Take a story's temperature by studying its tone. Is it hopeful? Cynical? Snarky? Playful?
Knowing, Deadpan, Affectionate
There's occasionally something of a "wink wink, nudge nudge" tone to Austen's writing here; her deadpan humor is sharp, witty, and usually between the lines. Humor is more often than not insinuated, rather than up-front. One of the true joys of reading Austen's work is the pleasure of getting her sly, teasing jabs at her characters, even when we like and sympathize with them. The thing is, we always get the feeling that she's quite fond of her characters as well, so that when she pokes fun at them, it's very rarely mean-spirited or cruel – rather, it's affectionate, teasing, and ultimately sympathetic.