Literary Qualities

Pride and Prejudice is an exciting, suspenseful story. The novel does not drag, for Austen writes succinctly and structures a tight plot. The story is based on a series of conflicts: the central one between Elizabeth and Darcy, and smaller ones concerning the other characters. Every chapter builds towards the novel’s climax, Elizabeth’s visit to Darcy’s home in Derbyshire, and the resolution is both plausible and satisfying.

Pride and Prejudice is an excellent book to reread because of its foreshadowing-subtle hints of upcoming events. Darcy’s first proposal to Elizabeth, Lydia’s elopement, and Charlotte’s marriage are among the novel’s many foreshadowed occurrences.

Austen also uses language superbly, but not in flowery or flashy ways. Rather, she writes with great clarity and precision, and employs irony for a comic effect. Irony allows a writer to communicate more than the literal or expected meanings of his or her language. For instance, upon Darcy’s entrance to a dance in chapter 3, Austen writes that “the report was in general circulation within five minutes…of his having ten thousand a year.” Here Austen pokes fun at the gossipy nature of the people and shows why Darcy might be justified in feeling out of place. Austen also fills the novel’s dialogue with irony, making people such as Mrs. Bennet and Mr. Collins reveal their foolishness to the reader through their ridiculous comments.

Many critics consider the novel a satire, which, in general terms, is a literary work that uses irony and humor to expose human or social faults. Thus, Lydia embodies vanity, Wickham dishonesty, Mr. Collins obsequiousness, and Mrs. Bennet a multitude of follies. Austen does not tear down country life or folk; rather, she directs the reader’s gaze to some of the human imperfections that threaten the virtues of her culture.

Pride and Prejudice possesses other literary qualities. Austen renders splendid characters, showing how their errors result from their flaws. She uses symbolism sparingly but successfully; for example, the ordered, austere beauty of Darcy’s grounds and home at Pemberly represents his real nature. Finally, Austen employs the omniscient point of view, which means that her all-knowing narrator has complete knowledge of the story and can reveal any character’s thoughts and feelings to the reader. Most of the time, the narrator shows the world as Elizabeth sees it.

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