Jane Austen was a child of the Enlightenment, an age when reason was valued while many romantic traditions still lingered on in society. [* By the way the romantic period follows the Enlightenment (a reaction)] As one of the educated and intelligent women emerging from this era, Austen has used the character of Elizabeth Bennet to epitomise the harmonious balance between reason and emotion in a woman, making her a truly admirable and attractive character.
Elizabeth's strength of character is emphasised by its contrast with the weak, naäve acceptance of Jane's, the instability and excess of Mrs Bennet's and the blind, weak-willed following of Kitty's. Her strength is also shown in her rejections of the proposals of Mr Collins and Darcy. Unlike her mother, she does not base her choice of lovers on the financial security they will give her, and has the strength to reject them. This is especially evident in her rejection of Darcy's initial proposal, when she displays a passionate strength in her anger due to her belief that he has wilfully prevented Jane and Bingley's marriage and wronged Wickham by refusing to grant him the property that the old Mr Darcy bequeathed him. In both cases, the suitor is self-assured that his suit will be accepted, and as a result Elizabeth's rejections are amplified by the size of the blows that their egos receive. In Rosings, she does not let Lady Catherine tyrannise her as "the mere satellites of money and rank, she thought she could witness without trepidation." The Lucases and Collinses are submissive to Lady Catherine, with Maria being "frightened almost out of her senses", and it is probable that society as a whole behaves likewise, as Elizabeth suspects she is "the first creature who had ever dared to trifle with such dignified impertinence". She is again presented as a rebel against ideas of class when Lady Catherine pays a visit to her to ensure that she does not marry Darcy and Elizabeth refuses to accept the idea that...
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