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A Comparison of the Prejudice which the Heroines Suffer in Rebecca and Pride and Prejudice.

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Introduction

A Comparison of the Prejudice which the Heroines Suffer in Rebecca and Pride and Prejudice. Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice was published in 1813 and Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca in 1938. In both novels, the heroines are faced with a great deal of prejudice and discrimination. In Pride and Prejudice this heroine is the spirited Elizabeth Bennet, one of five daughters in an upper-middle class family. The heroine in Rebecca is the narrator, a diffident young woman from a lower-middle class background who begins the novel as a paid companion before becoming the second Mrs de Winter. Both Elizabeth Bennet in Austen's Pride and Prejudice and the second Mrs.de Winter of du Maurier's Rebecca suffer prejudice as a consequence of their situation. Their sex and position in society force them to be dependent on others. In both novels the author uses the heroine to demonstrate the importance of class, and how very strictly the lines of class were drawn. The second Mrs de Winter is (initially) the paid companion of Mrs Van Hopper, and is at her service. She is an orphan of little social significance or identity: the fact that her name is never revealed to the reader is symbolic of this. Women are shown to be considered less important than their male counterparts- Elizabeth comes from a family of five daughters and so, when Mr. ...read more.

Middle

Miss Bingley also draws attention to the fact that one of Elizabeth's uncles 'is an attorney in Meryton.' Today it is perhaps hard to comprehend why this should be an object of disregard- however, in the early nineteenth century, having to work for a living rather than living off an inheritance was considered by many to be socially inferior. Mr. Darcy acknowledges that the position of Elizabeth and Jane's uncle 'must very materially lessen their chance of marrying men of any consideration in the world.' The prospective husbands' response to the heroines in regard to their social background is a point of great contrast between Pride and Prejudice and Rebecca. Mr. Darcy is terribly aware of the differences in class between his family and Elizabeth's. He is haughty, aloof man who regards a marriage to Elizabeth as beneath him. This is apparent when during his first proposal to Elizabeth Mr Darcy tells her that although he has struggled in vain, his feelings for her 'will not be repressed'. Elizabeth 'attracted him more than he liked.' He dwells on 'his sense of her inferiority-of its being a degradation'. In contrast, Maxim in Rebecca is attracted by the second Mrs de Winter's total lack of social ambition or pretension, and his reaction to the fancy dress costume at the Manderley costume ball shows this. ...read more.

Conclusion

She is so nervous she is concious of the noise she makes as she walks, and 'feels guilty at the sound, as one does in a church, self concious, aware of the same constraint.' When she breaks the china cupid, she hides the evidence away, as a 'guilty child' would. Maxim describes her as being 'just like a between-maid, not the mistress of the house.' There is a slight similarity between Elizabeth and the second Mrs de Winter, in that neither thinks much of snobbery. Elizabeth describes herself as having 'no pretensions' and the second Mrs de Winter tells Maxim that she does not 'think much of people who just judge one by one's clothes,' and often the sort of clothes people wore were related to their wealth (and perhaps therefore their social class.) There are some similarities between the endings of Pride and Prejudice and Rebecca. Both could be seen as versions of the Cinderella fairytale: the heroines both eventually find marriage and manage to establish a real sense of place and social confirmation. The novelists show that marriage could be, for women, the path to finding an identity and place in the world. Through the marriages of the slightly lower-class heroines to upper-class men, Austen and du Maurier demonstrate how prejudiced the upper classes could be and show that the power of love and the human spirit can prevail over class prejudices and boundaries. In doing so, they imply that such prejudices are shallow and callous. Louise Shirley 11/5 ...read more.

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