Explain the social realities of Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice."

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M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There is also a combination of elements that complete the atmosphere of Georgian England during one of the most elitist and extravagant periods of the regency in terms of social expectations.

You can list them as

The elitism among the classes in the city

The social deprecation of the country people vs. the fashionable and "polite" society of London

Escalating social status through marriage

Marrying for convenience

The lower status of females in Georgian society

The lack of expectations from the female role

The self imposed exile of radical thinkers

The inequality of rank versus money

The expectations on males and the double standards of the roles placed by society on both genders, which (in the end) came down to money.

It is an exquisite view into the realities of the time. I love that novel. The story is perfect.

lit24 | Student

"Pride and Prejudice" faithfully reflects the social realities of the Regency Period (1811-20).

The contrasting lifestyle of different social groups is structurally central to a Jane Austen novel. In "Pride and Prejudice" the landed gentry represented by Darcy  is contrasted with the newly rich trading class represented by Bingley.

The novel was written against the background of the threat of an  invasion by Napoleon. The militia was a temporary voluntary force raised especially during times of a national emergency. Wickham was a member of this militia. Col.Fitzwilliam Darcy the younger son of an earl, on the contrary, is a fully commissioned officer of the regular army. In those days only an aristocrat or a member of the gentry could afford to purchase a commission in the army. In "Pride and Prejudice" Darcy purchases a commission for Wickham so that Wickham agrees to marry Lydia.

Jane Austen  portrays only the elegant aspects of Regency England. The seamy side,however, is  sometimes hinted at. Discipline in the army was very harsh and there is a report of a private being whipped. Similarly the prevailing poverty of the lower classes is revealed by the reference to poor feeding.

But most importantly the harsh reality of a bleak future  for a dependent unwed old woman is hinted at when Charlotte Lucas' brothers are relieved that Collins  is going to marry their sister, for otherwise they would have to look after her in her old age.

The central theme of the novel is the pivotal link between money,  and marriage.

In Ch.26 we read that Wickham has switched his affections from Elizabeth to Miss King because she has suddenly acquired 10,000 pounds. In Ch.27 When Mrs.Gardiner teases Elizabeth that Wickham who till then was her admirer  is "mercenary" Elizabeth replies:"Pray, my dear aunt, what is the difference in matrimonial affairs, between the mercenary and the prudent motive? Where does discretion end, and avarice begin?"

Money no doubt is certainly necessary for a successful and happy marriage. But the vital question is 'how much?': In Ch.33 Col.Fitzwilliam Darcy,the younger son of an earl,  a very rich charming young man, subtly hints that he cannot marry Elizabeth:"Our habits of expense make us too dependent, and there are not many in my rank of life who can afford to marry without some attention to money."  to which Elizabeth playfully sugggests that his price would perhaps  not be "above 50,000 pounds."

In Ch.19 Collins threatens Elizabeth to submit to his proposal by emphasizing her impoverished status:"one thousand pounds in the 4 per cents, which will not be yours till after your mother's decease, is all that you may ever be entitled to."

The novel is a heart rending cry for the freedom of young women from the clutches of mercenary men who toyed with their happiness : "Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance."