Darcy’s pride, Elizabeth states, “I could easily forgive his pride, if he had not mortified mine” (Pride and Prejudice 15). Even though Elizabeth claims that Mr. Darcy is undeserving of any pride, she herself confesses that she is also prideful. Elizabeth prides herself on her judgment of others and after making an opinion of Mr. Darcy, refuses to change this opinion. It is this pride in her abilities that make it difficult for Elizabeth to accept Mr. Darcy’s virtues along with his faults. It is not until Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy shed away their feelings of pride that they are able to understand and love each other.

-The other half of the title, prejudice, is another ubiquitous theme found in the novel. Many of the characters, besides the two main characters, have prejudices against those unlike themselves. Mr. Darcy is extremely prejudiced against those outside of his social status and feels he is lowering himself when he proposes to Elizabeth. Elizabeth is prejudiced towards Mr. Darcy for her impressions of him during their first meeting. When Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy rid themselves of their prejudices, they must also try to overcome the prejudices of other characters. An opposing force that is determined to tear the couple apart is Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Lady Catherine exhibits much pride and prejudice towards the status quo and refuses to accept Elizabeth due to her inferior family and wealth. Her prejudice is shown all the way up until the end of the novel and never once diminishes.