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Sarcasm in Pride and Prejudice Criticising Social Class “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife” (1). The opening sentence of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice does not only contain the novel’s major topic of marriage, but also presents an important stylistic device the author has been using throughout the whole book: Sarcasm. For further argumentation, one would definitely have to define the meaning of “sarcasm”.

The Free Online Dictionary provides several definitions of sarcasm: 1. A cutting, often ironic, remark intended to wound. 2. A form of wit that is marked by the use of sarcastic language and is intended to make its victim the butt of contempt or ridicule. Two main aspects have to be looked at in detail, again: the mentioning of “ridicule” and the meaning of “wit”. “Ridicule” is the feature that is attached to most of the characters in Pride and Prejudice and can bee seen in the character’s own behaviour or it is pointed at in comments of others.

The meaning of “wit” is even more important, as the Free Online Dictionary defines it as “the ability to perceive and express in an ingeniously humorous manner the relationship between seemingly incongruous or disparate things. ” Actually, Jane Austen is perfectly able to produce this kind of wit and uses it to produce sarcasm as the novel goes on, as will be discussed later. As a reader of Pride and Prejudice, the opening sentence might seem straight forward at first sight and in no way arguable.

The want of getting married seems to be natural and human. Still, by reading on, one will find Mrs Bennet, the mother of five young unmarried ladies, narrowing this first sentence to: “Oh! Single, my dear, to be sure! A single man of large fortune; four or five thousand a year. What a fine thing for our girls! ”, while telling her husband about a young well-settled man having moved to a nearby estate (1). This kind of changing the meaning of a sentence or even whole passage into a sarcastic one, is simply the “wit” having been announced earlier.

Having read the whole story, an attentive reader will have realized that Mrs Bennet is “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” (3). Therefore, already the first sentence suddenly appears in a sarcastic tone if we take in consideration that this “universally acknowledgement” rather seems like Mrs Bennet’s own acknowledgement, or even more: her desire.

One could argue that Mrs Bennet resulting presents a character that is caricatured in order to be laughed about, as Kalil also states in her note on Pride and Prejudice. However her status in society and her living situation completely changes this view. As a loving mother, who has in mind, that her daughters will never be able to hire the house they live in, she naturally would have no other thought than marrying her daughters to a man in “good fortune” who will be able to afford a home for both of them.

This is also the reason why Mrs Bennet does not mind her second eldest daughter, Elizabeth, getting married to Mr Collins, her husband’s cousin and clergyman, who will hire the house the Bennet family lives in. Actually, Mrs Bennet finds Mr Collin “odious” (46), “hypocritical” (46) and a “false friend” (46), and therefore he would under no circumstance be a good party for her Elizabeth, but the fact of him being the hire of Longbourne, makes her allow him to propose to Elizabeth. Actually, this shows that people of the middle class sometimes will have to act strangely or even like a caricature (Blumenroth. 006: 17) in order to climb the social ladder. The characters in the story that are positioned on a higher level of society, on the other hand, are definitely presented sarcastically by the implied author herself, or even by focalizing characters in the story. As a result one can say that Jane Austen presents characters of higher class in a sarcastic way in order to criticise the upper class. Beginning with the character in the novel, who is highest on the social ladder: Lady Catherine De Bourgh. Being the daughter of an earl and the widow of Sir Lewis De Bourgh, make her able to own a luxurious house, named Rosings.

Lady Catherine especially shows her arrogant character in many passages of the novel: She is aware of her higher rank and therefore believes that she owns the right of correcting everyone and controlling the lives of those around her (Ernst. 2008:23) Nevertheless, many passages can be found, which illustrate how opposed Jane Austen was to the character she herself created, which she expresses trough sarcasm. The first aspect that stands out by analysing Lady Catherine is her behaviour, which absolutely does not fit her high rank. First introduced by Mr Collins in chapter 14, she is described as following: The subject elevated [Mr Collins] to more than usual solemnity of manner, and with a most important aspect he protested that he had never in his life witnessed such behaviour in a person of rank – such affability and condescension, as he had himself experienced from Lady Catherine. ” (50) Of course, this description is being focalized by Mr Collins and is not a characterisation by the omniscient narrator – the implied author. How him focalizing this description, effects the image the reader gets of Lady Catherine, will be discussed later.

Still, Mrs Bennet agrees that this behaviour of Lady Catherine seems to be “all very proper and civil”, and she adds that :”it is a pity that great ladies in general are not more like her” (50). As Mr Collins continues, he praises Lady Catherine’s opinion on young women due to their distinguished birth being marked by extremely beauty (50). Taking in consideration that Lady Catherine’s daughter is of a sick constitution, which prevents her from “making the progress in many accomplishments” (51), it is not only silly, but even more sarcastic of Lady Catherine talking about young woman in that way.

