Pride and Prejudice An Analysis
Prideand Prejudice: An Analysis
Whenromance and happy endings are used as media for delivering a messageof social and intellectual importance, the combination becomes aformula for a literary classic. This captivating combination ispresent in Jane Austen’s classic and well-loved novel entitledPride and Prejudice. The subtlety of the message regarding liberalviews in social classes and education in the story becomes morememorable, more meaningful and more timeless as higher virtues areintroduced by the author.
of the Novel and an Overview on the Important Characters
Thenovel “Pride and Prejudice” mainly centers on the themes ofpersonal development, appearances and behavior. The story focuses ontwo characters namely, Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy. Elizabeth Bennet, thesecond eldest in the family has four sisters: Jane, Mary, Kitty andLydia. Mr. Darcy came into the story through his close associationwith his friend, Mr. Bingley. Mr. Bingley eventually fell in lovewith Jane, the eldest among the sisters. As such, his life becameentrenched with the Bennets. Mr. Collins, on the other hand, is acousin of the Bennet sisters. He was portrayed as a conceited,self-centered man who drew his pride in his association with LadyCatherine De Borough, an upper-class member of the society. Mr.Collins proposed to Elizabeth solely because of convenience as he isthe intended heir of Mr. Bennet’s estate. Elizabeth rejected theproposal. The rejected proposal in due course proved to be a goodchoice for Elizabeth as she eventually found happiness and love inthe person of Mr. Darcy. Their love story did not came in smoothlybut required self-reinvention on both their sides to be able to makethe relationship work.
Atthe novel was written, controversy on female education is prevalent.At the early periods of the eighteenth century, only a few number ofbourgeois young women were able to obtain formal education (Jones98). Because of arguments maintaining that women have inferiorintellectual capacity compared to men, it was believed that women arenot suitable for formal education. Instead, a woman was expected tohave an ideal disposition by being capable of governing familyaffairs and being totally submissive to her husband (Fenelon 102).
Insteadof acquiring academic degrees, the primary goal of women during theeighteenth century was finding a husband who is capable of providinga home for her. This resulted to a competition among women to attractsingle men. To do well in the competition and to achieve the goal, itbecame necessary for young women to undergo education (Jones 99).However, considering the motivation for acquiring education, subjectswere restricted and limited only to the development of female talentsthat appear to be attractive to men, such as those that will improvesocial usefulness in the home (Brophy 91). During the period, femaleeducation was limited only to courses that would develop socialskills and self-discipline (Kelly 252).
Thecontrast between educational values were illustrated in the story. Inthe novel, when Elizabeth dined with Lady Catherine de Bourgh whileat Rosings, Elizabeth was asked if she could play an instrument orsing. In response, Elizabeth said she only knows a little of those.This appalled Lady Catherine as she came to a conclusion thatElizabeth was not educated enough in the way expected of her. Evenwith the sharp treatment she received from Lady Catherine, Elizabethremained temperate and contained. She then related to Lady Catherinethat she and her sisters were fond of reading books as they wereeducated in liberal arts (109-110). This particular scene shows acontrast between educational priorities and vales among the twocharacters. Elizabeth was able to show virtue, which seems to be ahigher result of education despite a particularly humiliating anddegrading ordeal. Catherine, on the other hand, while displaying aninterest in education by asking Elizabeth’s orientation, was onlyable to show appreciation towards the ornamental aspect of education.As the novel was written during a time when debates on women’seducation are prevalent, the character of Elizabeth effectivelyconveyed the message that education should not only be directed tosuperficial purposes, that is, in impressing other people. Instead,education should be one that transforms people in general andinstills superior virtues such as temperance and liberality.
Womenbefore were never expected attain accomplishments and excel inintellectual domains but instead, they were only expected to gainenough education in order to be respectable and away from the vanityof pursuing further knowledge (Fenelon 104). Books on courtesyreflected two kinds of manners: deep and superficial. The superficialtype is only concerned with mere adherence to courtesy requirements,even without natural skill or interest. In contrast, deep courtesy isshown to be the better way of exhibiting such as natural talent andfeelings are incorporated in the acts (Fritzer 10). Elizabethexemplified deep courtesy in the story through her modest pleasingperformance when asked to sing and play the piano at Longbourne,during a social gathering. The attribute was highlighted through acontrast with her younger sister, Mary who was shown to be a womanwho tried all her best to obtain accomplishments solely because it isdesirable for a woman. This orientation became evident as theperformance she rendered showed absence of personal engagement andnatural talent which then exhibited her conceit and lack of virtue(17).
