Classism is evident in the classical novel Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin on all levels. Social division is an obstacle shaped by the times that creates symbolic meanings worth discussing today. One of them is the role of class in a romantic relationship between Elizabeth and Darcy. A middle-class woman’s position drastically differs from a place that an upper-class man occupies in society’s eyes. Hence, the differences between Elizabeth and Darcy make their union significant to a reader. The class division has an essential role of a stereotype that Austin aims to destroy through Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy’s storyline.
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The reader is continuously introduced to Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth’s contrasting living conditions to juxtapose their social roles. Austen compares even their incomes to show the extensive gap between the middle and upper class of British people in the 1810s. Thus, Elizabeth’s revenue is estimated to be around 2000 pounds a year (Austen 466; Dewi and Thoyibi 5). As for Darcy, the source of income of a landowner was about “of his having ten thousand a year” (Austen 450; Dewi and Thoyibi 6). Not only their source of income varied, but also did their education, occupation, residence, and even fashion (Dewi and Thoyibi 6). There is a descriptive difference between Darcy and Elizabeth’s way of life. Elizabeth and Darcy’s relationship depicts the relationships built on contrasts.
The dilemma of how these two socially varying characters become a couple is the main prejudice that Jane Austin breaks. The effect of the novel’s climax is enforced by all the hardships shaped by class differences between lovers. Throughout the plot, Elizabeth shares multiple stereotypes about Darcy based solidly on his descent: “I had supposed him to be despising his fellow-creatures in general” (Austen 515). The possibility of marriage based on “pure love” is an act of rebellion against the marriage market’s structuralism (Bogos 40). Hence, the main characters’ social incompatibility is a tool to express the rebellious position and catch the reader’s attention.
Another vital feature that social division adds to the novel is the pride dramatization that both Elizabeth and Darcy have. Elizabeth’s stereotypical image of being an average middle-classed woman that Darcy did not even consider asking for dance is developed to a deep feeling of love. The high status justifies the initial pride of Darcy. As phrased by Charlotte, “If I may so express it, he has a right to be proud” (Austen 459). However, Elizabeth’s pride is in her indifference towards Darcy’s status (Awan and Ambreen 651). Miss Bennet does not follow social expectations and finds Darcy extremely unlikable at first: “I have never liked him, I had not thought so very ill of him” (Austen 515). Such an unpleasant attitude based on prejudices is being transformed towards the union of love. Both characters have a dramatized pride that is concentrated on being different from other representatives of their class.
To conclude, it is significant to mention classism as the main background for developing main characters in a Victorian novel by Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice. Darcy and Elizabeth come from different environments, share varying family stories and income. Moreover, they challenge the societal norms by building their marriage, not as a purely institutionalized companionship but as a romantic union. Finally, they differ significantly from other representatives of their strata by having a dramatized feeling of pride. All these elements help Jane Austen combat the stereotypes around social division in the British society of the 19th century.
Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. Cambridge UP, 1813.
Awan, Abdul Ghafooor, 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, pp. 651-676.
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Bogos, Eniko. Marriages in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. 2018. University of Szeged, Thesis.
Dewi, Silvana Krisita Amelia, and M. Thoyibi. The Influence of Social Class on Women’s Attitude Towards Men in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (1813): A Sociological Approach. 2021. Universitas Muhammadiyah Surakarta, Thesis.