Though tropes and cliches in love have been consistently redefined, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen has beautifully carried its grace from the 1800s till today. Be it Mr Darcy’s confession of love or Elizabeth’s exploration of her feelings for him, Austen has managed to capture the infinity of tales of love.
Read: Book Review – The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo a Novel by Taylor Jenkins Reid.
However, what is often consigned to oblivion by the flowery showers of words are the mighty winds with which Jane Austen has guided this tale.
Written in times riddled with patriarchy, Pride and Prejudice refuses to conform to the standards with its resolute female characters. The myriad quirks and flaws of each of Austen’s characters have demonstrated that women have much more to themselves than the cliches suggest.
Jane Austen makes a remark on the patriarchal society that oppresses them and the conventional ideas about women.
Read: Book Review – Rich Dad Poor Dad a Book by Robert T. Kiyosaki.
Pride and Prejudice in its entirety is a commentary on how a woman held little value in society unless accompanied by an affluent man. And not being able to claim ownership did not help, as is shown through the act of entailment serving as a major window into how patriarchy worked.
Even though they all do end up with men, they are following their own choices instead of adhering to the standards set by society. Lydia marries Wickham not because of his riches or social standing, but only because she wants to be married and Jane and Elizabeth are married out of pure love.
Elizabeth’s happy and liberating conclusion serves as a metaphor for the contentment that comes from forming your own decisions.
Regarded as selfish by her mother, Elizabeth still goes ahead to reject Mr Collin’s marriage proposal because she wants to focus on her happiness instead of protecting her financial future.
“I am only resolved to act in that manner, which will, in my own opinion, constitute my happiness, without reference to you, or to any person so wholly unconnected to me”, she tells Lady Catherine De Bourgh later in the book, expressing her personal ideas.
Below are some more quotes from Pride and Prejudice that are centred around women-
“When she is secure of him, there will be leisure for falling in love as much as she chooses”
In her advice to Elizabeth on how Jane should conduct herself in order to marry Bingley, Charlotte uses this passage.
Neither Jane’s affection for Bingley nor her familiarity with him, in Charlotte’s opinion, are crucial. In order to feel safe and be in possession of a house, she thinks Jane should work to be married as soon as possible. Because Jane then would have her whole life to fall in love, but she’d soon outgrow the optimum age to be married. This also suggests how women were never considered to be worthy heirs of their generational wealth.
“I am no longer surprised at your knowing only six accomplished women. I rather wonder now at your knowing any”
Elizabeth quips that Mr. Darcy has unfair and unreasonable expectations from women, which stem from prejudices ingrained in him. This suggests how conditioning is rarely questioned, especially by society’s elitists. And so, without knowing anything about the individual, every woman is instantly deemed insufficient. By challenging Darcy here, Elizabeth is establishing how her viewpoint is as legitimate as his.
Read: Things to know about Nobel Prize Winner of 2021 – Abdulrazak Gurnah
“Oh! Mr Bennet, you are wanted immediately; we are all in an uproar. You must come and make Lizzy marry Mr Collins, for she vows she will not have him”
This is what Elizabeth’s mother says to her husband in an apparent reference to the power accorded to a husband and father, which is once again a male privilege. The quotation demonstrates Mrs Bennet’s opposition to her daughter’s right to marry anyone she wants, even though she too is a victim of the same dynamic.
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife”
This remark is essential here because women were supposed to get married in order to maintain their social standing and be accepted. The comment is proof that women in society were undeniably dependent on marriage, and that dependence had grown to the point where all affluent men were eyed by women out of the fear of not being accepted.
“She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me; and I am in no humour at present to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men”
Mr Darcy makes this mark when Mr Bingley suggests that he should ask Elizabeth for a dance. This encompasses the condescending tone acquired by men for women and also is an inkling of how men do comprehend that they have what a human being deserves. Choices. His sense of social superiority is easily discernible.
“It is sometimes a disadvantage to be so very guarded. If a woman conceals her affection with the same skill from the object of it, she may lose the opportunity of fixing him; and it will then be but poor consolation to believe the world equally in the dark. There is so much of gratitude or vanity in almost every attachment, that it is not safe to leave any to itself. We can all begin freely—a slight preference is natural enough; but there are very few of us who have heart enough to be really in love without encouragement. In nine cases out of ten a women had better show more affection than she feels”
In a patriarchal culture, loneliness is a man’s biggest peril if he stays unmarried. An unmarried woman, however, may not have adequate financial stability. According to Charlotte, this societal imbalance necessitates that a woman must consider using deception in order to secure her future. The sad reality that the women of Pride and Prejudice must deal with is reflected in Charlotte’s thinking.
“I would rather be paid the compliment of being believed sincere. I thank you again and again for the honour you have done me in your proposal, but to accept them is absolutely impossible. My feelings in every respect forbid it. Can I speak plainer? Do not consider me now as an elegant female intending to plague you, but a rational creature speaking the truth from her heart”
Liberal feminism upholds values of individualism and the ones that relate to it. With the marks Elizabeth has made in this comment, she has emphasized her freedom to let her individuality surface. Throughout her statement, her individuality is first realised, developed, and then solidified.
“A woman must have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing, and the modern languages, to deserve the word; and besides all this, she must possess a certain something in her air and manner of walking, the tone of her voice, her address and expressions, or the word will be but half-deserved”
This quotation puts forth the characteristics of an accomplished lady, all of which are rather aesthetic plus decorative in nature. It consigns to oblivion the traits of a rational, intellectual individual and prompts women to present themselves as fancy-looking paper aeroplanes, which would fly in whichever direction they are thrown towards.
“All this she must possess,” added Darcy, “and to all this she must yet add something more substantial, in the improvement of her mind by extensive reading.”
Mr Darcy, the man of every woman’s dreams, surely does support the education of women in addition to the stereotypes he wants them to adhere to. However, it isn’t hard to discern that it is merely to uphold his status and grasp whatsoever he wants them to agree to.
“I hope I never ridicule what is wise and good. Follies and nonsense, whims and inconsistencies, do divert me, I own, and I laugh at them whenever I can. But these, I suppose, are precisely what you are without”
Ending this listicle with this quote by Elizabeth seems apt since it seems to incorporate her remarkable wit and the romantic tension between the two protagonists really well.
In another aspect, ‘Pride and Prejudice’ stands the test of time as it takes into account the status of affairs from a dual perspective. Charlotte Lucas and Caroline Bingley were more worried about their marital status as they age. Despite being in their early 20s, they were both anxious to be married in order to uphold their social standing. A few days after Mr Collins asks Elizabeth Bennet to marry him but is turned down, he becomes engaged to Charlotte Lucas, Elizabeth’s best friend.
However, Elizabeth rejects both Mr Collins and Mr Darcy’s initial marriage proposals, demonstrating that she is almost unfazed by financial reasons. Elizabeth was successful in changing Mr Darcy’s moral character to conform to her worldview for marriage whereas Charlotte ended up sacrificing her happiness for marriage and worldly riches.