Characterization and Irony in Pride and Prejudice
"Like all true literary classics, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen is still capable of engaging us, both emotionally and intellectually" (Twayne back flap) through its characters and themes. This essay illustrates how Jane Austen uses the characterization of the major characters and irony to portray the theme of societal frailties and vices because of a flawed humanity. Austen writes about the appearance vs. the reality of the characters, the disinclination to believe other characters, the desire to judge others, and the tendency to take people on first impressions.
The main female protagonist, Elizabeth Bennet, like many in society, appears perfect, but is in fact flawed. Austen uses this to show that nobody in society is perfect and will never reach perfection. Elizabeth's major flaw is her ability to make "fundamental sorts of errors about her fellow human beings" (Moler 23). Charlotte Lucas, although her best friend, is even a stranger, because Elizabeth shows no signs of knowing her feelings for Mr. Collins. She did not and could not accept the fact that her best friend is to marry Mr. Collins after the announcement of the engagement. The society during Austen's time, from 1775-1817, put a lot of pressure on women to find a decent husband and the ultimate goal was to marry (Weldon 37). Though she never married, Austen felt the stress bestowed upon her by her fellow companions. "Women were born poor, and stayed poor, and lived well only by their husbands' favour" (Weldon 37). Elizabeth is obviously mistaken about Charlotte and her need to marry, and does not know her or take the time to know her, as a best friend is obligated to do. Elizabeth is at fault for not understanding and for seeing her best friend through a blindfold. This portrays a problem of communication that people in society face everyday. In this particular novel it almost cost a lifetime friend. Society is made up of the individuals in it, and since no individual is perfect for instance Elizabeth, society is flawed.
Also, Elizabeth's perception of Mr. Wickham is incorrect (Molar 25). She thinks he is, and he does appear to be, a perfect gentleman on the outside because of the way he portrays himself, but really, he is one of the most flawed characters in the novel. Elizabeth is "completely taken in by the almost transparent duplicity" (Moler 25) of Mr. Wickham, especially when he speaks. "A thorough, determined dislike of me, a dislike which I cannot but attribute in some measure to jealousy. Had the late Mr. Darcy liked me less, his son might have borne with me better; but his fatherÕs uncommon attachment to me, irritated him I believe very early in life. He had not a temper to bear the sort of competition in which we stood, the son of preference which was often given me" (Austen 72), Mr. Wickham speaks with eloquence and Elizabeth takes it for face value, and believes everything he says. If what...