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Published in 1813, how does Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice fit in with traditional presentations of women in literature of this period?

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Introduction

Published in 1813, how does Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice fit in with traditional presentations of women in literature of this period? In the novel, 'Pride and Prejudice' Jane Austen challenges traditional presentations of women in nineteenth century literature through various female and male characters. In Jane Austen's time, there was no opportunity for young women of the "genteel" classes to achieve independence. No professions were open to women; unmarried women had to live with their families, or with family-approved protectors if a suitable marriage was not arranged. It was almost unheard of for a genteel, young, single female to live by herself, even if she happened to be an heiress. Female survival was therefore dependent on marriage and marriage was dependent on many other factors. To be desirable to men women had to be beautiful, youthful, and physically weak, of limited intellect and preferably from wealthy families. Austen explores these issues by featuring both submissive, conventional female characters and non-conformist female characters that challenge nineteenth century traditional gender roles. Mrs Bennet is a conventional, irritating woman whose main goal in life is to get her five daughters married. This reflects the social and financial pressure she is under as a mother. Her husband's estate is left to his nephew, Mr Collins, upon Mr Bennet's death, therefore, Mrs Bennet wanted her daughters to have financial stability elsewhere in case of their father's death. ...read more.

Middle

You are a great deal too apt, you know, to like people in general." This again proves Jane Austen is mocking the idea that traditional women are perfect and can only see goodness. Jane has longed for Mr Bingley for quite a while. Bingley is handsome, rich, kind, and well liked. He and Jane share many conversations and have complimentary personalities. They are pleasantly matched and will share a happy life together. Jane is very na�ve in her view of love; she has decided she will only marry out of love not just for wealth, this could imply that Jane does not follow the traditional view of women, yet Jane only finds love due to her mother's traditional view of marriage, which means the Bennet daughters attend a ball hosted by Bingley, this is a courting ritual, where both Jane and Bingley fall in love. Caroline Bingley (another traditional women who is a sister of Mr Bingley) constantly judges Elizabeth on account of her appearance when she arrives at Netherfield, this is because supposedly during the 1800's women were chosen for marriage because of their looks. Austen is showing how nineteenth century society makes women competitive and turn against each other. Whenever Elizabeth is not around, Miss Bingley will criticise her manners, habits, and looks, "Why must she be scampering about the country because her sister had a cold? Her hair so untidy, so blowsy." ...read more.

Conclusion

Once again her heart and strength of character prevail in her decision-making process. Even under great pressure from her mother, who threatens to never speak to her again, Elizabeth waits for someone to come along and steal her heart, so does not match the view of a usual women in 1813. Throughout her novel 'Pride and Prejudice' Jane Austen challenges the conventional view of women in the nineteenth century. Most of the more ridiculous characters believe in the traditional views of women and Jane Austen presents a rather cool and objective view of the limited options open to women seen through the character Charlotte Lucas. Also Jane Bennet is seen to get hurt by the man she loves, which implies that the traditional way is not the accurate way of ensuring happiness as it causes sadness. The heroine of the novel, Elizabeth Bennet, is not like her sister (Jane) who is established, as she insists on being treated as a "rational creature", rather than an "elegant female." Austen uses the Bennet family of Longbourn to illustrate the good and bad reasons behind marriage and to prove that traditional women of the period are not always happy or accurate in their beliefs. Clearly, Austen believes women are at least as intelligent and capable as men, and considers their inferior status in society to be unjust. She also makes it clear that she is criticising a society that moulds women to think and behave in this manner, and shows the effects of sacrificing personal happiness to abide by the conventional and traditional view of marriage. Katarina Stead English Essay 11B ...read more.

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