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Reinforcement of Sexist Stereotypes in Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice”

Introduction

Jane Austen’s work occupies one of the leading places in British literary history and remains relevant from the Victorian era to the present. The novel “Pride and Prejudice” describes the love story of a young lady Elizabeth Bennett and an aristocrat Mr. Darcy, developing in the complex context of the English society in the early 19th century. The reader sees the reflection of the mores and the morality that prevailed among England’s provincial nobility at that time in the characters of the novel’s heroes.

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The fundamental opposition of gender consciousness in masculinity and femininity permeates the very concept of artistic creation. The turn of the 20-21 centuries can be considered significant in the mainstream of a conscious focus on the figurative and aesthetic perception of gender relations in society. It contributes to the most complete and detailed disclosure of the dichotomy “feminine – masculine” not only in the content essence of the images of literary heroes but also in the artistic poetics of a literary work. The purpose of this essay is to analyze gender stereotypes about women and their role in “Pride and Prejudice”. The main argument is that sexism of the Victorian era is revealed along with the social inequalities that existed at the time and represented through the author’s specific personal vision.

Analysis

Authors of women’s prose transfer a particular emphasis on heroines’ gender roles, which dictates the specifics of the poetics of their works, revealing the inner world of female characters. Critics traditionally argue that women’s prose heroines tend to demonstrate the absence of high ideals and life goals, and their life is prone to routine (Anderson). However, with the help of this everyday life, the individuality and ambiguity of female characters’ inner world are revealed. The “fluidity” of days and nights alternating one after another contributes to building a unique narrative plan.

As a rule, many female authors’ works contain indications of the love experiences of the heroines or related to them by the emotional manifestation of experiences due to the lack of love. Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” looks at the problem of how to adapt love to the “rules” of marriage, which may seem to have little place in this feeling.

The novel defends the merits and dignity of these “rules” while at the same time assuming that love (a feeling very few people have in the novel) is what makes it possible for married people to “play by the rules.” The first line of the novel introduces the concept of marriage in terms of money: “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife” (Austen 43).

The narrator continues that such a person “however little known the feelings or views” can be considered “the rightful property” of the neighbor’s daughters (Austen 43). The reader has to guess if this applies to Mrs. Bennett and others such as her, not burdening themselves with this feeling, since they are determined to “decent marriages,” or is it a universal rule. An analog of the “universal rule” – rich single young people want to have wives – is the following: a woman without a fortune needs a husband. Jane Austen supports this rule, Elizabeth Bennett, for example, will never marry for money, as does Mrs. Bennett’s conviction.

“Pride and Prejudice,” however, shows Jane Austen’s awareness of the following question: the need for money is a problem for a failing woman. Mr. Collins rudely tells Elizabeth that “Your portion is unhappily so small that it will in all likelihood undo the effects of your loveliness and amiable qualifications” (Austen 139). Her mother warns her that if she does not accept Mr. Collins’ offer, “I am sure I do not know who is to maintain you when your father is dead” (Austen 143). Money and social status not only pose a problem for marriage but also for the feeling itself.

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The differences between Elizabeth and Darcy are what lead to her prejudice and his pride. If she were as rich as he is, it would be much easier for him to propose to her, as well as for her to accept it. In this situation, he has to learn to understand and respect the prevailing circumstances before feeling that she can easily marry him. Elizabeth views love as something that complements the human essence, with aesthetic value. She is sure that she and Darcy can bring into each other’s characters what they lacked: “She began now to comprehend that he was exactly the man, who, in disposition and talents, would most suit her.

His understanding and temper, though unlike her own, would have answered all her wishes. It was a union that must have been to the advantage of both” (Austen 318). When at the end of the novel, Jane asks Elizabeth how much she loved him, she replies almost frivolously that it happened when she saw his beautiful grounds at Pemberley. Diniz claims that Jane Austen did not assume her desire to get wealth. In addition to material reasons, there were also aesthetic ones: “that to be mistress of Pemberley might be something” (Austen 259). For Elizabeth, the mansion represents everything that is lacking in her life and what she aspires to. It is an embodiment and a symbol of what their life with Darcy could be like.

Before coming to Pemberley, Elizabeth turned down two marriage proposals made on the assumption that being a woman and in a financially constrained state, she would unconditionally agree to marry. Elizabeth takes marriage very seriously. She is as shocked by Darcy’s “accusations” against Wickham as by Lydia and Wickham’s “illegal marriage.” After Lydia and Wickham got married, she feels disgusted at their self-confidence.

Elizabeth regrets that Lydia and Wickham should get married and believes that “how little of permanent happiness could belong to a couple who were only brought together because their passions were stronger than their virtue” (Austen 318). She deeply worries that a woman should get married to preserve her honor. She cannot approve of being married to someone whose lack of dignity and true love is so apparent.

Lydia’s marriage is analogous to Charlotte’s but more carefree and dishonest. When Lydia says that “sure they should be married some time or other,” the reader hears Charlotte’s words, who, having accepted an offer from Mr. Collins for the sake of position in society, “cared not how soon that establishment were gained” (Austen, 289). Elizabeth firmly believes that marriage is unnecessary for a woman, as she believes that her responsibilities should not be taken so easily.

Conclusion

This essay shows the influence of two factors on the reinforcement of sexist stereotypes in “Pride and Prejudice”: the social inequality reflected in the work and the author’s unique way of constructing femininity and masculinity. The analysis included development of this argument based on original work of Austen and evidence found in the critics’ endeavors. The results demonstrate that it is inappropriate to reduce the initial opposition to a single subject of artistic depiction since it is primarily inherent in the author’s view of the world (Awan and Nasir).

Thus, referring to women’s prose, critics consider gender a socio-cultural construct that allows the reader to observe the diversity of combinations of femininity and masculinity (Pelden et al.). It is this variety of combinations that forms the typology and poetics of female creativity.

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Jane Austen’s work played a special role in forming the “female” prose of the Victorian era, thereby having a significant impact on the works of her followers. An analysis of Jane Austen’s prose convinces that the author’s gender’s implicit signs can be quite reliably established in the literary text. In her novel, Jane Austen, proclaiming love, reflects on family relationships, establishes connections between love and the desire for power and wealth, reveals the ambiguous nature of passion and the need to suppress it.

Works Cited

Anderson, Kathleen. Jane Austen’s Women: An Introduction. SUNY Press, 2018.

Austen, Jane. Pride and prejudice. Broadview Press, 2001.

Awan, Abdul Ghafoor, and Ambreen Ali Nasir. “Matrimonial issues and Marxist approach in “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austin.” Global Journal of Management, Social Sciences and Humanities, vol.4, no.3, 2018, 651-676.

Pelden, Sonam, et al. “Ladies, Gentlemen and Guys: The Gender Politics of Politeness.” Social Sciences, vol. 8, no. 2, 2019. Web.

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StudyCorgi. "Reinforcement of Sexist Stereotypes in Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice”." June 27, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/reinforcement-of-sexist-stereotypes-in-austens-pride-and-prejudice/.

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StudyCorgi. 2022. "Reinforcement of Sexist Stereotypes in Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice”." June 27, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/reinforcement-of-sexist-stereotypes-in-austens-pride-and-prejudice/.

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