In Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, how does Mr. Bingley's departure from Netherfield and his almost certain rejection of Jane emphasize the importance of adhering to rules of social decorum for a young women?
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In Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen does certainly use Jane's loss of Bingley to allude to the importance of social conduct. While Jane's own conduct was never improper, it was however at fault. Jane never showed Bingley that she dearly cared for him. Instead, she was always cheerful towards everyone and reserved. Charlotte advises Elizabeth that a woman who is attracted to a man shouldn't always be so reserved or guarded. It takes "encouragement," or assurance for someone to really fall in love. Hence, a woman should "shew more affection than she feels" (Ch. 6, Vol. 1). Hence, when Darcy argued that, in light of the Bennet family's relations, their general public behavior, plus the fact that Jane does not truly appear to be in love with Bingley, he felt it was best to separate them, Darcy was correct, and Jane was at fault.
However, the true impropriety Austen points out is with respect to the Bennet family, particularly the father, mother, and younger sisters, and it is especially their behavior that leads to the separation of Bingley from Jane. The father is at fault because, though civilized himself, he makes no effort to restrain his wife and daughters. The mother is guilty of acting without social decorum, because we frequently see her saying socially unacceptable things. The best example is seen at the Netherfield ball in which Mrs. Bennet, at Bingley's dining room table, declares to Lady Lucas, loudly enough for all the world to hear, that Jane and Bingley will soon marry, well before Bingley has even proposed. The younger daughters are also guilty of impropriety in that daily they flirt heavily with officers and, at the ball, Mary asserts the position of singing for the company, even though she sings very poorly. Darcy noticed all of these acts of impropriety and they served to separate Jane from Bingley.
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