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Feminism in Pride and Prejudice?Before Pride and Prejudice I read A Doll's House by...

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hawra | Student, Undergraduate | eNoter

Posted March 12, 2012 at 9:31 PM via web

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Feminism in Pride and Prejudice?

Before Pride and Prejudice I read A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen. One of the main themes of that particular play is feminism. Consequently I wondered what this Jane Austen novel had to say about this. Here are some points that could be discussed:

How does this novel portray women? Are they dull helpless beings that need men and marriage for support? Is a woman's only purpose in life to find a suitable husband?

Can one consider the protagonist, Elizabeth, a feminist? Why and why not? Please provide examples.

How does Pride and Prejudice approach feminism? Is it for it or against it? Or does it not relate to the topic at all?

Can feminism be considered as one of the themes of the book? Why is that?

Is there any indication that the book wants to change women's social status?

Having a female hero might lead us to think that this is a feminist book. However it also reinforces the restrictive 19th century traditions that opressed women. What do you make of that?

6 Answers | Add Yours

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wannam | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted March 13, 2012 at 12:25 AM (Answer #2)

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In Pride and Prejudice, we see some elements of feminism, especially in the lead character Elizabeth.  Society at the time was focused on marriage for women.  A woman's only means of support was to marry.  The women in the story are certainly focused on marriage, although they have different ideas about why a marriage should take place.  Consider that Elizabeth rejects Mr. Collins even though he is correct in suggesting "another offer of marriage may not be made to you."  Mrs. Bennet tries to force Elizabeth into the marriage because it will ensure Mr. Bennet's living stays within the family.  Elizabeth still refuses because she knows they will never get along.  It was very uncommon for a young woman to refuse an offer of marriage with so slight as reason as not likely her intended.  In this and many other ways, Elizabeth shows the beginning of feminism by suggesting that a woman is more than a wife and has a right to expect more of a husband.

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litteacher8 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted March 13, 2012 at 1:05 AM (Answer #3)

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I think that Austen was a feminist for her time.  She was careful in her portrayal of women.  Dickens, for example, often portrayed them as weak or stock characters, or villains.  Austen's women, as here, were often defying social convention.

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hawra | Student , Undergraduate | eNoter

Posted March 13, 2012 at 1:27 AM (Answer #4)

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In Pride and Prejudice, we see some elements of feminism, especially in the lead character Elizabeth.  Society at the time was focused on marriage for women.  A woman's only means of support was to marry.  The women in the story are certainly focused on marriage, although they have different ideas about why a marriage should take place.  Consider that Elizabeth rejects Mr. Collins even though he is correct in suggesting "another offer of marriage may not be made to you."  Mrs. Bennet tries to force Elizabeth into the marriage because it will ensure Mr. Bennet's living stays within the family.  Elizabeth still refuses because she knows they will never get along.  It was very uncommon for a young woman to refuse an offer of marriage with so slight as reason as not likely her intended.  In this and many other ways, Elizabeth shows the beginning of feminism by suggesting that a woman is more than a wife and has a right to expect more of a husband.

That does show that Elizabeth is trying to break social rules. Is that the only example Elizabeth portrays of feminism?

Do any other characters show feminism? How?

Your follow up response will be very useful!

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hawra | Student , Undergraduate | eNoter

Posted March 13, 2012 at 1:30 AM (Answer #5)

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I think that Austen was a feminist for her time.  She was careful in her portrayal of women.  Dickens, for example, often portrayed them as weak or stock characters, or villains.  Austen's women, as here, were often defying social convention.

I'm not sure I understand why you mean by the women defying social convention. Could you provide examples of that? I see them still follwing the 19th century social conventions and rules like how the only way the can meet men is through formal introduction. The one time somone breaks a social rule is when Lydia elopes with Wickham. However this is negative and would not be considered as an example of feminism, would it?

I would really appreciate it if you could reply to clarify the issue. Thank you for your initial contribution!

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wannam | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted March 13, 2012 at 1:52 AM (Answer #6)

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In answer to your question, no, Elizabeth's refusal of Mr. Collins is not the only example. She also refuses Mr. Darcy at first and she does not actively seek a husband. We also see her beg Mr. Bennett to restrain the foolish behavior of a younger sister even though the sister is acting as many young girls during the time did. (of course, this is in reference to the young sister seeking a husband and trying to meet officers. This does not refer to her elopement which would not have been acceptable even then.) Elizabeth's thinking in general shows many concepts of feminism. Some of these ideas are revealed in contrast to other characters (like her mother) and some is revealed in conversations (like those with Lady Catherine de Bourg). Elizabeth isn't the only character who shows feminist ideals, but she is perhaps the most forward and outspoken. Her friend, Charlotte, seems to share her ideals but gives in to societal pressure. Her sister, Jane, also shares many of her ideals, but Jane is far more soft spoken and passive.
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drahmad1989 | Student , Undergraduate | Valedictorian

Posted April 30, 2012 at 9:24 AM (Answer #7)

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novel give us few pictures of women.

as a Elizibeth we see a good lover and a little pride women,

in mrs. Bannet we find another kind of talktive women,

in Lydia we find flirt

in Jane we find a good hearted women.

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