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Marriage In Pride And Prejudice Defined By Gender, Social Class, And Family

2199 words - 9 pages

Jane Austen’s novel is commanded by women; Pride and Prejudice explores the expectations of women in a society that is set at the turn of the 19th century. Throughout the plot, Austen’s female characters are all influenced by their peers, pressures from their family, and their own desires. The social struggle of men and women is seen throughout the novel. Characters, like Elizabeth, are examples of females not acting as proper as women were supposed to, while other women like Mrs. Bennett allow themselves to be controlled by men and society. Mr. Collins is a representation of the struggles males deal with in a novel dominated by women. The theme of marriage is prominent during Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Marriage can be examined in different ways due to Mrs. Bennet’s commitment to finding her daughters husbands, the male parallelism of marriage to their female spouses, and Elizabeth’s nontraditional approach to looking for love.
Mrs. Bennet’s behavior during the book can be seen as a common representation of women in a 19th century society and as a way to research marriages during this time period. Readers are often exposed to Mrs. Bennet while she is interacting with her peers socially. "' If I can but see one of my daughters happily settled at Netherfield,' said Ms. Bennet to her husband, 'and all the others equally well married , I shall have nothing to wish for'" (Austen 10). Ms. Bennet's quote shows how little power women in higher classes have in deciding their own future. They are unable to inherit any wealth and it is socially frowned upon for women to work, so women rely simply on their mannerisms and physical appearance to find them a spouse that will financially support them for the remainder of their life. This is something Ms. Bennet constantly struggles with as a mother of five daughters. Ms. Bennet’s parental concerns provide an interesting comparison to parents’ modern day worries. Modern day parents are worried more for their children’s personal accomplishments and happiness, while Ms. Bennet has to rely on people outside of her family to ensure her daughters will live comfortably after she is unable to provide for them. “But Mrs Bennet’s obsession with marrying off her daughters at all costs stems from real practical parental concern—if they do not marry, they may starve, especially given that Mr Bennet himself has made no provision for his daughters' futures but seems instead to be in a form of denial—he retreats to his library” (Jones). Readers sympathize with Mrs. Bennet’s aggravating personality when they realize her actions stem from a place of worry for her daughetrs’ future. Since Mrs. Bennet is a woman, she can provide no other form of security but marriage for her daughters. Mrs. Bennet’s actions also originate from a deeply personal part of her life- her marriage. Compared to other men during this time period, Mr. Bennet has done little to give his daughters a financially sound future and sees the search for a...

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