The Author’s Criticism on the Society
During the 19th century, society was a lot different in both governmental and economic. In Pride and Prejudice, the author, Jane Austen, uses irony and satire to criticize aspects of the society. Jane Austen uses her satire to marvelously bring out the ridiculous characters. These characters symbolize her criticism on the society. Through her use of characters, she reveals her concerns towards the law, government, and each one’s own social value in the society. Social status is an important part of the 19th century English society and the Bennet family is no different from any other family in their attempt to improve their social status or to give the impression that they have a high social status. Mrs. Bennet’s plan to marry her daughters off is a mean to gain social status. The author criticizes this hierarchical structure that divided social groups into classes. The opening of the novel opens up with the theme: It is universally acknowledged that any single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife. (1)
Social class is obviously significant in the novel as both the theme and Austen’s criticism on the society. Through Elizabeth and Darcy, the author successfully criticizes the hierarchical structure that causes troubles between Elizabeth and Darcy throughout the novel. “He spoke well, but there were feelings besides those of the heart be detailed, and he was not more eloquent on the subject of tenderness than of pride. His sense of her inferiority—of its being a degradation—of the family obstacle…” (161). Darcy’s dilemma between his social status and his love for Elizabeth causes his rejection when he first seeks for her hand in marriage. Because of his social status, Darcy hides his love for Elizabeth. In the beginning of the novel, the personality of Darcy gives the reader a sense of dislike. Thus, the author successfully shows the internal conflict that he faces. On the other hand, Elizabeth troubles finding a husband who shares the same affection but more importantly benefit her social status. She refuses enter a marriage that is bonded by no love: She had always felt that Charlotte’s opinion of matrimony was not exactly like her own, but she could not have supposed it possible that when called into action, she would have sacrificed every better feeling to worldly advantage… And to the pang of a friend disgracing herself and sunk in her esteem was added the distressing conviction that it was impossible for that friend to be tolerably happy in the lot she had chosen. (110) These conflicts that the characters face show the troubles that social status gives. Moreover, Austen criticizes on the fact that women choosing their other half is because of either social status or wealth but far from loving one another. Furthermore, this hierarchical structure changes the way people view each other. Jane Austen shows this by the ways the characters behave and their personality towards each other. For example, Miss Bingley treats Elizabeth differently because of her social status. Her treatment towards Elizabeth shows her jealousy and snobbery personality: She has nothing, in short, to recommend her, but being an excellent walker. I shall never forget her appearance this morning. (32) Miss Bingley feels threatened by Elizabeth and knows that she cannot compete with her. Thus, she uses her class and social status to be above Elizabeth. Through Miss Bingley’s actions and characteristics, Austen shows how the upper class views the lower class. Another example would be Lady Catherine, who is a noble woman. She is ignorant and like Miss Bingley, she dislikes Elizabeth because of her social status. Moreover, she tries to stop the marriage between Darcy and Elizabeth:
I was told that not only your sister was on the pint of being most advantageously married, but that you…would in all likelihood, be soon afterwards united to my nephew, my...