January 4, 2013
Elizabeth Bennet: Our First Feminist
Written during the Napoleonic Wars times, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice seems to be a story of the pursuit for true love that lies far beyond first impressions but looking deeper into her work her true purpose reveals itself to be to inspire independence and self worth within women. With men being sent away to fight the war, women, for the first time in their lives, were left to be independent and to fend for themselves. Their entire lives they always had someone to take care of them whether it was their father or their husband women were not expected to live on their own. Within Austen’s novel, Elizabeth is the only female that goes against Regency society’s social norm in search for a true relationship fueled by love and passion going against the idea women are defined by the man that asks for their hand in marriage. Social wealth trumped all but could only be achieved for women through a high class husband; women meant nothing without a man to rely on. Austen’s depiction of female characters within the novel portray Regency society’s blatant disregard for anything but monetary status. One’s monetary status determined everything from where one lived to whom one married. The entire society was fueled by wealth and reputation, yet reputation was dependent on your wealth. Take for instance Mrs. Bennet; her sole purpose in existing was to wed her daughters to wealthy husbands. She obsessed over ensuring her daughters were going to be well off. Her behavior resulted from the societal pressure that restricted women’s financial wellbeing to marriage. It wasn’t just a matter of being rich or poor women were completely worthless if they didn’t have a man to be completely reliant on. An unwed woman was deemed unrespectable and forced into doing petty jobs in order to generate money to support herself. Men during this time seemed to be the only key to happiness to women, without a husband to provide for them...
Cited: Pride and Prejudice. Chicago, Ill: M.A. Donohue & Co., 2005. Print.
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