This week Krysta and Briana at Pages Unbound are hosting the discussion: Tell us about a classic you find humorous. And my automatic response is to ask, is it too obvious to talk about the collected works of Jane Austen?
In particular Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Emma and Northanger Abbey are the funniest of her novels. While Northanger Abbey isn’t laugh-out-loud funny like the other three, its satire remains so relevant today that I found this book to be hilarious enough to want to write a YA spoof about Twi-hards. I’ve lost interest in that project since YA paranormal romance has fallen out of popularity, but whatever, I still love Northanger Abbey.
But Pride and Prejudice is one of my favorite books of all time *because* of how funny it is. I think where Austen’s sense of humor really shines is in her over-the-top characters. Mr. Collins is a particular favorite of mine, and his speech about why Elizabeth should marry him one of my favorite parts of the book. Lady Catherine also has some great moments, and Mrs. Bennet is a hoot.
Austen is great a one-liners, too. The opening line remains one of my favorite in literature. “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man of good fortune must be in want of a wife.” Her general observations about the world aren’t always relevant still, but are nevertheless funny. In general her writing style is aloof and witty, and for whatever reason I am in love with it.
While her work doesn’t include as much situational humor, it does show up from time to time. In particular I love the scene where Elizabeth agrees to go to Pemberly (Mr. Darcy’s house) because she is convinced he won’t be home. But then he shows up and she panics, and she’s super awkward for the entire day.
But I can’t enjoy a good comedy if it isn’t heart-warming too. I love watching Elizabeth fall in love with Mr. Darcy, and I love watching Darcy become a better person for loving her.
Emma and Sense and Sensibility are funny in similar ways. Their heart and lighter writing style make Austen’s work stands out in a sea of boring “comedy” classics like Tom Jones that just didn’t age well. They have stood the test of time and will always be beloved, I think.
What is your favorite humorous classic?