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|"It is a truth universally acknowledged...."
Written by Elizabeth K
(4/12/2010 6:05 a.m.)
As my chosen GR focus is JA's use of language and literary techniques in P&P, I think that it is appropriate to spend some time thinking about the famous first sentence of P&P: "It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a large fortune must be in want of a wife" (ch. 1).
"It is a truth universally acknowledged" - I have seen this quote employed on everything from advertisements to newspaper headlines and even medical papers on "Infliximab in extrapulmonary sarcoidosis" (here's a quote: "It is a truth universally acknowledged that a new therapy with exciting prospects must be in want of placebocontrolled evaluation", from http://erj.ersjournals.com/cgi/reprint/31/6/1148.pdf). There are two people in my family who are in the medical profession - I'll have to ask them if they spotted the Austen reference in that journal about pulmonary ailments!
In my opinion, the enduring popularity of Jane Austen's most famous opening line is to do with its irony and satire in its original context. When Austen says that "it is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a large fortune must be in want of a wife" she means this in a satirical way. The sentence could be turned upside down to refer to the reasons behind her ironic statement: the fact is that the single men of large fortune are not necessarily in want of wives - young women of small fortune require wealthy husbands to escape the trap of poverty.
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