Ummatul B. ChoudaryProfessor Bodetti. CLDV-210 7th December 2017.
Pride and Prejudice Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is a novel perceived by many as a romance story that tells of the trials and tribulations of two young people, Elizabeth Bennett and Fitzwilliam Darcy, as they gradually come to understand, respect and love each other. However, such description does not do justice to a work of fiction that explores many important issues in the life of the early nineteenth century England. While Austen’s narrative does center on love, feelings and marriage, she also offers accurate and truthful observations on the position of certain social groups in the contemporary British society. Unfortunately, the deeply rooted socio-economic and gender prejudices are still present in today’s society. Thus, though written over two hundred years ago, the novel is still as relevant as ever. Pride and Prejudice was written during a time when England was still a society with a hierarchy based on patronage and property. The world of Austen’s novels is the world of a social mobility with very strict limitations.
People in it occupied positions in a structure that extended from the rich and powerful to the poor and powerless. While Austen never explicitly supports neither the idea of egalitarianism nor class segregation, she does condemn giving too much importance to class, especially when it comes to evaluating one’s character. The author acknowledges the social norms and beliefs of the Regency Era without endorsing them. The significance of social structures in Austen’s novels is shown through different characters, their values and attitudes. The novel gives the reader an inside perspective of the rules and norms of the period, at the same time demonstrating how these affect the lives of the people bound to follow them.
It is especially evident in Mr. Collins’s behavior: his servile flattery and formality with Lady Catherine de Bourgh are a clear satire of class-consciousness. Another prime example of it would be Mr. Darcy who, as a member of the upper class, was initially too proud to admit his feelings towards Elizabeth even to himself. Even when he finally confessed his love to her, “his sense of her inferiority— of its being a degradation—of the family obstacles which judgment had always opposed to inclination, were dwelt on with a warmth which seemed due to the consequence he was wounding, but was very unlikely to recommend his suit.” (Austen 128) At the same time, just like Elizabeth he feels repulsed by the upper-class characters that show their true nature as indolent and ill-meaning people like Lady Catherine or Mr.
Bingley’s sisters. Both Darcy and Elizabeth are quite the exceptions from the rule that in many ways serve to prove that class prejudice can overcome. The position of women in the early nineteenth century England was especially poor as their economic and social vulnerability was based almost entirely on their marital status. Women were forbidden from inheriting and thus had to give control of their financial well-being to those they married.
Marriage was the only option for a young woman to ensure her bright future. However, it is not often that happiness was synonymous to mutual love, as is the case with Charlotte Lucas who thought, “happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance… It is better to know as little as possible of the defects of the person with whom you are to pass your life.” (Austen 16) Charlotte knew that Mr. Collins’s proposal was not out of love, yet she made a rational decision to accept it in order to provide financial security. Such was the reality of many women at the time, although again Elizabeth managed to avoid such fate by forming a happy union with Mr.
Darcy constructed from love. Lizzy Bennet is an exceptional character in many ways. She possesses qualities that are traditionally considered masculine, as opposed to representing femininity, which is so highly valued in women. She is active, opinionated, and outspoken and witty in her speech. Throughout the book, she repeatedly shows that she is not to be intimidated by status or wealth. Mr.
Darcy, however, is not alienated by the strength and stubborn will demonstrated by Elizabeth. To the contrary, those qualities attract him as setting her apart from other young women. As Elizabeth herself aptly noted, “you were sick of civility, of deference, of officious attention. You were disgusted with the women who were always speaking and looking, and thinking for your approbation alone. I roused, and interested you, because I was so unlike them.
” (Austen 248) A contrast to her behavior is many other female characters that appear irrational, silly and useless. Austen uses such characters as Mrs. Bennett, Lydia or Kitty to criticize gender roles and the way patriarchy affects their personalities and behavior.
Pride and Prejudice offers an insight into a society that has its fair share of fools and gossipers, lazy do-nothings and other unpleasant characters with significant flaws. In the novel, Austen satirizes the idiosyncratic details of the workings of people’s minds using irony in the dialogues or in the thoughts of her more pleasant characters. Humor is used by Austen partly to express her own view on the characters in the book, as well as in the society she lived in. It is not hard to deduce an idea of moral values and beliefs of the time from the comical portraits that she paints. However, the faults of the present-day society are not much different from that of the early nineteenth century, which in part is what makes the novel so popular to this day. Societal norms and rules that were widely accepted in Austen’s England are for the most part outdated today.
Women definitely have more independence and agency; they do not have to rely on marriage to ensure their financial security. They have access to education and an opportunity to have a successful career. Marriage in contemporary society based on compatibility and love rather than economic or social reasons. Still, gender continues to define their social interactions every day. The importance of money and power is yet to cease, and social rank continues to play an important part of the way people perceive each other. For all these reasons, Pride and Prejudice may forever remain a timeless novel.