Pride and Prejudice Satire Quotes

Instructor: Summer Stewart

Summer has taught creative writing and sciences at the college level. She holds an MFA in Creative writing and a B.A.S. in English and Nutrition

Jane Austen uses satire in her romantic novel 'Pride and Prejudice' to point out social issues surrounding love, class, and the position women have within society. In this lesson, we will analyze quotes that use satire.

What Is Satire?

Pride and Prejudice is considered Jane Austen's most prized novel, not only for its cherished love story, but also for its exceptional use of satire. Austen uses satire to provide a social critique on love, class, and the woman's position in society in eighteenth-century England. In this lesson, we will examine satire in the novel.

Satire is a literary device used to point out and provide a critique of norms, corruption, and irrationality of individuals or society. Satire uses irony, humor, and ridicule together to achieve the desired effect. For many writers, the goal of satire is to point out these issues to change society for the better.

Satirizing Love

Love is heavily satirized in the novel. Austen uses Mrs. Bennet and Charlotte to satirize love. Mrs. Bennet is a frivolous woman prone to fainting spells. Her goal in life is to find suitors for her daughters, and she'll stop at nothing to do so. More importantly, the manner in which she treats love is shallow: she sees love as the end goal to a woman's existence and nothing more.

For example, upon hearing that Bingley is coming to town, Mrs. Bennet begins plotting to introduce her daughters to him so they can fall in love. She says to Mr. Bennet, ''Design! Nonsense, how can you talk so! But it is very likely that he may fall in love with one of them, and therefore you must visit him as soon as he comes.''

Mr. Bennet doesn't see the need for such urgency, but all Mrs. Bennet can think of is romance and love. She thinks love is as simple as standing in front of a man and looking nice. Austen uses Mrs. Bennet's obsession with romance to demonstrate a lack of female involvement in society other than in romantic endeavors. While Jane Austen doesn't outwardly say it, she may be suggesting that women have many more interests that appearing in front of men for courtship.

Austen uses Charlotte's character to further satirize the treatment of love in society. Charlotte settles for Mr. Collins's marriage proposal, not because she is in love, but because she is in need of a place to live. For example, Austen writes, ''…Miss Lucas (Chalotte), who accepted him solely from the pure and disinterested desire of an establishment, cared not how soon that establishment were gained.''

Charlotte settles for marriage and not love because she is interested in having a home and a good reputation. Austen is criticizing marriage as a tool that women must use to preserve their social status or way of life. Love is not pure and Austen is making this very clear by being incredibly sarcastic as she unfolds Charlotte's story line.

Satirizing Class

Austen does not think highly of class structure, and it is apparent in her examination of it throughout Pride and Prejudice. The most volatile exploration of class comes between Elizabeth Bennet and Lady Catherine. Elizabeth Bennet comes from a middle-class family, while Lady Catherine is a wealthy upper-class woman. Lady Catherine insists on demonstrating social distinction between families of different classes.

For example, prior to visiting Lady Catherine, Mr. Collins says to Elizabeth, ''Do not make yourself uneasy, my dear cousin, about your apparel. Lady Catherine is far from requiring that elegance of dress in us which becomes herself and her daughter. I could advise you merely to put on whatever of your clothes is superior to the rest--there is no occasion for anything more. Lady Catherine will not think the worse of you for being simply dressed. She likes to have the distinction of rank preserved.''

Lady Catherine would prefer that Elizabeth wore a less fashionable outfit so it is clear that Lady Catherine comes from an upper-class family. Austen uses Mr. Collins to convey the ridiculousness of maintaining rank because he continuously treats Lady Catherine as better than his own kin. The tone of the statement comes off as absurd, which contributes to Austen's critique of social class. Moreover, Austen points out that class is merely an external element of identity by relating it to the vanity of fashion.

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