Pride and Prejudice is a light-hearted novel, which picks out particular faults in nineteenth century. It is a unique and inimitable novel at the time when it was first published in 1813. This novel is set firmly in the nineteenth century period. The novel revolves around the choices people make when deciding who to marry and the socially difficult procedure they go through while attempting to find the right man or woman and the difficulties some people have to overcome before they can marry.
The novel was written when society stressed social control over personal pleasure. “Society” at this time was very judgemental; men had to have money, social status and be agreeable; women needed some money, social status, beauty, accomplishments and education. To succeed one had to learn and live by the required status. At the time this novel is set various Endeavours are needed to fulfil a wealthy families daughter.
Theses accomplishments may not be very arduous and challenging to do but they were important for the wealthy girls, as the ‘society’ would not allow them to take up and achieve a profession. Examples of these activities were singing, reading, sewing, riding and knowing how to play music were important for wealthy girls. This novel is based on middle to upper class society where snobbery is common and widespread. This book was unique at the time because it had only just become acceptable and suitable for women to write and publish novels.
Mr. and Mrs. Bennet are a prime example of how superficial marriages were in the early 19th century. Mrs. Bennet’s “youth and beauty” had captivated Mr. Bennet. However, he soon discovered shortly after marrying her, that beneath her good looks there was a woman with very little intelligence or charm. Mr. Bennet was an intellectual man and any affection he had for his wife disappeared when he came to know her personality. “Respect, esteem and confidence had vanished forever and all his views of domestic happiness where overthrown.”
This is a terrible agitation of the shallowness of marriage in the 19th century. His loss of respect leads to his ill treatment of her. This unhappy marriage makes Elizabeth indomitable and determined to marry a man whom she loves and respects.
The key theme in Pride and Prejudice is assembling a good marriage. Many married just to gain status or financial security. Entailment is the restriction of property by limiting the inheritance to the owner’s lineal descendants or to a particular class. It was used to prevent a landed property from being broken up, and from descending in a female line. The law was simply an extension of the practice of leaving the bulk, if not all, of one’s wealth to one’s inheritor, the eldest son. Children had to marry to suit the needs of their parents or themselves. Falling in Love would have been very rare at the time because it is important that you know the background of the person before you could carry on.
As years have gone by the understanding of fellow humans has become more prevailing and contemporary; in the present time single men or women do not see how wealthy a man/woman is or even what class he or she is. As the roles of women have changed so have the roles of marriage, you do not have to see the background of whom you are going to marry financially and socially. You can fall in love with any stranger not knowing their personal status and wealth. It is not a big issue in the present time period.
In this novel the author Jane Austen has employed many characters that have some link in some way to show that marriages should not be just for money and security but they should sometimes be for love. She is supporting the fact that marriages are made in heaven.
Jane Austen understood that there were three different social classes at her time. To be in a certain class or society it had to be determined by the items you own how educated you are, for example, the amount of money you earned every year, you will also need to have a good family background. The richest man in Netherfield was the respected Darcy.
He earns ï¿½10 000 each year and he was with his aunt ‘Lady Catherine de bourgh’ who was an aristocrat. The even better part is that he has an extremely huge fortune that is past down to him by inheritance. Therefore he is a very rich and noble man who is a star attraction to all the ladies. There are many female characters in this novel. One of the female characters is Lady Catherine who is of high standard and she is classed in the group ‘high class’. She certainly has nobility and graciousness.
Following the upper class comes the little less respected ‘middle class’. In this type of class families such as the Bennets and the Lucas family would fit in. People would respect this class but only to a low standard as they had just the right money to afford everyday treats such as food and drink. In whole they had enough money to live with a good social life. They were frequently invited to dinners and balls. This was called the courteous or refined class in other words it would mean the genteel group of people. The class that is the lowest one generally just consisted of servants and shopkeepers. No respect was given to this society of people, even though they were the ones who did all the hard work such as cleaning for the aristocrats and middle classes.
Lady Catherine as “a young woman of inferior birth describes Elizabeth Bennet, our heroine,” whom she thinks is “of no importance in this world.” Austen, however, would seem to disapprove of this attitude.
