"Irony in Pride and Predjudice" A discussion of Jane Austin's use of irony as a literary tool with specific examples from chapters 53-61

Essay by nic844High School, 12th gradeA+, February 2003

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One of the most ironic and significant events of Pride and Prejudice is Lady Catherine de Bourgh's impromptu and audacious drop in on The Bennet household and her ensuing conversation with Elizabeth. This situation is extremely ironic because Lady Catherine's speech ends up having exactly the opposite effect on the storyline that she had intended it to. She first takes Elizabeth completely by speaking of an ensuing marriage between Elizabeth and Darcy. "I was told that not only your sister was on the point of being most advantageously married, but that you, that Miss Elizabeth Bennet, would, in all likelihood, be soon afterwards united to my nephew... Mr. Darcy." This is something that Elizabeth had brushed off as impossible considering the circumstances surrounding and history between herself and Darcy. In speaking of this, Lady Catherine actually gives hope to Elizabeth of Darcy's continued affection. Lady Catherine, however, goes on to state her opinion on the matter.

"Let me be rightly understood. This match, to which you have the presumption to aspire, can never take place. No, never. Mr. Darcy is engaged to my daughter." She goes on to claim that in accepting a proposal from Darcy Elizabeth would be "censured, slighted, and despised" by many, and then insultingly declare that a connection to the Bennet family would "pollute" the "shades of Pemberly." By this point in the novel, however, Elizabeth has realized her changed feelings toward Darcy, and refuses to promise Lady Catherine not to marry him. She is worried, however, that the feelings of Darcy's aunt may have a more powerful effect on him then it has had on her. Lady Catherine does indeed later call on him to deliver her arguments against Elizabeth. But in relating to him her conversation with Elizabeth, she actually gives Darcy...