Does Austen address the theme of gender injustice in her treatment of love and marriage?

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M.P. Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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The Jane Austen reader can definitely feel a sarcastic undertone within the lines of most of her writings when it comes to the themes of gender injustice, love, marriage, and relationships.

Pride and Prejudice is particularly strong in the topic of gender injustice because the novel shows how women cannot get within society unless they get married. This situation was illustrated with the case of the Bennet entailment which would have left Mr. Collins, a distant cousin, as the only heir to the Bennet estate just because he was a man. Hence, the Bennet women would have had to marry in order to move to their future husbands' households instead.

A similar situation can be seen in Sense and Sensibility when the Dashwood women had to vacate their home in favor of their half brother, who also became sole heir to his father's inheritance just because the law stated that men were the only ones to inherit.

Therefore, Austen followed a similar axiom to present the topic of gender injustice in both Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility. Namely, that women were literally ruled by men in society, that marriage was the only way that they could come into society as worthy individuals and that, as wives, they were one of the many possessions of the husband.

This shows that Austen was not only aware but clearly against these accepted notions and used sarcasm to expose the ridiculousness of these social rules.

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