Pride and prejudice is an 18th-century novel that talks about the unusual love that sparked between the two characters with distinct values, Elizabeth and Darcy. Elizabeth is the eldest daughter of Mr. Berret, who owns vast wealth but claims that it can only be inherited by a male child (Joan, 2013). The daughters are now required to get into good marriages to have a promising future. Suitors begin to flock into Mr. Berret’s house, and Elizabeth takes a disliking in Darcy. Darcy is a tall, handsome, intelligent, wealthy man and a friend to Mr. Berret, intrigued by Elizabeth’s beauty. She is, however, disgusted by his excessive pride that comes with social status and his prejudice towards the inferior groups in the society, which were women (Joan,2013). On the other hand, Elizabeth is held aloof by her self-respect and prejudice towards the social class arrogance. There is, however, a twist as the two overcome their differences and fall in love, as Elizabeth gets a difficult time convincing people that she married out of love and not after Darcy’s wealth.
The novel received positive reviews from the audience as it was a true reflection of the happenings in society during the ancient periods and is still evident in recent times. The novel covered the concept of prejudice against social inferiority, especially among women, and how it gave rise to feminism that advocated for gender equality. This research aims to analyze how the concept of feminism is brought out by the characters in pride and prejudice and how each character exhibits prejudice and criticizes pride to determine whether or not it was beneficial to the characters. Chapter I gathers evidence through the literature synthesis to support how the fight against the concept of prejudice against the inferior group eliminated gender inequality.
Novelist Jean Osten expressed her resentment towards the capitalist system in British that oppressed women. Shao bun described pride and prejudice as the classical reflection of the rise of feminism and how women strived to have their place in society. He appraises Jean for shaping the character of Elizabeth into a woman who beats all odds in a male-dominated society to become independent and maintain her self-dignity (Zhou,2014 ). The author views feminism as a form of self-liberation from the prejudices of the likes of Mr. Darcy against women whom they deemed to be inferior. According to the author, Elizabeth’s self-liberation came from her contrasting thoughts that a woman’s financial freedom arose from indulging in a good marriage, as she believed that a woman’s decision to get married should be based on her feelings towards the man (Zhou,2014). She strongly criticized the marriage between Charlotte and Collins, which she believed was purely based on materiality, and tried to reposition women’s rights of choosing to marry a man because of their feelings and not for material gain. The weight of Elizabeth’s efforts is felt in today’s world, where women have the right to choose whom they wish to settle with, and a woman who marries for material gain is considered backward and receives criticism.
Melina (2016) shares the same sentiments as Zhou, saying that women’s self-liberation begins with a good marriage based on love. The author narrates the fallout between Charlotte and Elizabeth, who loses the sense of intimacy with her sister once she learns about her views of marriage being a risk that she would gladly take. According to the author, Elizabeth describes Charlotte’s views on marriage as illogical and absurd. Charlotte married out of convenience to relieve her parents from the likelihood that she may age without getting married; also, Charlotte believes that her marriage was just a scheme designed for her economic liberation and to fulfill her duty as the ideal Victorian woman.
Manish and Sadaf, in their critical analysis of the movie and novel pride and prejudice, describe how Elizabeth feigned the social inferiorities towards women in the British society and came out as strong and independent (2015 ). The authors describe Elizabeth as an independent woman with self-actualization who fiercely contrasts a typical Victorian woman of that age. They describe Elizabeth as one of the characters who feigned the traditional norms and views toward women toiling while she waits upon her lover by becoming a bold and independent woman, depicted when she traveled for miles alone to see he ailing sister. She breaks the societal rule and norms that a woman should never go on a journey unaccompanied by a man and seek their permission. Additionally, the authors also incorporate other characters, such as Lizzy, who refused to be an object of admiration by rejecting the marriage proposal from Collins (Manish &Sadaf,2015). This is also depicted by Elizabeth when she refused to be judged because of her outward appearance by refusing the marriage proposal from Darcy. The characters strived to end the prolonged prejudices against women by refusing to bow down to the preconceived stereotypes and becoming strong and independent.
