How does Austen criticise British society in Pride and Prejudice?

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Payal Khullar eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen satirizes values and functioning of the British Society in several ways through her characters. Firstly, she attacks the numerous social limitations put on women and their views on marriage resulting because of these restrictions during that time. In fact, the novel begins very much with the lines that satirize this aspect.

"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife..."

Because of their weaker social and economic position, women often married out of reasons other than love and attraction. But marrying someone for getting financial security and economic elevation is wrong. Austen represents this by ridiculing female characters like Charlotte Lucas and Mrs. Bennett, who accept this belief, and helps us get the sense of what is right with characters like Elizabeth and Jane, who eventually marry their object of attraction.

"I am not romantic you know. I never was, I ask only a comfortable home..."(Charlotte Lucas)


Austen also satirizes the “class system”, which was prevalent in the British Society at that time. We notice this, inter alia, in the behavior of Bingley sisters towards Jane and Elizabeth. Darcy, too, is extremely proud when it comes to his status and heritage, which also comes in between his admiration for Elizabeth who doesn’t belong to his class. Class distinction is so evident in the novel when characters with high class interact with those from the middle class. Nonetheless, Austen gives the right picture when Jane and Bingley as well as Darcy and Elizabeth marry in the end, transcending all the class constraints.



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Pride and Prejudice

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