How are women portrayed in Pride and Prejudice?
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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!).
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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