Her narrow-mindedness makes her think that birth-given rank creates beauty, which is unconsciously sarcastically commented on, by Mr Collins. This is already the first part in the novel, which presents Lady Catherine in a sarcastic way, because the reader will later realize that Lady Catherine is an insulting and unfriendly person and that her manners do not fit her social status. Taking her bad manners in consideration, also Mrs Bennet’s remark will surely sound sarcastically. Additionally, to Lady Catherine’s behaviour, which makes her high status already questionable, she is the one who makes herself look even more ridiculous.

A key-passage of this “self-destroying” action is shown in volume III, chapter 14, when Lady Catherine comes to visit Longbourne in the early morning to accuse Elizabeth of spreading the report of marrying Lady Catherine’s nephew Mr Darcy. In this conversation, she accuses Elizabeth of her status not being high enough for her nephew of good fortune, Mr Darcy, whom she intended to marry her own daughter. Ironically, Lady Catherine does not only insult Elizabeth during this speech, but even more, embarrasses her nephew by accusing him of being out of his mind by proposing to a woman of Elizabeth’s class.

She therefore criticises his ability to choose the right woman to marry. This scene includes even more sarcastic hits at Lady Catherine, which are presented through Elizabeth’s answers and arguments. While Lady Catherine cannot believe that the rumour about her nephew and Elizabeth should to the smallest account be true, she nevertheless travels all the way to Longbourne to ask Elizabeth about it in person. As Elizabeth fittingly remarks, the Lady would have never made this long way out to her home if she was definitely sure about the marriage being impossible to happen.

Lady Catherine, realizing that her seemingly strong and energetic appearance do not affect Elizabeth, finally cried in rage: “ […] I am almost the nearest relation he has in the world, and am entitled to know all his dearest concerns! ” (271) At this point of the conversation, it becomes obvious that Lady Catherine has a totally abnormal definition of “relation”. She claims that she knows everything about her nephew’s concerns, but still she has to ask Elizabeth about the purportedly marriage, instead of asking him directly or even having been told by him in advance.

She thinks that being related family members makes her more important and even more close to him as Elizabeth, whom he might be in love with. This does not only show that Lady Catherine, the person of highest status in the novel, cannot estimate her power and influence on people, but also that she has a completely wrong image of relationships and feelings. Another passage, earlier in the novel, also shows how narrow-minded Lady Catherine is presented. When Elizabeth is invited by Mr Collins to firstly meet Lady Catherine at latter’s domicile, she is asked several questions about her family and her education.

When it comes to talk about her four sisters, who have all been raised by her mother without the help of a governess, Lady Catherine is bewildered about it: “Has your governess left you? ” “We never had any governess” […] “Then who taught you? Who attended you? Without a governess you must have been neglected. […] I always say that nothing is to be done in education without steady and regular instruction, and nobody but a governess can give it. ” (127) Lady Catherine does at first not realize that she insults Elizabeth as being uneducated but also her mother as not being able to raise her children as well as a governess could have done.

Again this shows on the one hand how unfittingly she behaves according to her high position in society, and on the other hand, how little she knows about feelings and relationships. Additionally, as Lady Catherine repeats again and again how skilled her daughter Anne is, but that due to her illness she is not able to show these skills, she proves herself as a fool, by pretending to know her daughter although she admits not having raised – and therefore not being close to – her daughter. One could argue that Lady Catherine is simply a rude, unsentimental character and nothing more.

But the way she has been described before the reader even meats her personally in the novel and the discrepancy to her actually behavior, as well as the fact that she, as the person of highest rank, is one with the worst manners throughout the whole novel, add a sarcastic tone to her whole appearance. One cannot take her for full and at least her argument with Elizabeth about the marriage might make a reader laugh about her. To strengthen the argument of high-class people being presented in a sarcastic way, another character has to be presented, who has already been introduced earlier.

Mr. Collins, who is typically not counted to the members of the high class, does play a similarly sarcastic role like Lady Catherine. Due to one outstanding reason, Mr. Collins can be seen as belonging to the higher class of society: he thinks of himself as something better than for instance the Bennet family, because he sees himself being accepted and understood by Lady Catherine and her society. This can be seen shortly before the visit at Rosings, when he reminds Elizabeth not to make herself uneasy about her apparel (123 ff. , as Lady Catherine is “far from requiring that elegance of dress in us, which becomes herself and daughter” (124). He advises her to put on whatever of her clothes was superior to the rest, as there was no occasion for any thing more, and finally, he remarks that Lady Catherine would not think the worse of her for being simply dressed, because she liked to have the distinction of rank preserved (124). Additionally, Mr. Collins will definitely hire the estate of Longbourne and therefore will climb the social ladder by owning this place. As a result, one should take him as a member of the higher middle class, on the edge to the higher class.

