These on the silly nature of young women;

These struggles of Austen can be seen in her novel Pride and Prejudice as the young Miss Elizabeth Bennet struggles in her female-dominated family that seem obsessed with the wealth of potential bachelors. Eliza Bennet, however, is seen to concern herself with only the wish for love and not to be married off for convenience. Austen uses her novel to very much criticize the injustice of the gender expectations in late 19th century England and is a commentary on feminist social lives. The demonstrations that marriage for money prospers over marriage for love seems key throughout, much like it would have been at the time, however, Austen’s criticism of it works to reflect her distaste for the notion. It is clear that Austen perceives women to be just as witty and intelligent as men, as represented by each of the Bennet daughters, and therefore argues that the need for women to marry into money to maintain their position as they are unable to inherit, proves the system unjust. Austen may also be seen to be taking a jibe at the women of her time through the quote; ‘It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in need of a wife’. It is again a confirmation for the want and need to be married for financial security but also to exhibit that women have resulted in looking at all wealthy bachelors as a chance to maintain their lifestyle, it disguises the truth of the women being the ones desperate for marriage when they know it is their only chance to be recognized. Despite this, Eliza Bennet is ready to denounce two marriages the first being Mr Collins and secondly Mr Darcy. Both instances emphasise the superiority men believed they had over women as well as their conceited overconfidence. Mr Collins simply seemed to deny any hint of a true refusal and instead blamed it on the silly nature of young women; ‘it is usual with young ladies to reject the addresses of the man whom they secretly mean to accept’ furthermore ‘I must, therefore, conclude that you are not serious in your rejection of me … according to the usual practice of elegant females.’ Again, Eliza is compared to the stereotype. It does, however, display her sarcastic mind as the omniscient narrator reveals her thoughts; ‘To apply to her father … whose behaviour at least could not be mistaken for the affection and coquetry of an elegant female.’ In contrast, this does also reflect how sadly, women still needed men to explain their thoughts rather than simply being able to express themselves without justification. When it comes to Mr Darcy, again pride is displayed as being a normality in confident gentlemen, ‘he was not more eloquent on the subject of tenderness than of pride. His sense of her inferiority – of its being a degradation’ – symbolising how women were determined desirable based on her inheritance, not the women herself. Moreover is the similarity in the two gentleman’s overconfidence,  ‘expressing his hope that it would now be rewarded by her acceptance of his hand. As he said this, she could easily see that he had no doubt of a favourable answer.’ The women of Austen’s era were universally expected to be obedient and mild, and yet the heroine Elizabeth Bennet shows an immense amount of independence when it was frowned upon as shown by Caroline Bingley in response to Liza’s outlandish actions, ‘To walk three miles … and alone, quite alone! what could she mean by it? It seems to me to show an abominable sort of conceited independence’. Miss Bingley’s aghast view on the appearance of Eliza presents the contrast between the expectations of women of the time and Eliza herself. The simple idea of being ‘alone’ and not chaperoned as an unmarried woman, even in the countryside, seems scandalous and offensive as it breaches the mould women were forced into. Miss Bingley also refers to Eliza’s behaviour as ‘conceited’, again implying that Eliza seeks too much independence from any man in her life as she bluntly refuses almost any help from them – again seen in her choice of walking alone. Furthermore, the contrast of women and men in Pride and Prejudice can be again pinned on the word ‘conceited’ as when it is used in the context of the character of Eliza, it is improper and shaming however in the context or the character of Mr Darcy, it is normal and not at all frowned upon as he is a male whose pride is acknowledged and either excused and accepted. It also puts Eliza in a very brave position in terms of her finance yet, she happily and readily denounces traditions and appearance for her principles. The further circumstance is again when Elizabeth clearly explains her views in front of Mr Collins. It would have been unheard of to not accept a marriage proposal in that era, especially with the financial stakes that are against Eliza in this instance. Eliza was seen to have the first kind of feminist view with Chandler claiming that ‘Elizabeth acts out a traditionally defensive female role’. Despite this, Eliza may not be defensive but outgoing and far from the traditional women as she seemed to become equal to men. Elizabeth Bennet does not just stand up to men in a way we would consider straightforward feminism but also stands up to her own gender in the face of their injustice to their own sex. An example of this can be seen in the instance of Elizabeth and Lady Catherine de Bough; “Miss Bennet I am shocked and astonished. I expected to find a more reasonable young woman.” Of course, the mould of a ‘reasonable young women’ is inclined to be obedient and do as she says and yet, Elizabeth once again proves she is independent in a way women were normally not. It may be argued that the character of Elizabeth Bennet may be a direct mirror of her creator. Both women, both fictional and real, were proposed to and rejected offers and both had seemed to dislike the young men who later turned to be the subjects of their affections – Darcy and Tom Lefroy; ‘Like Darcy, Elizabeth’s frosty suitor, Tom eventually learned better manners. Like Elizabeth, Austen rebels against propriety and rambles around the countryside in muddy petticoats.’ – Deidre Lynch


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