Feminist Undertones in Pride and Prejudice Essay

2090 Words Oct 31st, 2012 9 Pages

Jane Austen authored the novel ‘Pride and Prejudice’ in 1813, a period in the social history of England that saw most women as best equipped for the private and domestic realm. An ideal woman was the picture of chastity, innocence and compliancy. Even women authors in this period were expected to adhere to genres that were considered to be solely their domain- the refined arts, household management, love, courtship, family life and fidelity in the face of temptation. Although ‘Pride and Prejudice’ was primarily a romance between two free-thinking individuals, Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy, it has grave feminist
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One such instance can be her complete disdain for the fact that despite having five daughters, their estate should be inherited by Mr Collins, a complete stranger.

Austen makes remarkable use of wit and sarcasm to impersonate Mrs. Bennet. Her novels use comic fiction as a chief means of exploring the individualisation of women’s lives and the revolution in the relation of the sexes at the beginning of the 19th century.

Heroine Centric Novels

Almost all of Jane Austen’s works feature a female protagonist and most of the other characters are women with a miscellenia of personalities. Austen’s heroines are free spirited young women who have a wide horizon of interests, be it Emma Woodhouse (Emma), Catherine Morland (Northanger Abbey), Marianne (Sense and Sensibility) or Elizabeth Bennet (Pride and Prejudice). In all of these novels the heroine is shown to have her own subjectivity and opinions of life, rather than play a restricted role in the background of the plot. Austen’s stories portray women and the problems faced by them in their daily life through a union of comic and moral indignation.
Robert M Polhemus writes,
“Austen was disposed through comic license to ridicule the inadequacies and constraints of her society.”
Through a lens of satire, Austen gave a candid view of the existing social, financial and sexual hierarchies in the middle class

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