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How is the theme of social class presented throughout the novel?

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linca | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted April 30, 2008 at 3:23 AM via web

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How is the theme of social class presented throughout the novel?

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pmiranda2857 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted April 30, 2008 at 7:53 AM (Answer #1)

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Social class plays a huge role in this novel.  All of English society in Jane Austen's time and in her books is based on social class.  The Bennet's are not poor, but they are not wealthy and are in a position to lose their home to a relative, Mr. Collins.  

Society is organized according to where you fall on the social ladder.  When Darcy meets Elizabeth, he is repulsed by his feelings for a young woman whose family is not only rather common, but not wealthy.  They have no impressive family connections either. Technically, Elizabeth is not eligible to be a possible wife for Darcy who is far above her on the social ladder.

Another example of social class dominating the novel, is Mr. Collins constant fawning all over Lady Catherine DeBourgh.  Mr. Collins brags constantly about Rosings, Lady Catherine Debourgh's beautiful home as if it should be worshipped.

The fact that Darcy cannot shake his feelings for Elizabeth is troubling for him.  He tries desperately to rid himself of his feelings for someone who is far below him socially.  So, in the end, when Darcy and Elizabeth do get together, it is a triumph for love over social class and class structure.  That is what Jane Austen loves to celebrate in her novels, because, she herself, was a victim of social class prejudice in her own love life.

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lit24 | College Teacher | Valedictorian

Posted April 30, 2008 at 3:36 PM (Answer #2)

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"Pride and Prejudice" (1813) reflects faithfully the socio-economic condition of Regency England.

At that time, ownership of land and not money was the single most important criterion which determined the social status of an individual. Lady Catherine tries unsuccessfully to dissuade Elizabeth from marrying Darcy,because she is poorer than him but Elizabeth angrily retorts: "In marrying your nephew, I should not consider myself as quitting that sphere. He is a gentleman; I am a gentleman's daughter: so far we are equal."(Ch.56).

At the end of Ch.59 when Elizabeth announces to her mother that she is going to get married to Darcy, Mrs.Bennet exclaims: "'Tis as good as a lord!" Darcy unlike his cousin Col.Fitzwilliam Darcy who is "the younger son of an earl" (Ch.33) is not a lord and does not have a title, but unlike Fitzwilliam he is the only son and has inherited a large estate with an annual income of 10,000 pounds.

Mr.Bingley inherits his father's commercial success of 100,000 pounds (Ch.4). But he knows that money alone will not confer him social status and so he finally buys "an estate in a neighbouring county to Derbyshire." (Ch.61). Something which his father had intended to but couldn't(Ch.4).

Similarly, Bingley's sisters who are also financially rich, try to disguise the fact that they belong to the trading class by "associating with people of rank." (Ch.4).

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desiree123 | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 13, 2008 at 6:41 AM (Answer #3)

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social class is big in this story..because they are all looking for a wealthy man to marry...because woman couldnt do really anything but be supported by a man and make babies....

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