It is said that every literary work illustrates the social status of its time
It is said that every literary work illustrates the social status of its time. A close
reading of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice has inspired me to think of the social condition
of that time, especially the condition of women and their view of marriage in England. Her
novels often explore the dependence of women on mar riage for financial security and social
status. The original version of the novel is First Impression (1797) but it was not published. It
was rewritten in 1812 and published in 1813. “The f inal form of the novel must have been a
thorough rewriting of the original effort of the no vel by Jane Austen in Pride and Prejudice
(1813)”. ( Pride and Prejudice) Normally, the socia l status of late eighteen and early
nineteenth century is depicted in her novel. “It is true that the novels do not attempt to depict
any other way of life outside that of the class to which Jane Austen herself belonged”.
(Marsh, 1998) She has represented the way of life o f her era through the sketches of
characters and their actions. She shares her feelin g about marriage and relationship between
the sexes. In that time, it would be considered tha t marriage is the only honourable way for a
woman to secure here status.
The novel is the composition of a period when women were not regarded
intellectually, socially nor politically equal to m en in England. They has no freedom to
choose the way of their lives they liked to live. H er novel Pride and Prejudice deals with the
position of women and their social expectation.
The importance of marriage is introduced in the ve ry first line of the novel.
It is universally acknowledged that a single man is possession of a good
fortune must be want of a wife. (Austen, 2013)
In the line the narrator mocks the social necessit y of the generation. The sentence disclose
many indication about the structure of the society and its rule. Throughout the novel Austen
question the position of women in the society.
Mrs. Bannet, mother of five daughters thinks nothing without making proper marriage
arrangement of her daughters. She forces Mr. Bannet to introduce their daughters with Mr.
Bingley a bachelor with good fortune.
If I can but see one of my daughter happily
Settled at Nether field … .. and all others eq ually well
Married I shall have nothing to wish for (Austen , 2013)
Only business of Mrs. Bennet is financial security rather than happiness. She herself married
a man whom she cannot understand and who does not r espect her.
It is interesting to discuss that the novel reflec ts the power of woman who always
opponent the marriage only for wealth Elizabeth Ban net, Mr. Bannet’s most love daughter
and Mrs. Bennet’s last dear daughter is depicted as a lively, playful, witty character. What
fascinate the reader’s attention most in her charac ter is her strength of character and moral
integrity great intelligence and her attractive per sonality.
Elizabeth Bennet, gets both Mr. Collins and Mr. Da rcy’s proposal Collins’ marriage
proposal is rejected by Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy’s p roposal is also rejected by her but his
second proposal is accepted by her. By rejecting Mr . Collins” proposal Elizabeth takes a risk
because he is the next inherit of Bennet’s property . Mr. Collins first wanted to marry Jane,
the elder sister of Elizabeth, when he discovered t hat Jane is engaged to Mr. Bingley he
turned to Elizabeth he has no affection for her. It may be told that he just wanted to marry
only for the sake of marriage because after Elizabe th’s rejection he proposed charlotte Lucas.
Elizabeth’s friend, who has no romantic view about marriage.
Charlotte Lucas is the representative of tradition al woman of that time. She accepts
Mr. Collin’s proposal only for social position and financial security. She herself confesses it
when she told Elizabeth.
I am not romantic, you know. I never was I ask only a comfortable home; and
considering Mr. Collins character connections and s ituation in life, I am
convinced that my chance of happiness with him is a s fair as most people can
boast on entering the marriage state. (Austen, 2013 )
According to her. “Happiness in marriage is entirel y a matter of chance”. (Austen, 2013) An
another reason of marring Mr. Collins is to avoid r emaining an “old maid”. In that time in
England it was very difficult to remain unmarried f or a girl.
In “Chapter 34” Mr. Darcy proposes Elizabeth and s he rejects him ecause he is
considered as the proudest man by her and she thoug ht that Mr. Darcy is responsible for the
separation of Mr. Bingley and Jane Bennet, Elizabet h’s elder sister. They misjudge one
another. Darcy conquers his pride when Elizabeth de feat her prejudice. In “Chapter 58” Mr.
Darcy proposes her this time his proposal is accept ed by her and she thanks him for all he has
done for Bannet family.
Elizabeth raises herself once again at the rank of a feminist woman when she replies
Lady de Bourgh who opposes Elizabeth about her rela tionship with Mr. Darcy “he is a
gentleman, I am a gentleman’s daughter; so far we a re equal (Chapter 56, page 306).
Lady de Bourgh opposes Elizabeth’s marriage with D arcy because she wants Darcy to
marry her daughter. She is trying to show Elizabeth inferior. But her attempt is vain.
Now, the question is that does Austen mock at the social norms and the view of
marriage of that time?
It may be said that “Austen often satirises ceremo nies and forms, but also suggests
that these ‘codes’ have an intrinsic value.
In this novel, Austen does not want to constitute a world of woman, rather she wants
to present a real world of her age. It seems that a s if the characters of the novel are not only
the production of fancy but also real.
In this novel Austen critically and socially inspec t the way of life of that time in
England Jane Austen is highly anxious about how soc iety of her time struggle with change.
Austen represents to us with different portrait of this struggle. Through the development of
the relation between Elizabeth and Darcy Austen sho ws it. “Jane Austen is an ironical
observer, not a writer with a radical or social age nda. Her novels ultimately convey
unresolved dualities”. (Jane Austen The Novels by N ischolas Marsh page – 128). In a letter
to her nephew Edward in 1816 Jane Austen described
‘the little bit (two inches wide) of Ivory on which I work with so fine a Brush,
as produces little effect after much labour’ (Marsh , 1998)
Austen is aware of the narrowness of her subject, b ut works with much detail in order
to create a faithful representative of her age.
Pride and Prejudice. (n.d.). Retrieved 04 25, 2018, from www.cliffsnot es.com:
Austen, J. (2013). Pride and Prejudice. New Delhi: Fingerprint Publishing.
Marsh, N. (1998). Jane Austen The Novels. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 1998.