This lesson discusses figurative language in the novel 'Pride and Prejudice' by Jane Austen. The types of figurative language discussed and examples given are similes/metaphors, hyperbole, and alliteration.
Introduction to Pride and Prejudice
Pride and Prejudice is a romance novel by Jane Austen written in 1813. The novel follows the story of the Bennets, a family in England with five daughters. The plot focuses on the second daughter, Elizabeth. Two new eligible young men, Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy, move into town. Mr. Bingley likes the oldest Bennet daughter, Jane. Elizabeth is initially intrigued by Mr. Darcy, but when she hears rumors about him from Mr. Wickham, she does not think very highly of him anymore.
As the novel goes on, Jane continues to get closer to Mr. Bingley. He suddenly leaves, rather than proposing like all of the Bennets were anticipating. Also, the youngest Bennet daughter, Lydia, runs away with Mr. Wickham and disgraces the whole family. Mr. Darcy goes to convince Mr. Wickham and Lydia to get married. This is where Elizabeth starts to see that maybe there is more to Mr. Darcy than she originally thought. In the end, Jane marries Mr. Bingley, and Elizabeth marries Mr. Darcy.
Defining Figurative Language
Figurative language uses literary devices to go beyond the actual meaning of the words and phrases. It's often used in literature and is the opposite of literal language, which tells things exactly as they are. Figurative language is used in literature because it can give new and hidden meaning to the story.
Figurative Language in Pride and Prejudice
Pride and Prejudice is a novel that exaggerates situations and phrases and uses comparisons to poke fun at some of the ridiculous courting rituals of the time during which Jane Austen wrote. Jane Austen is a witty writer, and she uses humor in all of her romance novels. This lesson looks at simile, metaphor, hyperbole, and alliteration as figurative language in Pride and Prejudice.
Simile is a comparison between two things using 'like' or 'as.' Metaphor is a comparison between two things without using 'like' or 'as.' Elizabeth compares her heart to a feather: '. . .if you lament over him much longer, my heart will be as light as a feather.' By doing so, she creates an image of just how carefree and light she will feel. This is a simile because it is a comparison that uses 'as.' Darcy says, 'I have been used to consider poetry as the food of love.' In this quotation, Darcy compares poetry to food. This metaphor tells us that Darcy thinks that poetry fuels love and feeds love. In essence, he's saying that poetry is essential for love. This gives us a glimpse into Darcy's romantic side.
Hyperbole is exaggeration. Hyperbole is one of the most important kinds of figurative language in Pride and Prejudice because it's so prevalent and creates the wit that is characteristic of Jane Austen's writing. Miss Bingley, in an effort to impress Mr. Darcy, tells him, 'When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.' This is an exaggeration because she will not be miserable without an excellent library. She may be unhappy but miserable is an exaggeration. She is trying to express how sophisticated and educated she is by telling how important books are to her.
Elizabeth tells Mr. Darcy, 'I had not known you a month before I felt that you were the last man in the world whom I could ever be prevailed on to marry.' Again, it is an exaggeration, and quite dramatic, to say that she would rather marry any man on Earth before marrying Mr. Darcy, but it illustrates how much Elizabeth disliked Mr. Darcy.
Elizabeth says, 'I am the happiest creature in the world. Perhaps other people have said so before, but not one with such justice. I am happier even than Jane; she only smiles, I laugh.' While to be the happiest creature in the world might be an exaggeration, it shows that Elizabeth is extremely happy.
Finally, one of the most famous quotes in Pride and Prejudice is the very first line 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.' Here, the exaggeration that every rich and single man must be wanting to get married sets the stage for the hyperbole characteristic of much of the novel and of the novel's focus on marriage and courting.
Alliteration is the repetition of the same letter or sound in words that are close by each other. The sounds used in writing make a particular impression on the reader. For example, an author might use lots of words beginning with 's' to indicate softness or to imitate a snake sound. Regardless of which letters the author repeats in alliteration, this literary device draws the reader's eye to those particular parts. Alliteration is used in Pride and Prejudice to provide emphasis and focus. Here are a few examples of alliteration:
'I could easily forgive his pride, if he had not mortified mine.' Here, the emphasis is on how Mr. Darcy hurt Elizabeth's pride. How can she forgive him when he so cruelly hurt her?
'Mary wished to say something very sensible. . .' This quote is focused on what Mary might say, emphasizing and building up the tension around her character.
In this lesson, you learned more about figurative language in the novel Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. This romance novel about the Bennet sisters in their dating lives is filled with figurative language that goes beyond the literal meaning of words and phrases. These types of figurative language in Pride and Prejudice include similes, a comparison between two things using 'like' or 'as;' metaphors, a comparison between two things without using 'like' or 'as;' hyperbole, exaggeration; and alliteration, repetition of the same letter or sound in words that are close by each other. Figurative language is used in Pride and Prejudice to provide new and hidden meaning to the story.