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What are the aspects that show the injustice of society in Pride and Prejudice?

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rozh | Student, Undergraduate | Valedictorian

Posted June 3, 2013 at 10:32 PM via web

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What are the aspects that show the injustice of society in Pride and Prejudice?

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Michelle Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted June 4, 2013 at 3:51 PM (Answer #1)

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The evidence of social injustice in Pride and Prejudice is mainly based on the topics of

  • gender
  • historical context (politics)
  • rank/class
  • money

Gender and politics are perhaps the most salient signs of social injustice. In a male-dominated society all entitlements and rights are bestowed exclusively upon men. While women enjoyed some limited liberties, men were the ultimate decision makers. The entailment that prevents the Bennet sisters from inheriting what is duly theirs is an example of the unfairness of their society because, like the Dashwood sisters in Sense and Sensibility, their chance of becoming destitute would fall upon the mercy (or lack-thereof) of their closest male relative, Mr. Collins. 

Gender also results in the necessity for marriage. When Elizabeth rejects Mr. Collins, her mother goes into a frenzy because she knows that otherwise women would not be able to move forward in society. Also evident of this need is Charlotte Lucas, whose need to marry is described by Austen in chapter 22

Without thinking highly either of men or of matrimony, marriage had always been her object; it was the only honorable provision for well-educated young women of small fortune, and, however uncertain of giving happiness, must be their pleasantest preservative from want.

Therefore, gender is indeed an obstacle in their society. 

Rank and class are constant preoccupations for

  • Lady Catherine
  • Miss Bingley
  • Darcy
  • Mrs. Hurst
  • Mr. Collins
  • Sir William

These characters consistently look down on others only because they enjoy a higher social status. Lady Catherine condescends and insults at will; Miss Bingley looks down at all the Bennets; Darcy has a problem with the country folk and Mrs. Hurst looks down on them as well; Mr. Collins lives to please Lady Catherine, who belittles him,  and even Sir William enjoys speaking highly of himself. Class affects the dynamics among the characters and separates them from one another.

Money is the ultimate denominator of unfairness. Mr. Bennet admits to not having enough money saved for good dowries for his daughters to marry "well". This results in having to be bailed out to get a dowry when Lydia elopes with Wickham.

Sir William's need to "keep up" with his title had made him squander money for which he has to live in the country side, and without enough money.

Mr. Collins living depends on the patronage of Lady Catherine, which earns him enough to enjoy a comfortable life.

The earnings of Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley are the most important factors for Mrs. Bennet to declare them good enough as potential husbands for her daughters.

In all, money basically makes everything possible in Pride and Prejudice. Class separates one character from another, and all of this is indicative of a society which is not balanced, nor unfair to all citizens alike.

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