Therefore, his sarcastic presentation also proves the thesis of high-class people being presented more sarcastic in the novel. Mr. Collins’ character is one of most ridiculous ones in the whole story, mostly created by his way of speaking and his imagined highly recommended status. When Mr. Collins first enters the story, he is described by Mr. Bennet as seemingly being “a most conscientious and polite young man” (48), and he doubts not that Mr. Collins will “prove a valuable acquaintance” (48). Elizabeth, on the other hand, has quite a different view on him: “He must be an oddity, I think. I cannot make him out. There is something very pompous in his stile. […] Can he be a sensible man? ” After having met, the initially positive impression Mr. Bennet had about Mr. Collins, is corrected after latters visit at Longbourne: “Mr. Bennet’s expectations were fully answered. His cousin was as absurd as he had hoped, and he listened to him with the keenest enjoyment, maintaining the same time the most resolute composure of countenance […]” (51) Generally, Mr. Collins’ behavior during his whole visit makes him appear more and more ridiculous. As Ferguson-Buttomer correctly states, he is not aware of “the sarcasm in his host’s choice of words as Mr.

Bennet comments that he possesses ‘the talent of flattering with delicacy’ (51)” after he has praised the heavy-handed compliments he prepares for his patroness’ daughter. At another point of his visit, he is firstly unaware of insulting his cousins by asking who of them has been preparing their meal, and secondly creates a even more ironic atmosphere when he “continued to apologize for about a quarter of an hour” (49). The sarcastic tone that always traps his character in the novel is produced by his unawareness of excessive manners and thoughtless speeches.

However, not only the Bennet family proves his sarcastic presentation, but also the description of Charlotte’s – his wife – thoughts about marrying him: “Mr. Collins to be sure was neither sensible nor agreeable; his society was irksome, and his attachment to her must be imaginary. But still he would be her husband. “ (94) Especially in contrast to what Mr Collins thinks about the marriage makes the whole situation even more sarcastic, as he is lead by Lady Catherine’s advice to find a wife as soon as possible (50), and therefore already feels satisfied by following this advice, due to his servility towards her.

Actually, the intended author, still being focalized partly by Charlotte Lucas, presents his proposal even more sarcastically: “His reception however was of the most flattering kind. Miss Lucas perceived him from an upper window as he walked towards the house, and instantly set out to meet him accidentally in the lane. But little had she dared to hope that so much love and eloquence awaited her here. ” (93) The “love” and “eloquence” are totally meant in a sarcastic way, as well as the “flattery” of his proposal. Charlotte does not see their marriage as a romantic ceremony, as she is simply relieved of not having to die as an old maid (94).

These few passages already prove Mr Collins’ sarcastic presentation, and there is even more evidence to be found. In a nutshell, especially in comparison to the presentation of Mrs Bennet, who is settled in the middle class, Mr Collins and Lady Catherine De Bourgh appear in a completely sarcastic light. Their extreme behaviour and their mistaken self-assessment prove both of them to be ridiculous and caricatured. Therefore one has to take into consideration that the sarcastic presentation of high-class characters is intended to criticise their arrogance on the one hand, and their unnoticed stupidity on the other.

Of course, as not every main character of the novel has been analysed, a general judgment about those of the higher class, might not seem appropriate, but the fact that exactly the person of highest rank (Lady Catherine) and a clergyman, who should live with humility (Mr Collins), show these negative features, strengthen the thesis of high class characters being presented sarcastically, in order to criticise the upper class. Bibliography: Primary Source: Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. 1813. Edt. Kinsley, James. Oxford University Press.

Oxford: 2008. Secondary Sources: Bhattacharyya, Jibesh. Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice: The Atlantic Critical Studies. Atlantic Publishers & Dist. 2005. Blumenroth, Isabel. Lydia’s Elopement and Its Functions in Jane Austen’s Prideand Prejudice. Grin Verlag. Santa Cruz: 2006. Ernst, Reni. The Presentation of Speech and Thought in Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” and in Joe Wright’s Film Adaptation. Grin Verlag. Santa Cruz: 2008. Ferguson-Buttomer, Phyllis. So Odd a Mixture: Along the Autistic Spectrum in ‘Pride and Prejudice’. 2007.

London, Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publisher. Gast, Nicole. Marriages and the Alternatives in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Grin Verlag. Norderstedt: 2005. Herbst, Tobias. Jane Austen’s Criticism of the Clergy in Pride and Prejudice. Grin. 2006. Kalil, Marie. CliffsNotes on Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. IDG Books Worldwide, Inc. 2011: Foster city. Kellner Michael. The Humour of Pride and Prejudice. Grin. 2005. Swisher, Clarice. Readings ond Pride and Prejudice. Greenhaven Press. 1999. Teachman, Debra. Understanding Pride and Prejudice. Greenwood Press. 1997.

” A Group Portrait of New York’s Oldest Old”.

” A Group Portrait of New York’s Oldest Old”..

Read the article from the New York Times ” A Group Portrait of New York’s Oldest Old”. Answer the following questions with a minimum 2-3 paragraph response. 1) What do the individuals in the article “A Group Portrait” have in common as members of New York’s Oldest Old? Reference Chapter 2 in Aging Matters, The Older Population in the United States, consider the demographic, social, and economic factors that effect aging. 2) Do you know any relatives or neighbors who are part of the Oldest Old? How do you relate to them? Do they remind you of any of the people in the article?

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