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                  A
Gentle opposition

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Pride and Prejudice a ‘romance novel’
based on a backdrop of 18th century England, may not seem like an ideal choice
for a feminist novel but when viewed from the perspective in which it was set,
several observations can be made which makes a strong case for Jane Austen to
be named as one of the first few empowered female authors of her time.

 

The iconic line that begins the novel
“A single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a
wife”(Austen,Chapter 1) sets the tone with a rather shrewd and cynical
definition of the marriage market where men owning large fortunes are prey for
mothers with single daughters. The whole business of marriage is considered a
hunt and chase and by putting the protagonist’s mother as someone showing
similar traits to the theme, the author tries to give an inside glimpse to the
reader by showing conversations amongst family members which uphold the
different viewpoints of the family. Mrs. Bennet herself is shown to be a
cunning strategist in her endeavors to marry her daughters. She tries to send
Mr. Bennet off to pay his respects to their new neighbors so that the gentlemen
may return the favor and in the process meet her pretty marriageable daughters.
When Jane is invited over to the Bingley estate, her mother

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sends her off without a carriage so as to
extend her visit further and give Mr Bingley enough time to fall in love with
her.

                                                                                                                             

 

Although her obnoxious
behavior is shown as a comedic satire of a Victorian-era mother, Mrs. Bennet
personifies the perception of the time. Women, in general, were treated as
commodities and in the broader aspect what Mrs. Bennet wants is to secure her
daughter’s future in an uncertain world, which is no different from what Miss
Bingley wants for herself or Lady de Bourgh wants for her daughter, further
into the novel. This highlights another facet to the position of women in
society since what we understand from it is, it does not matter if you are a
member of the gentry or belong to a lower class, women were born to serve a purpose
which was to marry and procreate.

 

 

Other characters within
the novel from example Jane, the eldest daughter is described as someone who is
docile in manners and nature and although her beliefs are progressive, her shy
attitude stifles her true emotions and makes it take a backseat, making her the
ideal woman of her time. Whereas Elizabeth the second daughter in the Austen
lineup is where things get interesting. Lizzie as her family calls her has an

 

                                                   
                                                              

                                                                                                                    
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opinion. Her tendency to speak her mind may
have been called spirit at the time, but if talked in 21st-century terms it is
called an opinion. Her views are what intelligent women (like Jane) at the
time, may have thought but didn’t have the courage to say out loud. Her
constant opposition of Mr. Darcy, a character who has a strong social standing
in society with dialogues such as  “There
is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of
others. My courage always rises at every attempt to intimidate me.” (Austen,Chapter
31) unveils the strong character in her. Although she understands the
consequence of going against someone with Mr. Darcy’s influence, she is not
afraid to say what she feels. Austen explores the concept of freedom of speech
with her character in a setting where females were not allowed to own land and
viewed as the property of her husband after marriage. In a bid to give her
generation a voice, Austen makes Elizabeth her mouthpiece. Whereas lesser
characters are shown to give in to societal pressure, for example, Charlotte
Lucas when she settles with Mr. Collins, Elizabeth remains constant in her
beliefs and is not ready to compromise even to secure her sister’s future. This
decision is accompanied by taunts from her mother and results in Elizabeth
being called selfish, but in literary terms this a severe diversion from the
self-sacrificing image of popular heroines, that was created by authors of the
era. To further humanize her heroine Austen gives Elizabeth the trait of
overconfidence which

 

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 translates to the central theme of prejudice.
When she falls for the charming manners and exterior polish of Mr.Wickham and
misjudges Mr Darcy’s from a first impression

gone wrong, Elizabeth has to realize her
mistake gradually as the story progresses and understand that in spite of her
wit, she can be wrong too.

 

 Another pro-feminist supporter within the
novel is not the highly influential Lady de bourgh or the rich Bingley sisters,
rather it is the Bennet sisters own father, whose liberal upbringing of his
daughters may seem nothing out of ordinary but at the time

would have appeared shocking to his peers,
Rather than lament over the fact that he has 5 daughters he takes pride in his
eldest Jane and Elizabeth and respects their thought. When faced with Mr. Darcy
asking for Elizabeth’s hand in marriage, he asks his daughter about her opinion
on the matter even though the match is most advantageous for the Bennets

 

 

Throughout the novel
Jane Austen tries to state her own perspective through the actions of her
character. Be it Elizabeth with her radical views or Charlotte with her quiet
acceptance, her characters give a clear understanding of the societal structure
and women in general. Through a deeper analysis we can see that not much has
changed for women, though we are independent on paper but are we truly?. Thus Austen’s

 

                                                                                                                              
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gentle opposition still finds relevance even in
the 21st century making Pride and Prejudice one of the most famous
novels of all time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                     
   Work Cited

 

Austen,
Jane. Pride and prejudice. Thomas Egerton, 1813. The Republic of Pemberley.

http://pemberley.com/janeinfo/ppv1n01.html

Accessed date 3rd
December 2017.

 

Austen, Jane. Pride and prejudice. Thomas Egerton, 1813. Authorama.

http://www.authorama.com/pride-and-prejudice-31.html

Accessed date 6th
December 2017.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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