On the other hand, Mohamed (2013) believes that Elizabeth exhibits normative feminism with the power to make her own opinions and to base her decisions on her level of intelligence and make informed judgments. The author describes Elizabeth as a woman who inaugurated herself among male chauvinists ruling out the prejudices against women in the ancient British Community. Suaidi (2016 ) depicts Elizabeth’s normative feminism by proving that she does not need a man to navigate life. She equates herself to the male chauvinists by taking up roles previously meant for men depicted in this quote; ‘Elizabeth was anxious to see her sister. The carriage was being used, and she decided to walk.’How silly you are!’ cried Elizabeth’s mother,’ you will be covered with mud when you get there; you will not be fit to be seen.’I shall be fit to see Jane –which is all I want. It is only three miles. I shall be back for dinner. She walked alone, crossing field after field ‘(Jane, 2013, p.26). Elizabeth’s mother did not believe her when she insisted that she visit her ailing sister Jane on foot since the carriage was used. The authors describe Elizabeth as a woman of immense strength and courage, a rare quality among Victorian women and men as she treks through fields for miles to see her sister.
The other authors that appraise Elizabeth’s feminism include Hui-Chan, who describes her impact on the novel. He describes Elizabeth as an exceptional woman who distinguishes herself from the other female characters in the novel by failing to limit herself to women’s traditional norms and views (2014). They depict Elizabeth as a woman who is defiant of the gender roles. Instead of striving to become the ideal Victorian woman, Elizabeth professes her feministic position by aligning Mr. Darcy’s character with hers. She ideally extinguishes the prejudice against women by influencing Darcy to set aside his pride and embrace good values, making her fall in love with him.
This literature reveals how the feminist stand exhibited by Elizabeth was beneficial to her in the long run. She managed to help the proud and wealthy Mr. Darcy have a different perception of women and set aside his prejudice towards the inferior groups in society. She feigns the beliefs of the ancient evolution theories that men were superior to women in all aspects of life. Such a theory is Darwinians’ worldview that reinstated the superiority of men through their exposure to pressure, especially at times of war and when they are struggling with food (Gerald,2002)
Women in the Victorian era faced social discrimination from men. They were not allowed to interact with women in social gatherings. Instead, their role was to cater to the needs of their husbands wherever they pleased and to ensure their household was clean and well maintained (Sylvia ,2014). It was a social norm that women have immense respect for the husband, whose decision was always final. A woman was not supposed to exhibit masculine qualities such as questioning her husband’s decisions even if they were oppressive or infringed her rights. She was considered an outcast if she did, and no man desired to marry her. Other women would pity her as people believed a single woman who failed to get a husband to deformities.
Therefore, women strived to adhere to the Victorian social norms. They exhibited innocence inwardly and outwardly; they took care of their husbands and households and served their preconceived purpose of getting married and reproducing. They were denied access to education since male chauvinists believed they could want to be a part of their world and become superior to them. Women were required to labor in men’s farms from age 8 until they married. Upon marriage, all the woman’s earnings and property were controlled by the man .whom the woman had no right to divorce even if they committed adultery. Divorce laws granted the men the right to divorce a woman who committed adultery on any ground, while on the other hand, a woman was required to produce substantial evidence to prove that indeed the husband had committed adultery (Allen,2017).
Additionally, the social norms required men to only call women by their second name. Women were only allowed to put on clothes beneath their ankles, and it was expected of them to speak in a soft tone and with grace. The other infringing social right inferred upon women was the fact that there was gender segregation in education. Women received inferior education than men, did not have access to universities, and could only take low-paying jobs.
During the Victorian age, when Joan Osteen published the novel pride and prejudice, there were distinct prejudice and stereotypes against women in society . They were viewed as objects whose only place was in the kitchen, doing household chores and taking care of her husband. Before getting into the marriage, a woman was required to learn chores such as weaving, washing, cooking, and cleaning the house (Shirley,2012). Women were exempted from such tasks only if they were from a wealthy family since their maids took care of everything. Additionally, in the Victorian era, a woman was denied an education because she would have access to the outside world, which was considered a man’s territory (Joan,2018).
Men perceived women as inferior to them in everything except their femininity. They expected to possess feminine qualities of being innocent and proving their innocence to the world. A typical Victorian woman was required to be ignorant of the world, exhibit general weakness and meekness, stay put, and not give opinions when men give their views (Shirley,2012). This resulted in the women lacking freedom in their marriage; they strived to possess all these qualities even if it cost them their freedom. Otherwise, they would not get a suitor.
