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"She [Mrs. Bertram] was a woman who spent her days in sitting, nicely dressed, on a sofa, doing some long piece of needlework, of little use and no beauty, thinking more of her pug than her children, but very indulgent to the latter when it did not put herself to inconvenience..."— Jane Austen, Mansfield Park(1814)Ironyis one of Austen's most famed literary techniques.She contrasts the plain meaning of a statement with the comic, undermining the meaning of the original to create ironic disjunctions. In her juvenile works, she relies upon satire, parody, and irony based on incongruity. Her mature novels employ irony and foreground social hypocrisy.In particular, Austen uses irony to critique the marriage market.Perhaps the most famous example of irony in Austen is the opening line of Pride andPrejudice: "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife." At first glance, the sentence is straightforward and plausible, but the plot of the novel contradicts it: it is women without fortunes who need husbands and seek them out. By the end of the novel, the truth of the statement is acknowledged onlyby a single character, Mrs. Bennet, the mother of the husband-seeking daughters, rather than the entire world.Austen's irony goes beyond the sentence level. As Austen scholar Jan Fergus explains, "the major structural device in Pride and Prejudiceis the creation of ironies within the novel's action which, like parallels and contrasts, challenge the reader's attention and judgment throughout, and in the end also engage his feelings."Austen's irony illuminates the foibles of individual characters and her society. In her later novels, in particular, she turns her irony "against the errors of law, manners and customs, in failing to recognize women as the accountable beings they are, or ought to be". Free indirect speechAusten is most renowned for her development of free indirect speech, a technique pioneered by eighteenth-century novelists Henry Fieldingand Frances Burney.In free indirect speech, the thoughts and speech of the characters mix with the voice of thenarrator. Austen employs it to provide summaries of conversations or to compress, dramatically or ironically, a character's speech and thoughts.In Sense and Sensibility, Austen experiments extensively for the first time with this technique.For example,Mrs John Dashwood did not at all approve of what her husband intended to do for his sisters. To take three thousand pounds from the fortune of their dear little boy, would be impoverishing him to the most dreadful degree. She begged him to think again on the subject. How could he answer it to himself to rob his child, and his only child too, of so large a sum?As Austen scholar Norman Page explains, "the first sentence is straight narrative, in the 'voice' of the [narrator]; the third sentence is normal indirect speech; but the second and fourth are what is usually described as free indirect speech."In these two