It is not the fundamental structure of the Regency Period that Jane Austen criticizes in “Pride and Prejudice” but rather its transgression into a shallow society, defined largely by marriage and status. Contextually women derived their all-important wealth (as women had no right to inheritance) and status from the frivolity of marriage, but this more often than not rendered women powerless and both parties were unable gain a sense of personal satisfaction. The satirization of Mr and Mrs Bennet’s loveless marriage allows us to challenge the conventional fixation on wealth as opposed to the happiness and development of the woman. Through the portrayal of Lizzy and Darcy’s union however, Austen in her novel of moral instruction presents us with an alternate view to marriage as a vessel for moral growth and development. It can be said that Austen, who never married herself asks not for social upheaval and revolution but instead embraces the importance of mutual respect within the union of man and woman. Marriage is presented as an institution that has the potential to assist in social improvement and for Austen; consists of mutual respect, individual growth and understanding but also backed with wealth.
The highly satirical representation of Mr and Mrs Bennet’s marriage exposes the consequences of what was then considered a conventional marriage, illustrating the reduction of human potential and interpersonal development. It is this uncomplimentary relationship and her self awareness that provides Elizabeth with the stamina to pursue a rewarding partnership with Darcy. Through the narration, Austen challenges the materialistic perception of marriage within Regency England as a means to reflect social discourse that existed. Mr Bennet’s regret in marrying a woman of “youth, beauty and an appearance of good humour” is... [continues]
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