Jane Austen is one of the most classical female authors in the Western literary canon, most famously known for her famous novel Pride and Prejudice. Originally published in 1813, this novel defines classic Regency fiction and is attributed to being a novel of manners, or a piece of writing which provides social commentary and details about the culture and customs of the time, which in this case is 19th century England (Tiwari, 1, p. 75). Austen wrote the novel based on her experience as a rising middle class in England and a reflection of the complex social world for the gentry. Austen’s social status, familial and personal relationships, and perspectives on politics, religion, marriage, and feminist topics can be attributed as inspiration to Pride and Prejudice.
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Summary of Ideas
Chapter 43 of Pride and Prejudice which will be examined for this paper demonstrates several themes that are inherently critical to the novel and represent its overall nature. The chapter begins with Elizabeth and her aunt and uncle arriving at Pemberley which is a manor with a large property. They are shown around the house by the housekeeper, as the design and furniture are described in detail regarding tastefulness and elegance, as well as the wealth of this house as Elizabeth dreams of living here. Austen writes, “The rooms were lofty and handsome, and their furniture suitable to the fortune of its proprietor; but Elizabeth saw, with admiration of his taste, that it was neither gaudy nor uselessly fine; with less of splendour, and more real elegance, than the furniture of Rosings” (Austen, 2).
Furthermore, the housekeeper describes the owner Mr. Darcy as a generous, responsible and kind man, which further stirs interest in Elizabeth. To her, this is a representation of her ideals, the tasteful house and a powerful upper-class man which also demonstrates compassion and commitment to family. Austen is highlighting the role that socioeconomic class and the manner that one portrayed oneself at this time played a vital role in finding a partner for marriage. It was a matter of pride for a gentleman to be perceived as well-mannered and elegant.
In the latter part of the chapter, Elizabeth and her family by chance encounter Mr. Darcy. They have all held a relatively negative opinion of him from a scuffled previous encounter and rumors. However, the way that the housekeeper described Mr. Darcy and his behavior at Pemberley made everyone see him completely differently. Elizabeth thought to herself “His wish of introducing his sister to her was a compliment of the highest kind. They soon outstripped the others, and when they had reached the carriage” (Austen, 1). These aspects are a demonstration of the theme of prejudice since Elizabeth’s family was inherently prejudiced towards Mr. Darcy before, but hearing such high praise as well as experiencing his social mannerisms change their perspective. Therefore, he is now established in their eyes as a suitable man and husband, leading to the discussion of marriage.
Austen is attempting to demonstrate the concept of courtship within the context of middle and upper-class England. While personal feelings do come into play for Elizabeth, her perceptions of marriage and her suitor are strongly dependent on his wealth, class, as well as social mannerisms. She is excited by his presentation, which can be described as both a representation of character, but also can be a façade for social purposes. Austen most likely attempts to highlight how predictable and role-played courtship was, and the ultimate pride and prejudice which served as key themes in selecting a partner and receiving the approval of the family. As a novel directed at the female target audience, Austen may potentially be both criticizing as well as highlighting the nuances of this social interaction.
Pride and Prejudice has withstood the test of time and has become a popular novel amongst the target audience and literary critics. First, Austen emphasizes the core of romance in the plot, using exquisite detail to describe the emotions felt by the protagonists. The romantic stories, scandals, and courtship rivalries define the social interactions and protocols of the time. Despite many of the social aspects not applying in current times, the human elements remain relatable, ranging from comedic to dramatic moments. Furthermore, the relatability of the characters as kind and good people, make the characters such as Elizabeth associable with the soft feminine nature. Austen appeals to the very human nature of young women, seeking romance and love. It remains an enduring classic about the instinct to pursue happiness and fight for such fate.
The belief that generous and affectionate people have a hope of obtaining their peace and happiness. In their courtship, Elizabeth and Darcey fundamentally reach some level of self-awareness and form a greater intimate relationship. Historically, the novel made a tremendous impact, significantly due to the style of Austen’s writing and relatability of the plot. It has become a cultural phenomenon and a social commentary on the strength of human nature (Walsh, 3).
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The reading was inherently interesting to analyze from the context of comparing social elements among times while examining the human psychology that Austen highlights in her writing. The reading had an impact on me by instigating the thoughts of why my romantic relationships existed and how they began. Despite a difference in times, many romantic partners often consider material wealth and social status as a criterion in marriage. While most people would not readily admit this, citing emotions and personal connection as the cause of attraction, wealth and power still has relevance. Therefore, it poses the question of whether it was better to be open about it as the novel describes 19th century England or be less direct about it as in modern times. In my relationships, that may be a topic I would want to discuss with my partner.
Rekha Tiwari. 2018. Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice: Class and Society, Marriage and Women. Journal of Rajasthan Association for Studies in English. vol. 14. p. 72-84.
Jane Austen. 1813. Pride and Prejudice. Chapter 43.
John Walsh. 2013. Austen power: 200 years of Pride and Prejudice.