Classic Remarks: A Humorous Classic

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?

25 thoughts on “Classic Remarks: A Humorous Classic

      1. Hi Katie.
        Oh yes, Artie Doyle wrote all sorts of things other than Sherlock Holmes, however, ‘The Red-Headed League’ is one of the dozens of short Holmes books. Holmes is a man of wit and humor, and this book allows him to show it a bit.
        Happy Trails!
        ~Icky 🙂

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        1. Hmmm, it’s possibly I’ve read The Red-Headed League and don’t remember, then. I read a good portion of the Collected Holmes, though I don’t think I finished them. Will have to look into this!

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  1. I’ve never actually read Pride & Prejudice *gasp*, but I’ve seen the BBC miniseries a number of times, and I think it didn’t strike me the first time that it IS really funny. The idea of period pieces being humorous probably wasn’t obvious to me at the time, but authors of all time periods obviously had a sense of humor!

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    1. Part of what’s so funny about her is the deadpan way she presents the hilarious. You don’t really see that with the adaptations. The ending of Northanger Abbey, for example, is extremely funny — not because of how the story ends, but because of how Austen says it.

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    2. I also *whispers* don’t enjoy the BBC P&P or find it in any way funny. Even the 2003 (?) version with Kiera Knightly isn’t as obviously funny as the book is, the humor is very understated in that film, though I still crack up because the actors are so outstanding.

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      1. I’ve only seen the one with Kiera Knightley once and remember thinking I liked the miniseries better (probably because it’s longer and can fit more in!), but I want to give it a rewatch sometime to see if I like it better the second time around.

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        1. I just liked Darcy so much better in the Kiera Knightly version. The actor played him as socially awkward, whereas I thought Colin Firth made him too mean. I also just think the KN version is really pretty.

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  2. I almost wrote about P&P! The thing is, Austen is really funny and ironic, but I don’t see too many people talk about it. Austen is still kind of associated with being a swoony romance writer for women who wish they lived in a period drama or something. But she does have this biting wit, as well!

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  3. Hmmm…probably something of Austen. Rereading Northanger Abbey now which has its moments. Much ado About Nothing….Moliere imaginary Cuckhold…I saw that performed though and it was hilarious, but like tartuffe, I love a French farce

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