Elizabeth feeling all the more than common awkwardness and anxiety of his situation now forced herself to speak; and and immediately, though not very fluently, gave him to understand that her sentiments had undergone so material a change, since the period to which he alluded, as to make her receive with gratitude and pleasure his present assurances. The happiness which this reply produced was such as he had probably never felt before; and he expressed himself on the occasion as sensibly and as warmly as a man violently in love can be supposed to do.
This is hilarious, and nasty. After priming the reader for a final declaration of love from Darcy and an acceptance of marriage from Elizabeth, Austen drops the dialogue and essentially cuts to black, no kiss, no knee, nothing. Just "[she] gave him to understand that her sentiments had undergone so material a change, since the period to which he alluded...," which is as funny as any of the ironic digs at Mr. Collins or William Lucas.
Not that you would be able to find much of that ironic sense in any of your ersatz Austen sequels, or even much in the (excellent) Joe Wright film, for which the love story outshines all other elements of the novel. But people insist on misunderstanding this book, even--or especially--its biggest fans. Why is it that the most irony-deficient people seem to love this book? How can it inspire such crippling sincerity as this?
In fact, the more I think about it, I wonder if Pride and Prejudice doesn't merely use irony as its modality, but its theme as well. It is, in a sense, a book about irony, that gap between perception and reality. Elizabeth is only able to find happiness with Darcy once she learns to balance public perception of him against his true character; it is a lesson she learns with Wickham in reverse. Mrs. Bennet jeopardizes her daughters' chances of marriage by being deficient in manners, which are a kind of irony, proudly bellowing what she perceives to be true at inopportune moments, unaware that saying what you do not mean, and meaning what you do not say, can both be a kind of social currency. For her part, Jane allows herself to be beguiled by Caroline Bingley because she cannot perceive the irony, or insincerity, of others. On the other hand, there is Mr. Bennet, so removed from the world by way of his ironic veil that he cannot grasp the danger of Lydia's Brighton trip, which serves as the prelude to a misbegotten elopement.
Or I could be completely full of shit. In any case, I love this book.