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How does Jane Austen reflect the social and historical context of her time in Pride and Prejudice

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How does Jane Austen reflect the social and historical context of her time in 'Pride and Prejudice'? Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice very much reflects the 18th century in which she lived. She reflects the social and cultural context of this period of time through the characters and their actions, which realistically illustrates how social mobility was limited and class-consciousness was strong. She has also used particular characters to refute certain ideas of her time such as the importance of class divisions. Austen also uses marriage to reflect the trouble of finding financial security that many people of her time faced. This theme is linked to inheritance and second sons which Austen has also reflected in her novel. Finally, Austen reflects the actions and manners of women in regency England. Jane Austen reflects the strictly regimented nature of life for the middle and upper classes of late 18th and early 19th century England. There was an unwritten code of behaviour and morals to which these classes lived by. Although it was acceptable for middle class citizens, such as the Bennets, to socialise with the Bingleys and Darcys, who are upper class, the Bennets are social inferiors to them and are treated as such. Through the Darcy and Elizabeth's and Bingley and Jane's marriages, Austen shows the power of love and happiness to overcome class boundaries and prejudices, thereby implying that such prejudices are hollow, unfeeling, and unproductive. Austen satirises this type of class-consciousness, particularly in the character of Mr Collins, who always appears to be putting on a fa´┐Żade when around others, to make him seem classier than he really is. ...read more.


Mrs Bennet's extreme anxiety is once again shown when she threats Elisabeth, "If you go on refusing every offer of marriage, you will never get a husband... and I am sure I do not know who is to maintain you when your father is dead". This predicament was not an unusual occurrence within families that consisted of daughters only in Austen's time. Whilst it was the eldest sons who inherited the family estate, the younger sons, and men in quest of building fortunes, could earn considerable salaries in trade, like Bingley and Sir William Lucas in Pride and prejudice. Men could earn a living in law, as does Mr Phillips who is an attorney of Meryton. Alternatively, men like Colonel Fitzwilliam, who was the younger son of the Earl of Matlock, could pursue a life in the military, as does Colonel Forster, the Commander of a militia. Even the church offered a living to second sons, such as Mr Collins. A living was a position in the clergy, worth varying amounts of money, which an aristocratic patron usually gave according to his or (in Lady Catherine de Bourgh's case) her wishes. Men could not be considered "gentlemen", or men of the highest class, until they purchased a large estate and were able to give up working to pursue lives of leisure. However, they were able to leap societal boundaries by earning large fortunes. Pride and Prejudice depicts a society in which a woman's reputation is of upmost importance. As mentioned before, finding a wealthy husband became of primary importance for women pursuing financial security, and in order to attract these men, women were expected to be "accomplished". ...read more.


Furthermore, Austen reflects the unjustness of inheritance in her time. She seems to refute the idea that only men were able to inherit the family estate, and emphasises this idea by using the comical character of Collins as closest related male of the Bennets. It seems unfair that he should inherit the Bennet's estate and this explains Mrs Bennet's deep desire to marry her daughters off well. A situation like this was not uncommon in English society in Regency England. Finally, Jane Austen reflects how women of her time were expected to behave. She also demonstrates the certain skills women were expected to have in order to become "accomplished". It can be seen that being "accomplished" was important for women to succeed in life, as it was the only way of attracting a husband. Yet Austen appears to put across her view that the actions and manners of women in her time were becoming a thing of the past. She uses Lady Catherine to show the decline in values of the previous century, and the dramatic changes brought into the lives of people. Although Jane Austen clearly reflects the social context of her time in her novel, she does not seem to mention anything in the historical context. England was going through many changes at this moment in time, such as the Napoleonic War and the French Revolution, yet there is no evidence of this happening in the novel. This could be due to the fact that people of the higher classes were scarcely affected by the changes in politics and the new religious urgency. In conclusion, Jane Austen effectively reflects the social context of her time in Pride and Prejudice, through the characters and there actions, yet does not seem to mirror the historical context. ?? ?? ?? ?? Pride & Prejudice ...read more.

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