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Pride And Prejudice : Class Consciousness

1301 words - 5 pages

Originally written in the late 1700s, Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice satirically depicts the universal ideals in Regency England, primarily regarding social class. Austen follows the development of an outspoken, middle-class British woman, Elizabeth Bennet, as she encounters and overcomes the many social barriers that separate her from her aristocratic neighbors. Throughout the novel, Lizzie must face society's class-consciousness, particularly with her family's growing relationship with the wellborn Bingleys and their friend, Mr. Darcy. The author's objective of writing Pride and Prejudice is to provide an examination of English society's emphasis on the social class structure, which seems to parallel our own modern day society.Our present-day social class system is more flexible than it was in the 1700's, despite this, we can assume that people from the elite class, such as celebrities, will tend to marry other upper-class citizens. Similarly, a marriage between Mr. Darcy and his cousin, daughter of the distinguished Lady Catherine de Bourgh, is expected because both parties are of equally notable lineage and hail from the same prestigious family. The union between the two aristocrats was planned " 'while in their cradles' " , (McKey 23) according to Lady de Bourgh, who makes a trip to Longbourn to see Elizabeth after hearing that she is engaged to Anne's "future husband". Lady Catherine is appalled that the anticipated matrimony between Darcy and her daughter may " 'be prevented by a young woman of inferior birth, of no importance in the world, and wholly unallied to the family' " and makes every effort to prevent any chance of an engagement between Elizabeth and Darcy (McKey 56). During this confrontation, Lady de Bourgh's behavior towards Elizabeth is quite comical and can be compared to Mrs. Bennet's often-embarrassing behavior; had Lady de Bourgh not had such stately ancestry, she may have lowered her social status with her ridiculous conduct. Lady Catherine's ludicrous demeanor is presumably derived from her lofty ego, which society has helped create by exalting the upper class. A mere connection with Lady Catherine, whom Mr. Collins considers a model, allows the fanatical clergyman to believe he has the notoriety to advance his own social class.Indirect connections with distinction are just as praiseworthy as direct ties, at least in the mind of the nonsensical Mr. Collins, who works for the esteemed Lady Catherine de Bourgh. It is evident throughout Pride and Prejudice that Mr. Collins deems himself imperial compared to the rest of Derbyshire. The author characterizes him as being a "mixture of pride and obsequiousness, self-importance and humility" (Austen 15). He believes that his connection to Lady Catherine places him in the upper crust of society; however, this speculation is humorous, as Mr. Collins is simply an ostentatious churchman who will inherit the estate of a middle class family. He is convinced that he is doing...

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