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It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wifepg1 The first sentence of Jane Austens Pride and Prejudice is perhaps the most famous opening of all English comedies concerning social manners It encapsulates the ambitions of the empty headed Mrs Bennet and her desire to find a good match for each of her five daughters from the middle-class young men of the familys acquaintance The business of her life was to get her daughters married its solace was visiting and newspg 3 In this she receives little help from her mild and indolent spouse who regards her aspirations with a tolerant and witty cynicism The main strand of this story concerns the prejudice of Elizabeth Bennet against the apparent arrogance of her future suitor Fitzwilliam Darcy and the blow to his pride in falling in love with her Though a satisfactory outcome is eventually achieved it is set against the social machinations of many other figures the haughty Lady Catherine de Bourgh the fatuous Mr Collins the younger Bennet daughter Lydia and her lover Wickham with whom she scandalously elopes It is often pointed out that Austens novels emphasize characterization and romanticism but in Pride and Prejudice the emphasis is on the irony values and realism of the characters as they develop throughout the story Jane Austens irony is devastating in its exposure of foolishness and hypocrisy Self-delusion or the attempt to fool other people are usually the object of her wit There are various forms of exquisite irony in Pride and Prejudice sometimes the characters are unconsciously ironic as when Mrs Bennet seriously asserts that she would never accept any entailed property though Mr Collins is willing to Often Mr Bennet and Elizabeth serve to directly express the authors ironic opinion When Mary Bennet is the only daughter at home and does not have to be compared with her prettier
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