The Theme of Society in Pride and Prejudice

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Originally written in the late 1700's, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice satirically depicts the universal ideals in Old Regency England, primarily regarding social class. Austen follows the development of an outspoken middle-class British woman, Elizabeth Bennet, as she encounters and overcomes the many social barriers that separate her from her wealthy upper-class neighbors. Throughout the novel, Lizzie must confront society’s class-consciousness, particularly with her family’s growing relationship with the wellborn Bingleys and their friend, Mr. Darcy. It is clear that the author, Jane Austen, intended Pride and Prejudice to be a parody of the Old English society’s extreme emphasis on the social class structure and marriage that is not based on the heart but instead on convenience. Although our present-day social class system is more flexible than it was back then, members of the elite, especially celebrities, are still more apt to marry other upper-class citizens, rather than their social inferiors. For example, in today’s society it is the standard for rock stars, actors and models to pursue partners from a comparable social class. Similarly, a marriage between Fitzwilliam Darcy and Anne de Bourgh, daughter of the distinguished Lady Catherine de Bourgh, is expected because both parties are of equally notable lineage and hail from the same prestigious family. The union between the two aristocrats was planned “while in their cradles”, according to Lady Catherine de Bourgh, who makes a trip to Longbourn to see Elizabeth after hearing that she is engaged to Anne’s “future husband”. Lady Catherine is horrified that the anticipated matrimony may “be prevented by a young woman of inferior birth, of no importance in the world, and wholly unallied to the family” and makes every effort to prevent any chance of an engagement between Elizabeth and Darcy. During this confrontation, Lady de Bourgh’s behavior towards Elizabeth is quite astonishing and completely supports...
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