Pride and Prejudice

Humor and Insensitivity: Austen's Creation of Mr. Bennet

In her novel Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen channels many of her perceptions of 18th century English society through both her dominant and smaller characters. Austen uses unfailingly sarcastic Mr. Bennet as a vehicle for the deception and spite rampant in such a community. While Mr. Bennet’s mockery remains amusing and harmless in Volume I, his facetious witticisms turn mean-spirited and heartless in Volume II. Instead of continuing to target foolish, unsuspecting individuals as he had done for his own quiet amusement, Mr. Bennet begins to victimize his own undeserving family members; the comments he only considers to be lighthearted and smile-inducing soon become irrevocably hurtful to his own emotionally-unstable daughters. The book’s heroine, Elizabeth, once appreciative of her father’s humor, is now surprised and offended by his senseless, unsupportive comments, and she begins to question if he is now addressing his duties as a father with the seriousness his role demands. Austen displays Mr. Bennet’s subtle yet undeniable transition from comic teaser to insensitive bully through speech (and lack thereof), structurally simple sentences, and details delineating the repercussions of his actions.

Austen uses words, or an...

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