British Literature Honors
December 11, 2012
Social class within Pride and Prejudice plays a key role throughout the novel. Social class not only determines where one is placed in the class structure, but also the amount of land, money, and potential suitor candidates. Where one is placed within the social hierarchy is based on what one does for a living and their social status as well. For instance, Mr. and Mrs. Bennet are considered ‘landed gentry,’ meaning they do not have to work for their income, much like Mr. Collins and many of the other characters mentioned within the novel. Social class also determines who one may marry, and this plays an extremely significant role within the lives of Jane and Elizabeth Bennet.
Jane Bennet is a crucial character within Pride and Prejudice. She portrays the role of Elizabeth Bennet’s one and only older sister. Jane is considered to be “… the only handsome girl in the room,” by Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, and this occurs at the ball which is held in Netherfield. At this ball, she dances with a man by the name of Mr. Bingley, a man of large fortune who is described as being “…good looking and gentlemanlike; …pleasant countenance, and easy, unaffected manners” (Austen 6). As a result of the ball, Mr. Bingley and Jane spend more time together, and it is assumed that they are together, as a couple. Mr. Bingley has two sisters who act all sisterly-like towards Jane, and then crush her heart by saying that Bingley will not return to Netherfield, and will most likely find Mr. Darcy’s sister more handsome and agreeable than Jane. This is done by the Bingley sisters most likely because of Jane’s lower social status, and they would not want their brother marrying a sort of peasant girl, or a girl who is of a much lower status than himself. Due to social class in society at this time, Jane ends up getting her heart crushed, which is sad and tragic for a woman during this time period, especially when the woman has feelings for such a suitor. Should a woman show her feelings for a suitor, and then that suitor goes off and marries another, the reputation of the first woman and her family is, in a sense, ruined.
Elizabeth Bennet is the main female character whom the story revolves around. She is treated in a very similar manner as Jane; however, Jane is treated with more compassion and seems to be loved more by everyone, whereas Elizabeth is the least liked of the five daughters in the Bennet family, and people tend to pass her up. Due to her social stature, as well as her reputation as being the least liked and less handsome, Elizabeth is treated the way she is. She is, in a way, treated as an inferior to Jane due to all of the factors mentioned previously. Elizabeth is also put down in many ways. Considering that she is less handsome than her sister, she is, in a way, a target of insult for Darcy, as he says that she is not good enough or pretty enough to grab his attention (7). In all, Elizabeth leads a rather ‘difficult’ life, not being recognized by her peers or by suitors who should really be so lucky to have her.
Pride within Pride and Prejudice is seen as a common theme throughout the whole novel. Pride is what causes people to behave the way they do, acting arrogant and egotistical. Pride contributes to how people view society, believing that one is better than the rest of society and being conceited. Pride is what causes feuds most of the time, turning one against another with the argument that one is better than the other in many aspects. Prejudice, contrary to pride, is not seen quite as often. However, prejudice, although not as common, follows similar principles as pride. Prejudice causes people to behave the way they do, believing that a certain social class, ethnicity, or gender is inferior to one’s own. Prejudice also contributes to how people view society, again, believing that a certain characteristic contributes to where people stand on the social...