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How are women portrayed in Pride and Prejudice and what is their role?

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lacey-jo | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted March 11, 2007 at 1:25 AM via web

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How are women portrayed in Pride and Prejudice and what is their role?

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gbeatty | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted March 13, 2007 at 2:53 AM (Answer #1)

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Women are portrayed in many different ways in Pride and Prejudice. The main unifying characteristic they have is that they are economically dependent on men. Whether fathers, brothers, or husbands, women must have them to be socially acceptable.

Beyond that, though, there is little continuity. There are proud and silly women (Lady Catherine de Bourgh), there are silly and crude women (Mrs. Bennet), there are kind women (Jane) and there are women who are so smart they crackle (Elizabeth!).

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

Posted April 7, 2008 at 5:30 AM (Answer #2)

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In Pride and Prejudice, women are portrayed through the different characters that inhabit the novel.  Take for example, Elizabeth Bennett, she is not your typical woman of the period, she should be set on getting married. She is in a difficult situation with her home being passed to her father's next male heir, Mr. Collins, yet when he proposes, she refuses.  Clearly, she is intelligent, strong minded and independent.  Jane, on the other hand, is considered the beauty of the family.  When Mr. Bingley comes to the country, she is a perfect candidate for his affections.  She is demure, socially acceptable, but, poor.

 Lydia is crazy and wild.  She doesn't seem to follow any of the social rules of her day and lacks a sense of morality.  Mary is quiet, most likely to remain unmarried.  She is content to stay with her books.  Kitty is too young to judge according to this standard.

The book allows us to observe women who are rich, Lady Catherine Debourgh and women who are poor the Bennett sisters and women who are desperate, Charlotte Lucas. Jane Austen's women characters are three dimensional, they are not paper cut-outs. Her women possess different characters, temperments and value systems. She is saying women are not one dimensional, not just decoration on a man's arm. But  valued members of society.

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lhc | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted December 22, 2008 at 12:55 PM (Answer #2)

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Women in England in the 1800's, which is when Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice is set, had one primary function, which was to marry, and marry well.  The Bennet girls have a temporarily comfortable life, for in the absence of sons, when their father dies, his property will be inherited by their cousin, Mr. Collins. For this reason, the Bennet's mother is usually in a frenzy trying to orchestrate the marriage of her daughters.   Elizabeth Bennet, her third of four girls, is a delightful young lady who refuses to lose her individualism and personal identity in a society that encourages women to do exactly that. However, much like her father, Elizabeth doesn't take too seriously her mother's flighty schemes to get her married. The role of women, especially upper crust women in England at the time is to look beautiful, speak only of pleasantries, and marry quickly, preferably to someone with some wealth at his disposal.  On this eve of the Industrial Revolution, this world stands in stark contrast to the one that will soon evolve in Britain, where women's roles will transform into something completely different.

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slchanmo1885 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted December 30, 2008 at 6:16 PM (Answer #3)

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In the novel, there are many, many specific quotes that discuss exactly what lhc said in post #2.

Some of them are:
Chapter One: "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters."

Chapter 10: "Elizabeth, having rather expected to affront him, was amazed at his gallantry; but there was a mixture of sweetness and archness in her manner which made it difficult for her to affront anybody; and Darcy had never been so bewitched by any woman as he was by her. He really believed, that were it not for the inferiority of her connections, he should be in some danger."

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stephen-moore | eNotes Newbie

Posted January 1, 2009 at 6:45 PM (Answer #4)

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Women in England in the 1800's, which is when Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice is set, had one primary function, which was to marry, and marry well.  The Bennet girls have a temporarily comfortable life, for in the absence of sons, when their father dies, his property will be inherited by their cousin, Mr. Collins. For this reason, the Bennet's mother is usually in a frenzy trying to orchestrate the marriage of her daughters.   Elizabeth Bennet, her third of four girls, is a delightful young lady who refuses to lose her individualism and personal identity in a society that encourages women to do exactly that. However, much like her father, Elizabeth doesn't take too seriously her mother's flighty schemes to get her married. The role of women, especially upper crust women in England at the time is to look beautiful, speak only of pleasantries, and marry quickly, preferably to someone with some wealth at his disposal.  On this eve of the Industrial Revolution, this world stands in stark contrast to the one that will soon evolve in Britain, where women's roles will transform into something completely different.

Elizabeth is the second oldest of five daughters.

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irishbrit | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted January 7, 2009 at 9:04 PM (Answer #5)

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Thanks for the help you guys! Are there any other sources from the book stating their role? I just can't seem to find many.

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irishbrit | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted January 8, 2009 at 12:52 PM (Answer #6)

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Okay, so I must write a critical research paper, and argue the role of women during the 19th century. I am struggling to put a thesis together that is both argumentative and specifically deals with the novel and the topic.

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