In Pride and Prejudice, marriage was the talk of the town and Mr. Darcy’s presences didn’t make it easier either. Austen wrote, “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife”, (Austen &Brock, 2013, Ch.1). The introduction of the novel to give readers an over view of the subject matter of the book. This quote showed the significance of marriage during this era. Women were expected to leave their father’s house and marry someone with financial gain order to be taken care of financially by her husband who is from an upper-class wealthy family.
Women were expected to get married by courting at a very early age in preparation for marriage to shift their financial responsibility from their father to their husbands. They were not allowed to inherit land or any wealth from their father, so it is only understandable why the subject “marriage” was very vital to them. A man without a son will be forced to give his inheritance to a male member in their family. Women are not married ended up being supported by their family and live their life as a spinster usually branded by society.
In Pride and Prejudice, those who don’t conform to societal norms face a future of not finding their place in life or ever finding happiness. This alone can create an anxiety for women who are unmarried but wish not to be a statistic, so it becomes the survival of the fittest. Elizabeth Bennet refused to adhere to what society set as standards for women which differentiate her from the rest of the women in the novel. Although, she clearly knew that women’s role in society was to marry in hopes to improve their life of wealth and her family, but she was very persistent with what she wants and headstrong who often spoke her mind which is not pleasant to many people she came across.
During the Georgian period, women were a none factor because they could own nothing, they were mere object that were supposed to be seen not heard. They were an attractive companion without opinions or objectives about the world in which they live in. In the late eighteenth century, women and girls were regarded as “limited in reason and not to be overtaxed with serious, intellectual education”, (Siddika, 2013) which portrays the level to which women were value back then. With these types of statements, Elizabeth decided to follow her instinct rather than consume the dream sold to women to keep them oppress to men.
Elizabeth’s logic reasoning prevented her from being absorbed in the fairy tales most girls dreamed about, the happily ever after when one has found a man, a rich man at that. Elizabeth wanted to be in relationship with someone who can stimulate her intellectual side and as well love her unconditionally. According to Siddika who wrote, Elizabeth was a “norm of perfect womanhood having intelligence, management-power, virginity, morality and dignity who brings happiness at last as perfect daughter, wife and lover”. Although, people may see Elizabeth Bennet as being defiant, but she knew that she wanted to be happy and believed the only way to do so was to find love rather to find a financial sponsor.
Elizabeth Bennet wanted to show other women, especially her sisters to break free from the generational curse that has be handed down and viewed as normal. Elizabeth understood the culture, but she was an optimist that believed things had to change in the way society and women thought of women. She didn’t allow anyone to put her down or made her feel inferior and tried to emulate that to her sisters, but it can be inevitable when some people have already conformed to societal norms. In the novel, Miss Bingley stated that, ” A woman must have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing, and the modern languages, to deserve the word; and besides all this, she must possess a certain something in her air and manner of walking, the tone of her voice, her address and expressions, or the word will be but half-deserved,” (Austen ;Brock, 2013, Ch.8). These types of statement are why Elizabeth refused to conform.
Elizabeth Bennet didn’t want to see her marriage as a monetary transaction which she expresses as being repulsive and didn’t quite agree with her mother’s view on the subject matter. She made her views known to her mother which is the reason her mother focused more on her other daughters than her. She made it known that she’s rather be poor than to sell her soul to the devil. Her mission to change societal influence on marriage can be seen when she rejected Darcy’s proposal the first time stating, “You are mistaken, Mr. Darcy, if you suppose that the mode of your affected me in any other way, than as it spared me the concern which I might felt in refusing you, had you behave in a more in a gentleman-like manner, (Austen &Brock, 2013, Ch.8) and it also shows Elizabeth was beyond her time.
Elizabeth felt as if she was equal to men and should be treated the same way as she replied to Lady Catherine de Bourgh, “In marrying your nephew, I should not consider myself as quitting that sphere. He is a gentleman; I am a gentleman’s daughter; so far we are equal”, (Austen &Brock, 2013, Ch.56). Her conversation not only showed that she refused to be in inferior to men but also to let women know that their mentality must change to influence their perceptions of others that may not be in the same socioeconomic as them. Elizabeth never backed down even when Lady Catherine de Bourgh requested her to not to accept Mr. Darcy’s proposal because of her lineage. This the same battle that Elizabeth had to fight in womanhood because of societal norms.
