In Pride and Prejudice
In Pride and Prejudice, marriage seemed to be the subject talked amongst all the characters in Herfordshire, married or not. At the beginning of the novel, Austen wrote “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife” (Austen &Brock, 2013, Ch.1), showed the importance of being married as a woman even if love is not present but she would be taken care of by her husband. Women were expected to married get married in those days because for their husbands to take care of them financially. They were not allowed to inherit land or any wealth from their father, so it is only understandable why the subject “marriage” was very vital to them.
In Pride and Prejudice, those who don’t conform to societal norms face the inability of not finding their place in life or ever finding happiness. This alone can create an anxiety for women who are unmarried but wish not to be a statistic. Elizabeth Bennet refused to adhere to what society set as standards for women which differentiate her from the rest of the women in the novel. Although, she clearly knew that women’s role in society was to marry in hopes to improve their life with wealth and her family. Elizabeth was headstrong and often spoke her mind which is not pleasant to many people she came across.
During the Georgian period, women were a none factor because they could own nothing, they were mere object that were supposed to be seen not heard. They were an attractive companion without opinions or objectives about the world in which they live in. In the late eighteenth century, women and girls were regarded as “limited in reason and not to be overtaxed with serious, intellectual education”, (Siddika, 2013) which portrays the level to which women were value back then. With these types of statements, Elizabeth decided to follow her instinct rather than consume the dream sold to women to keep them oppress to men.
Elizabeth’s logic reasoning prevented her from being absorbed in the fairy tales most girls dreamed about, the happily ever after when one has found a man, a rich man at that. Elizabeth wanted to be in relationship with someone who can stimulate her intellectual side and as well love her unconditionally. According to Siddika who wrote, Elizabeth was a “norm of perfect womanhood having intelligence, management-power, virginity, morality and dignity who brings happiness at last as perfect daughter, wife and lover”. Although, people may see Elizabeth Bennet as defiant, these elements gave her the ability to accomplish the life she wanted for herself.
Elizabeth Bennet wanted to show other women, especially her sisters to break free from the generational shackles of norms without compromising themselves as a woman. She didn’t allow anyone to put her down or made her feel inferior and tried to emulate that to her sisters, but it can be inevitable when some people have already conformed to societal norms. In the novel, Miss Bingley stated that, ” A woman must have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing, and the modern languages, to deserve the word; and besides all this, she must possess a certain something in her air and manner of walking, the tone of her voice, her address and expressions, or the word will be but half-deserved,” (Austen &Brock, 2013, Ch.8). This type of statement is why Elizabeth refused to conform because she felt there was more to life than that.
Elizabeth Bennet didn’t want to see her marriage as a monetary transaction which she expresses a distaste with her mother’s mentality of marriage. She made her intentions known to her mother she careless of being poor and the likeliness of losing her father’s inheritance. She made it known that she’s rather be independent and brave than to sell her sole to the devil. The traits that possesses can be seen when she rejected Darcy’s proposal the first time stating, “You are mistaken, Mr. Darcy, if you suppose that the mode of your affected me in any other way, than as it spared me the concern which I might felt in refusing you, had you behave in a more in a gentleman-like manner, (Austen &Brock, 2013, Ch.8) shows Elizabeth was beyond her time.
Elizabeth felt as if she was equal to men and should be treated the same way as she replied to Lady Catherine de Bourgh, “In marrying your nephew, I should not consider myself as quitting that sphere. He is a gentleman; I am a gentleman’s daughter; so far we are equal”, (Austen &Brock, 2013, Ch.56). Her conversation not only showed that she refused to inferior to men but also to let women know that their mentality must change their perceptions of others that may not be in the same socioeconomic as them. Elizabeth never backed down even when Lady Catherine de Bourgh requested her to not to accept Mr. Darcy’s proposal because of her lineage. This seemed to be the battle that Elizabeth had to fight in womanhood because of societal norms.
Women were critical of themselves in those days, especially the ones that have married into money and are a part of the higher society. The women were very critical of each other not realizing they were once in their positions. They are quick to judge on the decorum and social status as Mrs. Bingley spoke of Elizabeth after her visit, “She has nothing, in short, to recommend her, but being an excellent walker. I shall never forget her appearance this morning. She really looked almost wild”, (Austen ;Brock, 2013, Ch.8). Elizabeth believed it was unintelligent to compare herself to other women or let alone, comparing women to each other and quite frankly didn’t care what was thought of her by others as it was shown in the first chapter when Mr. Darcy prejudged her.
Elizabeth Bennet was very candid when she encounters people who were trying to intimidate her because of her family background often frowned upon on by the higher social hierarchy. Lady Catherin de Bourgh represent someone Elizabeth does not want to emulate and saw right through her which was the reason she was defiant towards her. Lady Catherine belonged to the old class that are trying to hang on to the tradition and viewed as the epitome of high class and expected everyone to march to her tune, but Elizabeth Bennet begged to differ by showing her capabilities of being independent and making her own decisions.
Elizabeth Bennet challenged Mr. Darcy to change which is unheard of during those times for a woman to scrutinize a man, pointed out certain things he needed to change in order to behave as a gentleman. This shows Elizabeth was not afraid of anyone.