One of the most popular books in English literature, Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice uses satire and irony to critique Regency Era society. Defining these two literary techniques and examining their use throughout the novel will help students understand Austen's critiques on the treatment of women and the social hierarchy of the Regency Era. An overview of the Regency Era will provide students with the necessary historical context. Having students create charts to examine the relationships between characters as well as their respective places in the hierarchy will help students further understand the class system, an important aspect of this novel, as it is a source of "pride and prejudice".

Taking a look at the many adaptions of the novel in the forms of both books and movies will both engage students and allow the opportunity for comparisons. This beloved classic has been transformed time and time again, each adaptation giving it new life. While students may not be able to relate to the troubles of Lizzie Bennet in 19th century England, modern adaptations such as Bridget Jones's Diary or the YouTube vlog series The Lizzie Bennet Diaries may help students grasp the important concepts.

Summary

Pride and Prejudice explores the lives of Elizabeth Bennet and her sisters as their mother attempts to find a suitable husband for each of them. Despite the typical conventions of marrying for financial security and status, Elizabeth wishes to marry for love. The story unfolds as she meets Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, a wealthy member of the upper class, at a ball. After meeting, it seems clear that Darcy is not interested in Lizzie due to her social status, and, in turn, Elizabeth finds him to be condescending and full of pride. As they often find themselves in each other's company, Darcy begins to soften towards Lizzie as she learns more about him. Both must overcome their pride and prejudice in order to reveal their true feelings towards one another.

Objectives for Teaching Pride and Prejudice

  • Define irony and point out examples of it in the text.
  • Cite incidents from the story that demonstrate the relationship between the position enjoyed and the responsibilities held by the upper class.
  • Compare and contrast Mr. Darcy and Mr. Collins, and discuss the extent to which each realizes his plans for marriage.
  • Discuss which qualities in Jane Austen's novels have led critics to regard her as one of the best writers of English literature.
  • Comment on the author's style of writing, and illustrate points with examples from the text.
  • Determine and discuss the reasons some readers view this novel as an early feminist work.

Key Elements and Techniques

  • Hyperbole
  • Inference
  • Irony
  • Satire
  • Style
  • Theme

Themes and Motifs

  • Social Class — During the 19th century, one's rank in the social hierarchy determined everything. Many of the characters in this novel are very concerned with maintaining their status. For Mr. Darcy, these ranks are strict—he refuses to acknowledge anyone below his class. It is through her depictions of the wealthy, pretentious characters that Austen critiques the class system.
  • Women and Femininity — Throughout the novel, Austen is critical of the role of women in 19th century English society, focusing particularly on marriage. For most women, financial security is the most important characteristic in a husband in order to maintain social standing and wealth. Elizabeth defies this convention by marrying for love.
  • Pride —  Pride initially prevents Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth from realizing their true feelings for each other. Mr. Darcy's pride in his social rank leads him to dismiss anyone below him. Elizabeth's pride in her ability to judge the character of others prevents her from changing her initial opinion of Darcy.

Related Works

Theme of Social Class

 

Theme of Women and Femininity

 

Theme of Pride

Key Facts

  • Length: 336 pages
  • Lexile Measure: 1190
  • Publication Date: 1813
  • Recommended Grade Band: 11 – 12

Movies

There have been multiple film productions of Pride and Prejudice, and the following are the most notable:

Pride and Prejudice has also inspired other novels including:

Your students will love:

  • The author's use of satire and irony
  • The strong female protagonist

Students may have problems with:

  • The 19th-century language
  • The limited action and focus on romantic drama

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