15 April 2014
To Be or Not to Be
People are often seen basing their lives off of society’s standards. Many writers criticizes the influence that society has over its members. The romantic novelist Jane Austen satirizes her society and those who follow it. One of her most famous works, Pride and Prejudice, is a great example of this satire. Throughout the novel she explores the effects of society through her characters. In Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice, she divulges the central theme of society and social class through the characters Elizabeth Bennet, Mr. Darcy, and Lady Catherine.
The first character that Austen uses to analyze this theme is Elizabeth Bennet. Austen describes Elizabeth as “uncommonly intelligent” (qtd. in Auerbach 135). She struggles to express her individuality in a society that is based upon prominent social conformity. Elizabeth differs from the other women in the novel in that she recognizes the importance of “something more substantial [in life], in the improvement of her mind by extensive reading” (qtd. in 135). However, Elizabeth Bennet embraces the ideals of the individual rather than the ideals of society. Elizabeth is inexorable in her beliefs. Elizabeth is able to break free from the mold formed by the nineteenth century women. Elizabeth expresses her concern that society must not judge one by their social class; thus, one should be characterized by their personality. Emily Auerbach explains, “Aristocracy based on birth gives power to those who may not deserve it, Elizabeth Bennet recognizes, and she refuses to feel…” (139) inferior. Elizabeth is inferior to no one and is able to break through the social class barrier by marrying Mr. Darcy. Austen illustrates, that Elizabeth is able to “[make] Darcy think, challenges his complacency, and thus enlivens him” (136). She judges one by her own personal values, she is then able to look past Mr. Darcy’s wealth and begin to see him for whom he truly is.
The second character Austen uses to depict this theme is Mr. Darcy. Austen chooses this character to show that people are capable of changing. However, at the beginning of the novel Mr. Darcy feels that he must follow the expectations of society. Mr. Darcy’s sense of superiority corresponds with the central theme of society and social class and provides insight into his character. Mr. Darcy must overcome the idea that everyone does not exist into his social circle. Austen reveals, “His sense of her inferiority - of [it] being a degradation- of the family obstacles which judgment[ has] always opposed to inclination [are] dwelt on with a warmth which [seems] due to the consequence he [is] wounding, but [is] very unlikely to recommend his suit” ( 162). In this novel Mr. Darcy represents the characteristics of a dynamic character. Elizabeth opens Mr. Darcy’s eyes and helps him to realize that social status does not determine individual worth. Auerbach explicates, “Darcy’s ability...