Women were critical of each other in those days, especially the ones that have married into money and are a part of the higher society. These women were very critical of each other not realizing they were once in their positions. They are quick to judge on the decorum and social status as Mrs. Bingley spoke of Elizabeth after her visit, “She has nothing, in short, to recommend her, but being an excellent walker. I shall never forget her appearance this morning. She really looked almost wild”, (Austen &Brock, 2013, Ch.8). Elizabeth believed it was unintelligent to compare herself to other women or let alone, comparing women to each other and quite frankly didn’t care what was thought of her by others as it was shown in the first chapter when Mr. Darcy prejudged her at the ball.
Elizabeth Bennet was very candid when she encounters people who were trying to intimidate her because of her family background which many of the rich encounters expresses distaste because of their ranking in society. Lady Catherine de Bourgh represent someone Elizabeth does not want to emulate and saw right through her which was the reason she was defiant towards her. Lady Catherine belonged to the old school upper class which the culture and societal norms have been engrained in their brain that preaching a change would be a lost cause. Elizabeth did show Lady Catherine that she can’t be intimidated and backdown from a fight easily.
Due to Elizabeth Bennet stern ways and refusal to conform to societal norm, her perception of Mr. Darcy made him want to change his attitude. Elizabeth’s persuasion is unheard of especially for women back in that era. She seemed to have an impact on people especially the rich which is the reason Mr. Darcy changed when she pointed out his snobbish attitude. Austen’s novel seemed to show the cultural and societal norms, but it also showed the oppressive side that men implemented on women.
The Georgian Era was a crucial moment for Britain due to the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars which was from 1793-1815, (Columbia College), this strengthen their desire to hold on tight to their lands. By making stricter land ownership prevents the land from leaving the family lineage which can bring financial stability to the family. If the lands are not sold, the family have power and money but if women inherit lands, in the Bennet’s case, having only girls meant the land would have went outside of the family because Jane marrying into another family. Even though the law of inheritance seemed outrageous, but it was put in place to protect their assets.
The advantages also for marring wealth as a woman also brings higher societal status and also brings wealth to the family, (Columbia College), having daughters was a way to link up with other rich families and combine wealth to a greater degree. In order to accomplish these things mentioned, girls were being molded and cultured to the standards in which obtaining a partner in wealth can be easy. Elizabeth seeing that women were pawns of the family made her resist more which showed when she tried to convince her sister Jane that Ms. Bingley does not want her to marry her brother, “Indeed, Jane, you ought to believe me. No one who has ever seen you together can doubt his affection. Miss Bingley, I am sure, cannot…” (Austen &Brock, 2013, Ch.21). It was also an effort for Elizabeth to show her sister that she doesn’t have to belittled by rich people’s antics of superiority.
Austen portray of women in her novel may seem as vain and opportunist but it’s not the fault of the women in the Pride and Prejudice, but the men of the Georgian Era impose that on them. They monopolize the women as a tool to gain prosperity and higher social status. The women in this era who are conditioned see are indifferent about it because of the lifestyle which they live in. Elizabeth, throughout the novel argued about these traditions and propose the question of marrying for love. She also felt she should be viewed as equal to men and had to go through different battles with men who considered her unmarriageable and women who viewed her as uncultured, undesirable and untrainable.
Elizabeth was a woman beyond her years, as young as she was, she was a feminist that wanted to break free from the chain that have tied women down for centuries. Elizabeth rejected any societal implications on how women ought to behave and refused to be made inferior to anyone. Thorough out to challenged anyone who questioned her worthiness to be married to Mr. Darcy even Darcy himself. She wanted to implant the idea of a man and a woman coming together to marry for love rather than financial benefit. She often thought a woman sacrificing her happiness for money lead to a lifetime of sadness in her marriage.
Elizabeth couldn’t understand why women settle for less and will not bow down to no one no matter their social status, “I am only resolved to act in that manner, which will, in my own opinion, constitute my happiness, without reference to you, or to any person so wholly unconnected with me”, (Austen &Brock, 2013, Ch.56). Elizabeth was scrutinized by everyone in the novel but didn’t care as her integrity was not compromised.