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What do we learn about Jane Austen's society in these chapters?

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Introduction

Alexa Bone 11D Chapters 1-4: What do we learn about Jane Austen's society in these chapters? Jane Austen was writing at a time when major social changes were taking place. She had lived a privileged life and was able to spend much time observing others and using those observations to draw portraits in words of characters for her novels. She had contact directly and indirectly, with mostly upper and middle class people, and these form the majority of her characters. She wrote about the society within her novels, but what parts of that society can we uncover from the very opening chapters of the book? Within the first sentence of the book, Austen has already deftly established the major theme and tone around which the novel is set. She states: "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife." This sentence introduces the theme of marriage and money, which is central to the novel's plot, as well as the lives of the young unmarried girls of that period. ...read more.

Middle

Mr Bennet is hoping for a successful marriage for Lizzie to Mr Bingly. This shows how in 19th century society daughters should be accomplished in ways that will attract a husband such as sewing and singing rather than by having an education; this would be of no use to them, as women weren't allowed to work. After the earlier refusal by Mr Bennet to go and visit Mr Bingly, the rest of the family were torn apart- especially Mrs Bennet who recognised the importance of marrying off one of her daughters. However, neither Mrs Bennet nor any of her daughters went to visit him either. This displays to us something more about their society. It would not have been socially acceptable for one of the ladies to visit him; it would therefore have been the duty of the man of the house to call upon potential suitors for his daughters. Very soon after this a ball is going to be held at Netherfield. It is at this point where we can identify another fact about Jane Austen's society: "To be fond of dancing was a certain step towards falling in love" We can ...read more.

Conclusion

Lastly we learn about the social classes that existed within social classes: "They were from a respectable family in the North of England; a circumstance more deeply impressed on their memories than that their brother's fortune and their own had been acquired by trade." Here, although both Darcy and Bingly are both very obviously of upper class there is still a level that exists between them. This would have been common of the period Jane Austen was writing in and it teaches us that families who were rich by way of trade were inferior to families whose fortunes had been inherited. Overall the first four chapters do in fact provide a very good insight into what society was like in the time of Jane Austen. There are a lot of valuable insights into what living in that period was like and I am sure that over the course of the novel there will be a great deal more, which will help us to piece together a more complete picture of society in the 18th and 19th century. ...read more.

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