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The Character of Elizabeth in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice: The tension between protest and acceptance, rebellion and conformity.

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Introduction

Chantal Fauconier 36304808 Due Date: 16 March 2005 Modular Code: ENN203-J (Please note that I was granted an extension for this assignment by Dr MJ Williams until the 5th April 2005) Assignment 03: The Character of Elizabeth in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice: The tension between protest and acceptance, rebellion and conformity. Contents Page: Page No: Introduction 2 Main Body of Essay 2 - 5 Conclusion 6 Bibliography 7 Jane Austen, a writer in 19th Century England, wrote about what she knew; namely the societal norms of her era and class. In a time where men were given all the status and privileges, she wrote novels predominantly about women, their position in society, and the roles that they played. Since women were not entitled to property, they would often grow up with the goal of finding a suitable husband (Guidelines 1990:1). It is for this reason that people have criticised Jane Austen's writings - saying that she reinforced the norms of patriarchy by reassuring the reader about the order and stability of society. However her novels contain more than this in that her characters often go against the conventional norms of society. This essay will show how the character of Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice does not just accept everything in society. At various stages in the novel, she moves through the tensions of protest and acceptance, rebellion and conformity. ...read more.

Middle

Elizabeth therefore tries to remain calm, patient and pleasant in her encounters with people. She behaves like society expects a lady to act. Elizabeth also conforms to other notions of society. Her society prefers good humoured, well spoken men (like Mr. Bingley) to men who are not so easy going and who do not try to please everyone, like Mr. Darcy (Teachman 1997: 15). Elizabeth reaches the conclusion (along with everyone else) that Mr. Darcy is arrogant, cold and proud; partly because he refused to dance with or be introduced to any women he does not know. She therefore prejudged him before she knew him and felt that he was not worthy of her attention. Later when Mr. Wickham explains his mistreatment by Mr. Darcy, Elizabeth accepts it purely because Mr. Wickham paid her attention and is more sociable and enjoyable to be around. It is because of her prejudicial attitude that she refuses Mr. Darcy's proposal, protesting that he is not a gentleman and so she would never marry him. She rejected him and was disgusted that he had proposed. She accused him of all the things she had heard about him and was upset that he had prevented Jane and Mr. Bingley from being united in marriage. Furthermore she is hurt that he feels that she is beneath him because of her social class. Elizabeth's protest and prejudicial attitudes she has formed of Mr. Darcy are shown to be somewhat false by his letter. ...read more.

Conclusion

Only once she moved past her protest of Mr. Darcy and started analysing her behaviour and the behaviour of others differently did she grow as a person (Kane in Marshall and Williams 2002: 28). She could now accept that she was wrong because of her prejudices. She accepted the error of her ways and became more open to seeing Mr. Darcy for who he really was and so she could finally find happiness. Elizabeth thus grew in the novel from a young women who was prejudicial towards people and their behaviour based on little evidence (Kane in Marshall and Williams 2002: 24) to a wife who thinks before she speaks and loves people for their virtues and who they are on the inside (Teachman 1997: 21). Judgments in Jane Austen's novels are thus "far from cut and dried" (Jones 1987: 43). Jane Austen showed that you should not just accept the norms of society but need to look at whether these norms are justifiable and whether they will make you happy. She uses Elizabeth to show this by making Elizabeth rebel against the conventional norms of society. This essay has shown how Elizabeth did not always accept everything as it was in society. She challenged particular notions if they did not fit into her idea of what happiness was. Throughout the novel, she rebelled against conventional norms in society. She also moved from an attitude of protest towards Mr. Darcy to an attitude of acceptance. She accepted that she could love him and their marriage signified how pride and prejudices could be overcome. ...read more.

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