In today’s world of dating and romance, a good sense of humor is considered highly desirable. It wasn’t necessarily the same two hundred years ago. Manners, matrimony and class structure were all serious business.
Therefore, laughter was not held in very high regard. Wit and humor were seen as flights of folly. There are several very interesting scenes of laughter in Pride and Prejudice, and in most cases they point to a personality flaw.
Lydia laughs at the surprise her family will feel when they hear of her running off with Wickham. When she thinks of signing her name as Lydia Wickham, she says, “What a good joke it will be! I can hardly write for laughing.” Mr. Bennet’s disdain comes to mind when he says, “For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbours, and laugh at them in our turn?” Caroline Bingley and Louisa Hurst laugh heartily at the society in Meryton and the Gardiners residing in Cheapside, but it is a laughter of condescension and spite.
But Lizzy’s love of a good laugh is depicted much differently. She is as quick to laugh at herself, and her good humor highlights the liveliness of her mind and the fineness of her eyes. Mr. Darcy in particular is drawn to her laughter, as it indicates an intimacy with her that he craves. “Her lively, sportive manner of talking” and “open pleasantry” demonstrates her deep affection.