However, women such as Jane Austen began to rebel against the stereotypes towards the rhea inferiority of women that barred them from accessing services that could help them grow. Her novel pride and prejudice is a true reflection of the challenges women face in society. First is the fact that Mr. Berret, despite having vast wealth, did not deem any of them fit to inherit his wealth and preferred a male heir instead. Elizabeth is one of the characters who rebel against the preconceived ideas and stereotypes regarding the role of women in society and how they are only an object of admiration when she turns down Darcy’s marriage proposal. Instead of breaking her neck to be an ideal Victorian woman who tries to please the men, she goes against the grain by trying to change Darcy’s prejudice towards the inferior in society and manages to convince him to change his ways (Joan,2013 ).
The novel is believed to be the beginning of feminists movements, which led to the rise of other renowned feminists such as Elizabeth Cady Sinton, an author who started the women’s rights movement and even convened the Seneca Falls Convention in the 1800s that resulted in women rights to vote for the first time in the American history (Deborah,2017). Another renowned feminist is Rose Scott, a women’s rights activist during the Victorian era who did not subscribe to the prejudices against them and the infringement of their rights in society during the 1800s. She was the founder of the Women’s Political Education League that advocated for education and suffrage rights and the rights of incarcerated women.
This reflects Elizabeth’s pride and prejudice, who feigned the notion that women were slaves of men who did not have an opinion or a place in the male-dominated society. Their actions eliminated the prejudices towards women, which is also reflected in today’s society where women now have equal rights and can hold executive and political positions, which men previously dominated.
Pride and prejudice is a true reflection of the origins of feminism and the struggle of women such as Elizabeth, who challenged the prejudices against women during the capitalism era in British. The novel was published when women had no voice in society and blindly followed the preconceived social roles to fulfill their duties. The literature review provides evidence of Elizabeth’s feministic character, dividing it into a woman with self-actualization and a strong, courageous, and independent woman. This chapter will inform the rest of the analysis that will expound on how the two aspects of Elizabeth’s feminism come to play in the rest of the novel.
Austen, J. (2013). Pride & prejudice. New Delhi: Fingerprint Classics.
Bergam, G. (2002). The history of the human female inferiority ideas in evolutionary biology.
BURSTYN, J. O. A. N. N. (2018). Victorian education and the ideal of womanhood. Place of publication not identified: ROUTLEDGE.
CHANG, H.-C. (2014). The impact of the feminist heroine: Elizabeth in pride and prejudice. International Journal of Applied Linguistics & English Literature, 3(3), 76–82. https://doi.org/10.7575/aiac.ijalel.v.3n.3p.76
COULSON, S. Y. L. V. I. A. (2014). Victorian notions about femininity in 19th century britain. Place of publication not identified: GRIN Publishing.
Foster, S. (2012). Victorian women’s fiction: Marriage, freedom and the individual. London: Routledge.
GAURAV, M. A. N. I. S. H., & FATIMA, S. A. D. A. F. (2015). PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, THE NOVEL AND THE MOVIE: A FEMINIST APPROACH. BEST: International Journal of Humanities, Arts, Medicine and Sciences (BEST: IJHAMS), 3(10).
Horstman, A. (2016). Victorian divorce. London: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group.
Kent, D. (2017). Elizabeth Cady Stanton: Founder of the women’s suffrage movement.
Moe, M. (2016). Charlotte and Elizabeth: Multiple Modernities in Jane Austen’s pride and prejudice. ELH, 83(4), 1075–1103. https://doi.org/10.1353/elh.2016.0040
Suaidi, S. (2016). Feminism reflected in Pride and prejudice novel by Jane Austen 1813. Jurnal Ilmiah Bahasa Dan Sastra, 3(1), 85. https://doi.org/10.21067/jibs.v3i1.1157
Siddika, M. K. (2013). The metamorphosis of normative feminism in Pride and prejudice as descriptive feminism in beloved: Inevitable path of a woman. Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences. https://doi.org/10.5901/mjss.2013.v4n13p425