If a woman remained unmarried she became a burden to her family, and society assumed she was unmarriageable therefore there must be something wrong with her. Therefore finding a man was one of women’s main priorities. It was thought that getting married was the only answer for security and money. The reason for marriage was not always for the reasons of love. As stated before it was only done for money. The Money was to support the women and also their families. This was an acknowledgement of middle class greed.
In the novel Pride and Prejudice quite a few marriages and proposals occur. Two proposals that we learn about are from Mr. Collins and Mr. Darcy. Mr. Collins and Mr. Darcy both choose to propose to Elizabeth and we find out that she rejects them both.
When both men propose to Elizabeth, she turns them down for an obvious reason – ‘love’. Elizabeth did not feel that she was in love with either of them in fact the thought of marrying Mr. Collins, just made Elizabeth laugh. ‘The idea of Mr. Collins, with all his solemn composure, being run away with by his feelings, made Elizabeth so near laughing….’. This shows how strong willed and determined Elizabeth was and how un-stereotypical she was as she was prepared to reject two decent proposals which both would have been good matches for her.
Elizabeth had always disliked Darcy since they first met as Elizabeth had heard Darcy say: ‘She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me…’; it must have offended her as Darcy was talking about her. Elizabeth also thought Darcy was ‘clever but continually giving offence’. Therefore she would not decide to marry Darcy, as she just did not like him. This tells us that there is an exception to the fact of Pride and prejudice about women only marrying for money and not love and personality. Elizabeth is not a stereotypical woman of that generation. Even though she is living in the nineteenth century, she has a diverse opinion to marriage that only a few philanthropic people understand.
This time period was very backward because marriage was subjugated by ‘society’. As the prosperity and fortune grew in family’s this became very competitive between families and others in society. The role of women was very dreary and tedious, it basically revolved around trying to socialise and basic accomplishments for e.g. sewing, shopping etc. This made life very miserable and hard to live. Men were very important to a woman because they would have tried to fulfil the joy and happiness in a woman. They would try to create a whole new circumstance and plot to her life. From a woman’s perspective, she would have no choice that she was to marry for it would be up to her parent’s to decide. And if the parents had to go man hunting for their daughter, they would only want to find two qualities in a man’ which is wealth and status. Most single woman were not happy because this was a drawback and weakness.
In the end of the day the women had to be in a loss any way, mainly because if any thing went wrong they would not be able to inherit any money. It was not very easy to know where a woman did stand; this had to be determined on her husband. In the novel Mr Bennet announces the arrival of Mr Collins who is set to inherit Mr Bennet’s estate straight after he dies. Having five daughters and no son, Mrs Bennet suspects the worst and is worried that Mr Bennet will die and the Bennets will be left homeless. So she is trying to marry all of her daughters off so none of them will have to live in poverty after Mr and Mrs Bennet died. If Mrs Bennet gets her daughters married off she will be safe. The richest husband of her daughters would give Mrs Bennet a house to live in and some money to pay for her expenses.
A woman would have very little education compared to a man. Men were seen as much more important and their education was seen as being superior to that of a woman’s. Women were also not allowed to go out on their own unaccompanied.
Middle class women such as the Bennet sisters were into sewing, cooking, dancing, buying dresses and gossiping.
Elizabeth is the main character of the novel, and the story traces her changing impressions of other characters throughout the narrative. While at first she finds Wickham charming and Darcy proud, in the end she realizes that she has been blind, and that Darcy is the true gentleman while Wickham is not. Elizabeth reveals a maturity and wisdom beyond that of her parents. She censures her father for not acting responsibly for his children. Her character Is very unique and different for the time. She thinks very ahead and is not backward like the rest of the society. She believes that love is stronger than wealth and status.
Marriage is a contract; Austen believes that a good marriage is a contract of love; a developed understanding of one another’s characters; good disposition; similarity in feeling and taste; affection and attraction; and finally, financial security – enough money to live comfortably. She also believes that bad or unsuccessful marriages are based on irresponsible attitudes, ignorance and lack of reason and judgement; the couple must have self-understanding as well as that of their partner. They must also possess self-respect and have respect for their partner. Austen condemns the marriages that are based on rank and wealth or just physical attraction. Throughout the novel we see characters taking part in many different courtship and marriage situations. We are shown Austen’s varying view of these marriages and her attitude is revealed in her style.