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How does Elizabeth Bennet contradict the typical image of an 18th century woman?

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Introduction

Q. How does Elizabeth Bennet contradict the typical image of an 18th century woman? The 18th century women of Jane Austen's pages and of her times lived a gentle, sheltered and delicate life. The rules of conduct especially in relation to women were defined and strict. All women were expected to be courteous, decent, fragile, polite, refined, modest and respectable, have "good breeding", impeccable manners and perfect social etiquette. Women were limited to very few activities- mainly drawing, singing and dancing. They had to be accomplished in every sense of the word. An accomplished "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 half deserved." Such were the requirements that society asked of every woman if she wanted to hold a place of her own in the marriage rat race. Elizabeth Bennet, the twenty-year-old heroine of the novel 'Pride and Prejudice' and the second oldest of the Bennet sisters, has all these qualities in her. However she is superior to all the other women that are presented to us in the novel. She is 'accomplished' and beautiful but unlike other women, she does not show-off at every opportunity. ...read more.

Middle

Therefore when Darcy proposes to her she is thunderstruck and dismisses him to be "the last man in the world I could be prevailed upon to marry". I think Elizabeth's rejection of Darcy's proposal a very brave thing to do because it would have been considered sacrilege, keeping in mind the importance given to money in the 18th century. She impresses both Darcy and the readers with her wit and liveliness. Darcy, while maintaining that Elizabeth's manners are "not those of the fashionable world", is nevertheless attracted to her spirit and an independence of mind. However by the end of the novel Elizabeth accepts that not all "first impressions" can be taken at face value. We can see the themes of "Appearance versus Reality" and "Self-realization" being brought out. Elizabeth's independence of spirit is show by her decision to walk to Netherfield in order to visit her sister. It is looked upon as a monstrous thing that Elizabeth Bennet should walk three miles on a country road, and Miss Bingley criticizes her exclaiming "to walk three miles, or whatever it is, above her ankles in dirt, and alone, quite alone! It seems to me to show an abominable sort of conceited independence, a most country-town indifference to decorum. She looked almost wild!" This sneering remark of Caroline Bingley shows us the typical 18th century woman mentality. Elizabeth's behaviour is considered to be "unorthodox" and very "unladylike" since she walked, unescorted all the way from Meryton to Netherfield just to see her sick sister. ...read more.

Conclusion

She is by no means perfect but is by far the closest to perfection among all the other women in the novel. Elizabeth is vivacious, teasing, sensitive, perceptive and filled with sparkling beauty and wit. Her dialogues are full of intelligence and precisely crafted often to convey subtle meanings. Elizabeth is Jane Austen's best, most loved and certainly most popular creation. "I must confess I think her as delightful a creature as ever appeared in print", wrote Austen of Elizabeth; few readers have ever disagreed. Elizabeth Bennet contradicts the image of the typical 18th century woman who is born and brought up only with marriage in mind. She has a mind of her own and quite a sharp one at that. She captures and captivates not only Darcy but the readers as well. She has all the qualities in her that were desired in a 'perfect' wife. But besides these she has a certain 'something' in her that no other woman has. She is a woman far beyond her time and would not seem out of place in today's world, two centuries later. I think Jane Austen has really created a marvelous masterpiece, which will always survive the changing demands of literature. Name: Ramya Chandra Shekhar Class: Sr. 4 'D' Title of Assignment: "How does Elizabeth contradict the typical image of an 18th century woman?" Purpose: To show how Elizabeth contradicts the typical image of an 18th Century woman. Sources: Pride & Prejudice, 1st Draft, Classroom discussions, reference books Date of submission: 19th March 2003 Time taken: 6 to 8 weeks ...read more.

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