Analyzing the Satire of Social Class Within Pride and Prejudice
Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice delves into the issue of why social standing in a society based solely on class should not be the most important thing when evaluating the worth of a person. Through several different literary techniques – such as letters and abundant focalizers – Austen conveys important information about key issues she has with the significance placed on social standing. The theme of class and social standing is echoed constantly throughout Austen’s novel in numerous ways, highlighting several aspects of the gentry that she distrusts. The entirety of the novel focuses mainly on the distances placed between characters due to their social standing in a class based society. Regardless of how fit a person may be in either mind or capabilities, if a high sum of money is not contained within their personhood (or their estate), they are considered menial. Jane Austen uses the social relationships between her characters to satirize the importance placed on the hierarchy of class in society.
Austen wrote the novel in order to define and satirize the problems that she saw in the hierarchy of class in the society of her time. Throughout the entire novel “there isn’t a character…who’s introduced without his income being mentioned in the next sentence” (Selznick 92). The ridiculousness of the value placed upon money – of which the middle class has very little – is evident as Austen progresses the story and the relationships between her characters – namely between Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth. The fact that, in Austen’s time, the society revolved around the gentry – whose entire idea of class and power involved money – makes it easier for the audience reading Pride and Prejudice to understand why she has satirized this issue. She does this quite flawlessly throughout the novel, relying on her knowledge of the increasing adamancy of the middle class to gain social
Cited: Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. London: Penguin, 2003. Print. Copeland, Edward, and Juliet McMaster. The Cambridge Companion to Jane Austen. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1997 ProQuest, 2008. Print. Kuzmics, Helmut, and Roland Axtmann. Authority, State and National Character: the Civilizing Process in Austria and England, 1700-1900 Ashgate, 2007. Print. Mazzeno, Laurence W Camden House, 2011. Print. Selznick, Barbara J Southam, B. C. Jane Austen: the Critical Heritage. London: Routledge, 1999. Print. Walder, Dennis Grin Verlag, 2008. Print.