Ponderous Obsequity Mr. Collins As a Mirror Held to the Face of Society In Pride and Prejudice, Mr. Collins, with his pompous, obsequious ways, is easy to overlook as mere comic relief. Contemplation of the hero and heroine and their romantic relationship with its twists and turns is so much more appealing. I wonder though, if, in dismissing Mr. Collins too quickly, we fail to recognize Jane Austen’s genius for comic satire. The simple juxtaposition of Mr. Collins in vivid and humorous interaction with the other characters in a coherent story line is a major accomplishment of invention. Jane Austen, however, fashions more than amusement into her creation of his character. Mr. Collins is displayed by Mr. Bennet’s satirical humor in as sharp a relief as the silhouettes of the time. Elizabeth’s alternate amusement and embarrassment at Mr. Collin’s hands displays the ridiculous position of a woman pursued by a man of inferior mind and manners, if not social position. Likewise, Charlotte Lucas is forced to choose between life as a spinster in the home of her younger brother and marriage to a man she cannot either respect or love. Mr. Collins is the key agent Miss Austen uses to measure and reveal her characters. The outrageously ridiculous dinner scene involving Mr. Collins’s obsequious praise of Lady Catherine de Bourgh and his overawed father-in-law Sir William Lucas echoing his words at Lady Catherine’s table takes satire to a knife sharp edge that places rank and wealth in perspective. In a
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