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To What Extent does Austen Present Elizabeth Bennet as a Conventional Romantic Heroine?

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Introduction

To What Extent does Austen Present Elizabeth Bennet as a Conventional Romantic Heroine? To decide whether or not Elizabeth Bennet is a conventional romantic heroine we first need to establish what a heroine actually is. In general, a heroine is portrayed as the chief female character who is the saviour of a situation and is noted for her achievements. The dictionary defines 'heroine' as firstly, 'a woman possessing heroic qualities' and secondly, 'the main female character in a novel, play, film etc'. By these definitions Elizabeth is indeed a heroine, however if we look further, at the more specific traits of a conventional romantic heroine, Elizabeth's characteristics do not match all of them. In some ways, they even go beyond them. The best example of a conventional romantic heroine in 'Pride and Prejudice' is Jane. This is made evident by the way that the more refined characters in the novel, namely Miss Bingley and Mrs Hurst, relate to her. They show kindness towards her, inviting her to dine with them, yet make incredibly rude remarks about Elizabeth, in her absence. 'Miss Bingley began abusing her from the moment she left the room.' ...read more.

Middle

We can also conclude from Elizabeth's conversation with Lady Catherine de Bourgh that she is brave. During Elizabeths visit to Hunsford, she is the only one of the party who is not intimidated by Lady Catherine's domineering personality. Elizabeth is able to speak back to Lady Catherine, which surprises her. This suggests Elizabeth's own sense of personal worth. She does not rely on the good opinion of others for her own inner satisfaction. Furthermore, in a social situation, we see that Elizabeth is an individual, who does not allow herself to be treated as inferior just because her social position is lesser. She possesses an ease in conversing with everyone, which is not the case for the conventional romantic heroine, who is reserved and calm. When Lady Catherine declares her to be beneath Darcy, she replies, 'He is a gentleman; I am a gentleman's daughter: So far we are equal' which shows us that she is of a good social class. She however, is not of the same position as Darcy. Mr Bennet's estate is entailed, and must be handed down through the male line, and, as Mr Bennet has no sons, his daughters rely on marriage to remain socially accepted. ...read more.

Conclusion

In conventional novels, the story ends with the heroine achieving the perfect marriage. Although Darcy and Elizabeth do get married at the end, the path to their marriage is full of every possible obstacle which Austen can present. In the first few chapters, we would in no way expect Darcy to become attracted to Elizabeth and, we have no indication that the author is planning to create a romance between these two apparently opposite people. Thus, this is not a conventional romance, as the two main charcters do not meet and instantly fall in love with one another. In some ways, Austen is ridiculing the traditional literary romance, - taking the conventional romance and reversing it. In eighteenth century traditional novels, the hero is all knowing, competent, and wonderful, and the heroine is always grateful and admiring. In 'Pride and Prejudice,' the hero is not immediately captivating and the heroine challenges him at every opportunity. The conventional relationship in 'Pride and Prejudice' is that of Jane and Bingley. To some extent, Elizabeth is portrayed as a conventional romantic heroine. Her attributes, however, go beyond convention. Austen purposefully places emphasis on Elizabeth's non-conformist attitude to draw her away from the title of a conventional romantic heroine heroine. Although Elizabeth Bennet is a traditional literary she is not a conventional romantic heroine. ...read more.

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