Jane Austen vs Society Essay

Submitted By nmk1128
Words: 1390
Pages: 6

In Pride and Prejudice Austen depicts English patriarchy during the eighteenth century; she exemplifies both, the traditionalist, Charlotte, and progressivist, Elizabeth. The novel embarks, boldly, stating the society's dogma - the “universal knowledge” – that a wealthy single man desires nothing more than a wife to wed (Austen 1.1). This idea may seem generalized, perhaps, a trifle romantic, but the sentence that follows exposes the nature of this dogma.
However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be in his first entering a neighborhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families that he is considered as the rightful property of someone or other of their daughters. (Austen 1.1)

This sentence describes the society's feelings of entitlement towards it’s persons – specifically in the pairing of bride and groom. For example, the daughters of mother W are arranged with a son of mother X, Y, and Z for political advantages and wealth. Charlotte, Elizabeth's friend, conforms to this normality when marrying Mr. Collins (Pride and Prejudice: Social). On the opposite end of the spectrum, Elizabeth finds herself beating on the door of progress with her pursuit and marriage for love. Charlotte is "sensible, intelligent young woman, about twenty-seven" (Austen 5.2). However, she is a calculated person too and someone of such calculation knows that to thrive in a time period where social class “was a prominent factor on a person's potential within a society” (Pride and Prejudice: Social) a calculated marriages is essential. This is particularly important in this era of history because of a woman's status in society. During the eighteenth century women were thought of as second class citizens that couldn't hold political office, vote, own land, or any other right that graced men (Pride and Prejudice: Social). In fact, women, in society's eyes, were good at one thing: being a wife. Young girls, whose family possessed wealth, would be sent to learn the proper etiquette needed at dinners and dances. This was looked at as proper and every girl should want to be a wife in training. The society at the time is a patriarchy – male dominant; men have all the rights and power of life in this society (Jane Austen.). If any woman wishes to advance she must marry a man of good fortune. This was the normal outlook on marriage (Explanation of: ‘Pride and Prejudice’). It was a sacrament of society rather than a sacrament of love. Couples that filled this quota are riddled throughout the work and for the most part are uninterested with one another. This is best exemplified through the married women of the novel and their obsessive compulsion to be thinking of how and to whom they would be marrying their children off to. Charlotte slips into this standard routine by marrying Mr. Collins. Charlotte is older than most single ladies for her time and desires a man, but this desire is not one made of love. It is calculated, societal, and she exemplifies it by telling Elizabeth that a happy marriage is one of chance (Austen 6.8). Charlotte isn't fancy of chance and instead pairs with Mr. Collins, entitled to the Bennet fortune, but an apple to Charlotte's orange. In the novel, he is a comical character who uses absurd language and has repetitive attempts at Elizabeth's hand in marriage – she declines because of the lack of love for him (Shmoop). However, the contrasting personalities engage and marry as the traditionalists they are and Charlotte is sworn into the life of a stereotypical eighteenth century woman. Elizabeth continues unmarried, but unlike Charlotte she won't falter to society's demands. Elizabeth is the second eldest daughter of the Bennet family. Her mother and father were paired together for societal advantages; therefore, they didn't marry for love nor do they love each other during the novel (Shmoop). This can be displayed in the first chapter when Mrs. Bennet is