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Changing Of The Times Essay

1034 words - 4 pages

"Madness, marriage, or death" are portrayed as the only options available to female characters in most works of literature. These recurring themes are the result of a long history of men being held in more important and flexible roles than women. In the past women were only allowed to become housewives and were expected to take care of their husbands - expectations that are mirrored in books such as Pride and Prejudice and Little Women. These two classics which include this same theme remain bestsellers - showing that though women have risen to a new level, they still acknowledge their roots. Whether women find themselves in Jo March or Elizabeth Bennet, they must be content to read about a happily-ever-after marriage instead of independence and self-sufficiency. Though the time periods of works do play an important role in establishing their characteristics, women of today can still find a way to relate to them. Marriage is the only option available to the Bennet sisters. Their mother has realized this and is obsessed with searching for decent husbands for them. Instead of instilling in her daughters a sense of self-satisfaction, Mrs. Bennet's one goal is to make a successful match. The only real characteristics of Elizabeth and Jane that are described are those that would make them good wives and homemakers. "Darcy had never been so bewitched by any woman as he was by her" (Austen 38). Elizabeth has a clever wit, but even this trait is only described because it makes her a perfect match for Darcy. Even though Elizabeth Bennet could have furthered her education through independent study, no real jobs are available to her so it would be pointless for her to even try it. She has the intelligence to enter any career and if she was a character in today's society she would have many more options, but because of these circumstances, her only real option is marriage. She has to remain dependent on men - her father and Darcy, simply because of the era in which she lives. She has no way of realizing this and is content to marry Darcy because she knows he is a decent man who both respects her and will treat her well. Though marriage may not exactly be the worst future for her as she has found a desirable husband, when one can compare the options she would have available if only born later in time, it does seem quite unfair. Jane Bennet, the oldest and most beautiful of all the sisters, is also only given the options of "madness, marriage, or death." Even in today's society she may be faced with few options because she is marked by an innocence and optimism that would make any real duties very hard on her. "Every sentence of kindness was a fresh source of happiness to Jane" (Austen 259). Her marriage is very happy and successful and possibly offers her the utmost happiness whether now or then. ...

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