Before we start, Shmoop's going to let you in on a Formal Genre Description Secret. Oh, yeah, it's all capital letters from here on in, baby. You see, "comedy" doesn't mean what you think it means – at least not when you're using that word in this specific way. As a genre, comedy has less to do with funny-ha-ha and much more to do with the kind of ending a work has. If, at the end of a work, it's all marriage and happily-ever-after and yay-the-princess-found-her-prince? Well, you've got yourself a comedy, even if you're not busting a gut at any point. Need some examples? How about the French fairytale Beauty and the Beast or Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream or that movie Love Actually).
What do we have here? Lots of weddings at the end? Check. A light tone? Check. Not too many suggestions that the world is a dark and horrible place where nothing good can ever happen? Check. Comedy it is.
Now this is an interesting one because it's an idea that's often kind of skipped over when people think about this novel. Still, Shmoopsters, we want you to really register it because it'll pop up again and again in Austen's writing. The idea is this: love really only works when the people getting together are grownups, adults, mature individuals. It's not about looks, and it's not about wealth – although for sure those things help also – because what really connects two people is a level of empathy and understanding for other people's points of view.
What do we mean? Well, remember how it all plays out for Darcy and Elizabeth? At first, he thinks she's kind of ugmo and doesn't want to dance with her. She thinks he's so rude that she refuses to acknowledge that he might be good looking. Still, the problem isn't their looks – it's that they both have some major growing up to do. Darcy has to get over himself, which he starts to do when he sees how far Elizabeth is willing to go for her sick sister (literally, tramping through the muck and mud without worrying about her heinous appearance). Elizabeth needs to learn to give the benefit of the doubt, which she starts doing when she reads Darcy's letter, first from her own point of view, and then, crucially, from his (which reveals that he's not really a total jerk so much as an awkward but well-meaning clod).
You guys, this is a major work, right up there with all the big ones as a foundational piece of art for Western literature. Actually, a lot of people argue that Austen is the first modern novelist – meaning, she's the first to stop writing about crazy adventures and unlikely daring-do, and instead focus on the inner lives of regular people going about their everyday lives. That makes Pride and Prejudice literary fiction.