Eventhough during the era when the novel was written and during thesetting of the story, women’s education had been becoming common,an intellectual woman was stereotyped as unattractive (Jones 99). Inthe said period, a woman who was intellectually superior because ofhigh educational level, was argued to be typically “ignorant of theduties and virtues of domestic life” and “without any delicacy ofmind and manners which are the surest guard of female virtue”(Reeve 117). Therefore, too much education was regarded to have theeffect of distracting a woman’s attention from the duties that areregarded to be most important as a consequence of her gender such asthose relating to a virtuous wife, mother and mistress. Forwell-educated women, it was therefore imperative that they expect apossibly solitary life. For those who came from affluent families,however, these women can hope that they would be able to rely ontheir families in the future (Wollstonecraft 110). The other extremewas likewise looked down for an uneducated and an unaccomplishedwoman was also regarded as undesirable for marriage. Therefore, theconcept of an educated, fine young woman was one who has self-controland a modest character, which every young woman sought to become. Inline with this common notion, Elizabeth and her sisters who were fineyoung women, were expectedly described to be educated “in one ofthe first private seminars in town” (11). Despite this notion,Elizabeth maintains that mere education is not the measure of a finegentlewoman. For her, vanity and pride are characteristics thatshould not accompany an educated woman.
Duringa discussion with Lady Catherine while having dinner, Elizabeth didnot appear ashamed to talk about the kind of education that she andher siblings had. Regarding her opinion towards the Bingley sisters,it can be implied that she has a belief that when a woman does notpossess enough knowledge on skills that are ornamental, like drawingand speaking in elegant French language, the same can be compensatedthrough the possession of a virtuous attitude. A contrast is shown inthe Bingley sisters’ seeming too much focus on the acquisition ofornamental accomplishments for the sole purpose of conforming tocontemporary requirements for courtesy while almost totallydisregarding the value of developing desirable virtues andcharacters. The virtue exhibited by Elizabeth through her relaxedbehavior on her own educational accomplishments was an indicationthat her appreciation on education as a medium for shaping one’scharacter in order to develop virtue instead of a mere ornamentaltool as demonstrated by the Bingleys.
Attitudestowards Social Class
Thenovel “Pride and Prejudice” has been regarded as a story thatrevolved around the portrayal of the gentry, which is a “broadsocial class that includes those who owned land” and “professionalclasses who did not” (Markley 80). Yet the novel seemed togenerally give a rounded viewpoint of the characters, presumably ofan all-inclusive social class which is evident from its opening lines(Black, et al. 58).
Duringthe eighteenth century in England, women who belong to lower classesdepended heavily on having a husband who can provide for their needsin the future. Essentially, marriage was seen as an opportunity formost women to be able to find themselves in a higher class than theirprevious status. Marriage was regarded as a foundation that mightsave single women from the difficult life ahead and as such, love wasnot always a reason one can expect in entering into marriages. In thesaid era, single women could barely find any opportunity foremployment. A well-educated woman, however, can become a governess ora school teacher, which jobs are nevertheless considered to be of lowstatus because the work performed are regarded as mere extension ofservant duties. It was thus common for some women to be regarded asfortunate should they find a well-off cousin as husband because theirclass and status will be promoted (Wollstonecraft 110). However,Elizabeth, in the story, showed an utter disregard of such notionwhen she turned down the proposal of Mr. Collins, her cousin. Assuch, it was implied that Elizabeth had a deeper expectation onmarriage, which impelled her to refuse to marry solely for the reasonof convenience and eventual climbing up in the ladder of socialclass. After Elizabeth’s refusal on the proposal, Mr. Collinsturned to Charlotte Lucas, her good friend who readily accepted themarriage proposal. These events showed a blatant contrast between thetwo. This is further emphasized when, as the public knew Bingley andJane’s relationship, Charlotte said that Jane had a high chance ofbeing happy to which Elizabeth replied that happiness “in marriageis entirely a matter of chance” (16).
Thedifferences between the social status of men and women were alsoillustrated in the novel based on the expected roles of each in thehome. During those times, wives were expected to be submissive totheir husbands, as contained in prevailing conduct manuals. Althoughhusbands are expectedly imperfect, the said imperfection does notwork to negate male authority. Therefore, submission to one’shusband was not regarded as injustice in any way because otherwise,the very foundations of marriage, which is an important element ofsociety, will be shaken (Mazzeno 19). The duties that should beperformed by the wife are those inside the home. While employment ofmaids and servants became popular also, wives were neverthelessexpected to look after the family’s needs (Vickery 2-3). Althoughthis tradition seemed to have the wife as a subordinate, a goodhusband was not justified in reigning the wife through fear (Mazzeno21). This setup was illustrated in Elizabeth’s home where herfather exercised authority and her mother served as the householdmanager.
FromElizabeth’s point of view, education was much more than anaesthetic value for women. Instead, it should be a value-forminginstitution that should not be limited only to the purpose ofacquiring social dominance. In the same way, while social class was amajor issue for most people at the time, Elizabeth, the mainprotagonist showed that mere convenience is subservient to truehappiness found in meaningful relationships.
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