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Through the Feminist Lens: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Examining the role of women and representation of mothers and single/independent women in the 19th century.
by

Ian Tabbada

on 27 September 2012

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Transcript of Through the Feminist Lens: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

by: Kristie Tran,
Ryan Humphrey,
and Ian Tabbada Through the Feminist Lens: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen Feminism describes a culture in which women, because they are women, are treated differently than men, and that, in that difference of treatment, women are at a disadvantage.

Feminism assumes that such treatment
is cultural and that there is a way to change
that and not simply the way the world is
and must be.
What is feminism? The role of women, in Pride and Prejudice, was to marry successfully to a man of importance, fame, and money. In order to achieve this, women had to act in graceful, pleasing manners to obtain the status of a perfect maiden. What is the role of women? Mothers, in the Victorian Age, were presented as desperate women who were trying to have their daughters married well. Marriage was an important ritual that needed to happen at a young age. This created an endless cycle of mothers pushing their daughter to be wedded to prevent them from becoming an "old maid". How are mothers represented? Lady Catherine states, "Young women should always be properly guarded and attended, according to their situation in life" (Austen 191). How are single/ independent women represented? Compare and contrast the role of women, representation of mothers and single/independent women of the 19th century to our present time. Guided Practice "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife" (Austen 1). "In nine cases out of ten, a woman had better show more affection than she feels" (Austen 17 - 18). Charlotte states, "Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance" (Austen 19). Given all this, some women were willing to marry just because marriage was the only allowed way to financial security. "'My dear, dear Lydia!' she cried. 'This is delightful indeed! -She will be married!- She will be married at sixteen!... How I long to see her! and to see dear Wickham too!'" (Austen 275). "Her mind was less difficult to develop. She was a woman of mean understanding, little information, and uncertain temper. When she was discontented, she fancied herself nervous. The buesiness of her life was to get her daughters married" (Austen 3). When a woman reached of age and is not yet to be married, she is looked down upon by society. The only exception to this notion is if she has status through power and wealth. Unmarried women had to live with their families, or with family-approved parents. It is unheard of for a young, unmarried woman to be living by herself. Becoming an "old maid" was not considered a desirable fate so when Charlotte marries Mr. Collins, her brothers are "relieved from their apprehension of Charlotte's dying an old maid", and Lydia says, "Jane will be quite an old maid soon, I declare. She is almost three and twenty!" When a young women leaves her family without their approval, this is always very serious. This is exemplified through Lydia's action in leaving the Forsters to run away with Wickham. "Her character will be fixed, and she will, at sixteen, be the most determined flirt that ever made herself and her family ridiculous" (Austen 208). Jane Austen's heroine, Elizabeth Bennet, does not have anyone that she can confide in or to take anyone's advice. Elizabeth takes her own decisions independently. Elizabeth doesn't reveal to Jane about her changed feelings about Darcy until he has actually proposed again, and she has accepted.
Austen makes a feminist statement by having Elizabeth insist on being treated as a "radical creature", rather than as an "elegant female", when trying to make her "No" be understood as "No" to Mr. Collins.
Elizabeth tells Mr. Collins, "I do assure you that I am not one of those young ladies who are so daring as to risk their happiness on the chance of being asked a second time. I am perfectly serious in my refusal. You could not make me happy, and I am convinced that I am the last woman in the world who would make you so" (Austen 98).
However, according to Charlotte, "Without thinking highly either of men or of matrimony, marriage had always been her object; it was the only honourable provision for well-educated young women of small fortune, and however uncertain of giving happiness, must be their pleasantest preservative from want" (Austen 112). Clarification: Defining Feminism Check for Understanding Analyze this quote from Pride and Prejudice with a feminist lens: Mr. Darcy states, "She is tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt ME; I am in no humour at present to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men."
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