1. “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”
This opening line of Pride and Prejudice is one of the most famous first lines in all of English literature. It is also Jane Austen’s opening salvo of verbal irony, a figure of speech that generally means saying one thing but meaning another. Verbal irony is a little like sarcasm, but it lacks the harsh edge that sarcasm typically has.
What “universal truth” about marriage in early 19thC society is Austen really talking about here?
2. Jane Austen is fond of casting her central characters as near polar opposites in terms of personality. Lizzy and Jane, though close sisters, and Bingley and Darcy, though close friends, are near opposites in temperament.
What traits can you glean about the personalities of these characters from the following excerpts from Chapter IV?
Lizzy (speaking to Jane after the assembly): “‘But that is one great difference between us. Compliments always take you by surprise, and me never'” (CH IV, p. 13).
“Between him and Darcy there was a very steady friendship, in spite of a great opposition of character…Bingley was sure of being liked wherever he appeared, Darcy was continually giving offense” (CH IV, pgs. 14-15).
3. The first fourteen chapters of Pride and Prejudice include several of the eight elements of the romance novel that Pamela Regis describes in A Natural History of the Romance Novel: Society Defined, The Meeting, The Attraction, and The Barrier. Find evidence in the text of where these elements occur.
1) I think the “universal truth,” applicable to early 19thC marriage, that Jane Austin is referring to, is the fact that if there is a wealthy single man he must need a wife because that is what society expects of him. Austin is pointing out how valuable a wealthy man is in early 19thC society. A woman needs a man to sustain a comfortable lifestyle and a single man with money is who every woman dreams of having. A wealthy single man is too valuable to their culture to stay single.
2) Jane is humble and does not view herself superior to anyone and so when she is asked to dance twice with Mr. Bingley it takes her by surprise. In contrast, Elizabeth is confident and expects to be complimented. Elizabeth has a much stronger personality than Jane. Mr. Bingley goes out of his way to be welcoming and friendly, whereas Darcy does not care how he comes off to people (except later, he cares how Elizabeth views him).