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Sense of Humor It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife What we read is just the opposite a single woman must be in want of a man with a good fortune In this first line of Jane Austens Pride and Prejudice we are at once introduced to language rich with satire The comic tendencies displayed in the novels language introduce a theme very important to the novelthe characters laughter and their attitudes towards laughter as an index to their morality and social philosophy Beginning with Darcys opinion expressed early in the novel that Miss Bennet smiled too much attitudes towards laughter divide the characters Most obviously Darcy all grave propriety is opposed to Elizabeth who has a lively playful disposition which delighted in anything ridiculous We tend to consider Elizabeths position the normativemore closely aligned with modern theories of humor She laughs at hypocrisy vanity pretension the gap between statement and action and between theory and practice On the other hand Darcy takes a conservative attitude toward laughter His taciturn disposition and unwillingness to be the butt of mirth are clearly described He tells those assembled in the Netherfield drawing room that it has been the study of his life to avoid those weaknesses which often expose a strong understanding to ridicule But the deficiencies of this view evident enough in Darcys own demeanor are revealed in the parodies of it which appear in the novel Everywhere in Pride and Prejudice pompous gravity is laughed out of existence In the absurdly formal utterances of a Mary Bennet or a Mr Collins neither of whom is ever known to laugh Austen demonstrates that a total lack of humor has effects the reverse of what a situation demands One example of this is in Mr Collins parody of the prodigal son in his letter of consolation to Mr
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