Jane Austen’s intention in Pride and Prejudice is to present a comedy of manners, the follies and vices of men and to expose them to ridicule by employing into the devices of comedy, parody, irony, wits, satire or may be each one of them as it is suitable for the occasion. Her characters are obvious from the very beginning. She touches the humorous side of almost every scene. Imagine a picnic scene in Emma or a proposal scene in Pride and Prejudice. In all her novels, she mocked, ridiculed but never made it funny.
Jane Austen’s domestic novels are wealthy for character studies. They are not equally same, those of women are more intelligent and life-like than those of men. Realism in Austen is more psychological than that of Pamela by Samuel Richardson. Austen’s are free from the tragic obsessions. A comic view of life informs Austen’s art of characterization. Comic characters presented in Pride and Prejudice are Mr. and Mrs. Bennet, Mr. Collins and Lady Catherine de Bourgh.
Mr. and Mrs. Bennet reveal a marital situation that is full of irony. Mr. Bennet captured by a pretty-face and tied with a foolish, vulgar and ignorant woman for the rest of his life. As a result he forced into a situation that he had to retire from his study. He hardly tried to cultivate his wife’s follies and vulgarity. He was an odd mixture of comic and good sense of humour. Mrs. Bennet in her twenty-three years of married life failed to understand him properly. She is a woman of “mean understanding, little information, and uncertain temper.” The only ambition of her life is to give marry of her daughters. Lydia eloped with Wickham because of her mother’s such odd kind of thinking. Mr. Bennet shocked for a moment!
Mr. Collines is also of a kind of comic character. He proposed Elizabeth, she refused. Then he proposed a friend of Elizabeth, Charlotte Lucas, an intelligent girl and she deliberately accepted Mr. Collines! She knows it was her last chance to improve her future and social position.
According to the laws of early 19th century England, girls cannot get the property or estate of their father’s. In absence of a male issue, a man’s property was entailed to his nearest male relative. In the case of Mr. Bennet, his property would pass to Mr. Collines at Mr. Bennet’s death. Mr. Bennet’s daughters would thus get nothing at their father’s death. Even his wife, Mrs. Bennet would get nothing from his property. Thus, Collines betrayed with the Bennet family by marrying Charlotte Lucas. Elizabeth shocked! Austen solved it by Elizabeth’s visit to the Collinses at Hunsford.
Lady Catherine is another remarkable character. Austen showed here the class-division of the English society, a bogus part of the English life. Lady Catherine’s pride did not washed up even after Elizabeth’s marriage with Darcy.
Austen’s novels are themselves ironic and invariably display the comic side of the characters. Her philosophy is firmly based on women are always superior to their husbands in wits and irony. Her characters are more or less funny in proportion to their command of common sense.