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"Examine the decisions, about their futures, made by the women characters in "Pride and Prejudice" and show how far they were influenced by the expectations of the society in which they lived."

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Introduction

"Examine the decisions, about their futures, made by the women characters in "Pride and Prejudice" and show how far they were influenced by the expectations of the society in which they lived." 'It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife' This opening paragraph of "Pride and Prejudice" by Jane Austin has become one of the most famous sentences in English literature. It states that the novel will explore the theme of marriage. Jane Austen lived in an opinionated world and this is reflected in her novel. In "Pride and Prejudice" no secret is made of the need to marry for money. Many different types of marriages are explored in this novel. It often so happens that novels mirror the customs and morals of a particular society. Therefore to understand the real meaning of the book let me first concentrate on how marriages were arranged in Austen's times and the difficult situation of young women. For many of them marriage in any terms was the only escape from a miserable life of spinsterhood. In our times women have many other alternatives in addition to marriage. In those days it was not so. If a husband was poor or a gambler or a drunkard, she and her children could suffer from plight, as her prospects for employment were miserable. What's more women were unable to inherit property after the death of a previous landowner. All these factors contributed to the unfortunate position of women in the 19th century and caused them to marry early not for the reasons associated with marriage of today. The first chapter gives us an idea of the relationship between Mr. and Mrs. Bennet. Having read the following several lines we can already speculate it is not a successful one; 'Mr. Bennet was so odd a mixture of quick parts, sarcastic humour, reserve, and caprice, that the experience of three-and-twenty years had been insufficient to make his wife understand his character. ...read more.

Middle

He is unmoved by Elizabeth's refusal and continually refuses to accept it. His first reaction is to dismiss the refusal, 'with a formal wave of the hand. He believes, ' it is usual with young ladies to reject the addresses of the man whom they secretly mean to accept.' He then goes on to say; 'give me leave to flatter myself'; that he believes Elizabeth's refusal, ' is merely words of course.' he clearly has an extremely high opinions and an over-confidence in himself and his situation in life; he simply cannot believe why anyone would not wish to be a part of that. Despite great efforts from Elizabeth to convince him otherwise, Mr Collins still leaves his encounter with Elizabeth, believing, ' his proposals will not fail of being acceptable.; it is greatly apparent that Mr Collins is too conceited to accept Elizabeth's strong refusal. He is deluded enough to believe himself and Lady Catherine as irresistible to Elizabeth, and will not believe it when she manages to revisit them. He goes as far as too view the refusal as encouragement. Much of Darcy' character is also revealed in his proposal. He is clearly not used to feeling the way that he feels. He first, 'sat down for a few moments,' then 'walked about the room.' He is seemingly unaware of how to deal with this situation. He came toward Elizabeth, 'in an agitated manner.' Darcy is far from his usual character of cool composure. He has clearly been moved by visible feelings; unlike Mr Collins. Darcy shows that money and status are important to him as well. He says, 'In vain I have struggled; and 'in spite of all his endeavours' Darcy cannot overcome his feelings and must express them to Elizabeth. Unlike Mr Collins Darcy talks of his great affections for Elizabeth. However just as Mr Collins Darcy also talks of money and connections. ...read more.

Conclusion

'Lydia was exceedingly fond of him' and sure that her sisters envied her such a charming husband. However: 'Wickham's affection for Lydia was just what Elizabeth had expected to find it; not equal to Lydia's for him.' Their marriage was unlikely to bring happiness and doomed to fail. By the end of the play Charlotte, Lydia and Jane all obey the rules of society's expectations. Elizabeth does quite the opposite in the first two marriage proposals but in the end there is a happy ending as she accepts Darcy's proposal in the name of love. Marriage is the only logical conclusion to this novel. Had the novel ended any other way, it would have had no point. As said before, the movement of the novel is towards compromise. Through marriage, Elizabeth and Darcy are making the ultimate compromise. They are both changing a little about themselves, so that their marriage can be successful. Had the novel ended without marriage, then the realizations on both Elizabeth, and Darcy's behalf would have been for nothing. Also, through the novel we see that Jane Austen is using marriage as a way of representing society. An ideal marriage is representative of an ideal society. If people used the same methods as a couple would use to obtain an ideal marriage, then perhaps we would be able to obtain a model society. By researching Jane Austen we know that most of the heroes and heroines end up at the end of the story in a perfect marriage. By having Darcy and Elizabeth end the novel engaged in an ideal marriage is a significant detail. Jane Austen, in doing this, is suggesting that society would be better if it followed Elizabeth and Darcy's example. By controlling pride and prejudice, and by learning that compromise is sometimes the best way to happiness, society can hope to improve itself. Marriage in the closing stages is the perfect ending, since it is both an acceptance of the values of society as well as a personal fulfilment. Ben Taylor 10/05/2007 Page 1 of 9 ...read more.

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