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'Elizabeth Bennet as "new" heroine'

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Introduction

Elizabeth Bennet (Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen) is a heroine who transcends time due to her modernistic views and her rebellious approach to the expectations of society. Elizabeth, although a radical character in her time, is respected in the 21st century for her strong feminist defences and self assurance that allow her to act with independence. She critiques society through the use of satire, and mirrors Jane Austen's opinions of Regency England. Elizabeth does not conform to the stereotype of a traditional heroine in the19th century; physically beautiful, submissive, meek, dutiful and innocent, accomplished yet dependant on the socially 'superior' gender. Lizzy's character is opinionated, self-assured and even to a degree, masculine. She defies the conforms of the traditional heroine in the novels of Regency England as she is in general against matrimony, she does not allow those superior to her in class to undermine her simply because of her social standing and bravely acts against a current of social followers. During the 19th century, the time in which this novel was written, it was the common consensus that women ought to be married off as soon as they entered their twenties. This would ensure that they did not impose a burden on their parents and that their welfare and maintenance would now be the business of their husband. ...read more.

Middle

Her retaliations to Darcy as well as her close relationship to her father demonstrate her feministic attitude. Mr Bennet similarly sides with Lizzy against her mothers will in both the above recommendation of his daughters and in Lizzy's refusal of Mr Collins. "'From this day you must be a stranger to one of your parents. - Your mother will never see you again if you do not marry Mr. Collins, and I will never see you again if you do'"6 As a result of Lizzy's deep analysis in most areas (which has thus been proven to be a trait singular to her out of all the female characters in Pride and Prejudice) Mr Bennet questions her motives behind accepting Darcy's proposal. "He is rich, to be sure, and you may have more fine clothes and fine carriages than Jane. But will they make you happy?"7 This is a enquiry he would never direct at either one of his other daughters as he believes none of them would be concerned with these 'trivialities' as long as they were well provided for in material ways. Lizzy's values are shown to be rare among the women in her society as they are less materialistic. Lizzy repeatedly emphasises throughout the novel how 'fond' she is of walking. ...read more.

Conclusion

Most women in such a position in the social hierarchy would not consider such a comment for fear of sounding too disrespectful. Later in the novel we encounter Lady Catherine again when she makes a visit to the Bennets' with the intention of deciphering Elizabeth's plans on marriage. Elizabeth informs Lady Catherine, "I am only resolved to act in that manner, which will, in my own opinion, constitute my happiness, without reference to you, or to any person so wholly unconnected with me" 10 A great deal of disrespect is shown by Elizabeth with this statement. She demonstrates a low recognition of her rank and those of others and will certainly never back down in an argument like the stereotypical passive heroine. 8 Austen, Pride and Prejudice 10 April 2008 9 Austen, Pride and Prejudice 10 April 2008 10 Austen, Pride and Prejudice 10 April 2008 Elizabeth's uniqueness of character is evident through her bravery, her degree of masculinity, assertiveness and independence. She does not express a reliance on men or her family in the novel, which is common to women in her society and traditional heroines alike. Pride and Prejudice displays the similarities between Mr Darcy and Elizabeth. Elizabeth recognises this connection at the end of the novel when she tells her father, "He and I are so alike... we're both so stubborn." 11This strong likeness can only be made because Elizabeth represents an alternative model of femininity. ...read more.

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