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How does Jane Austen show Elizabeth to be a woman of independent mind?

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Introduction

Faraz Razi-11 1S 24th October 2003 English Coursework (Pride and Prejudice): How does Jane Austen show Elizabeth to be a woman of independent mind? In Jane Austen's novel 'Pride and Prejudice', Elizabeth Bennet is shown to be an opinionated, "headstrong" young woman. Her unconventional independence challenges the 19th century stereotype of high society women, who tended to conform to the expectations of society. Though her prejudiced judgement of others fails her sometimes, Elizabeth has "a lively, playful disposition, that" delights "in anything ridiculous". Although different in character to most women of her society, Elizabeth still manages to express much propriety in the presence of company. During the dance she shares with Fitzwilliam Darcy, her temper is put to the test. His earlier declaration that Elizabeth was "not handsome enough to tempt" him manages to offend her, though she is "not formed for ill humour", therefore laughs it off as if she were telling a tale. Elizabeth displays the same decorum in the presence of the Bingley sister's. Though she dislikes them, she does not show this in their presence. During her visit to Rosings, Elizabeth meets with Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Upon being asked, "what is your age" by Lady Catherine, Elizabeth replies politely that with "three younger sisters grown up" she is hardly entitled "to own" it. Elizabeth's indirect answer is evidence of her taking offence, but also of her ability to conceal it with much propriety. ...read more.

Middle

This does not, however, penetrate Mr. Collins' thought. He feels that, like all women in society, it is "custom" for Elizabeth "to reject" him "on the first application". However, the tedious game fails to interest Elizabeth, therefore detaching her from other women in society. Eventually, Mr. Collins withdraws his proposal, much to the dismay of Mrs Bennet. She talks to "Elizabeth again and again", though to no avail, Elizabeth's "determination" not to marry Mr. Collins "never" wavers. For it to do so would mean for Elizabeth to compromise her principles, something she will not consider. Elizabeth's rejection of Mr. Collins' proposal identifies her independent mind, her strong morality, and the fact that her thought cannot be influenced, even by the likes of her pleading mother. Such is the nature of Elizabeth that she does not regard marriage as other women of her society do. She does not want to be married to "a single man in possession of a good fortune", but rather to a man whom she loves. She believes marriage to be a unification of love and friendship, and therefore differentiates herself from other women, such as her good friend Charlotte Lucas. Unlike Elizabeth, Charlotte marries the first man to propose to her. She does not love Mr. Collins, but rather sees him as a convenience preventing her from becoming "an old maid". ...read more.

Conclusion

Her independence is shown when she dismisses Darcy's comment, while others would have reacted. A similar situation occurs at Netherfield, where Elizabeth discovers her true self. She judges Darcy's default to be a "propensity to hate everybody", and he replies with a smile knowing hers to be to "wilfully...misunderstand them". Elizabeth's new grounded sense of self doesn't allow her to feel intimidated by Darcy, as most would do, but rather enables her to readily converse with him. As the storyline develops, Elizabeth's views about Wickham and Darcy transform. Earlier on she enjoys Wickham's company, and muses over what he is like. At the same time she considers Darcy to be "the proudest, most disagreeable man in the world". However, her encounter with Darcy at Hunsford changes her perception of both men instantaneously. She feels "absolutely ashamed" of her behaviour towards Darcy, and concludes that she has been "blind, partial, prejudiced, absurd" for not realizing Darcy to be the "one with all the goodness", and Wickham "the other with all the appearance of it". After reflecting over her prejudice, Elizabeth shows herself to be more humble than proud by accepting she must personally apologise to Darcy. To conclude, Elizabeth is the independent minded heroine of Pride and Prejudice. Her morals and good sense distinguish her from other women in society. Able to redefine and challenge gentility, Elizabeth is Austen's image of a female protagonist who challenges the conventionality of her day, and stills inspires the admiration of all readers. ...read more.

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