Illustration of Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy with neutral expressions on their faces

Pride and Prejudice

by Jane Austen

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How does the novel Pride and Prejudice reflect the way women are treated in British society? I am doing a research project on treatment of women in traditional societies

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Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen's classic novel of young women looking for love in Regency England, reflects and sometimes satirizes the role of women, whose activities were strictly governed by reputation and social class.  Elizabeth Bennet's family was what we might refer to as upper-middle class, and although they socialized frequently with the upper class, the distinction never blurred and the Bennets were always treated, albeit sometimes subtly, as inferiors.  Mrs. Bennet's primary occupation in life was to make sure each of her daughters married into as high a station as could be arranged, an especially challenging task, hovering as the family did on the edge of upper class England.  One could not overestimate the importance of a young lady's reputation in the marriage-arranging endeavor, and mothers like Elizabeth's spent much time governing their daughters' behavior and reminding their daughters of this important fact.  One "problem" with Elizabeth, in her mother's opinion, was that she was a bit too spirited, too outspoken, too willing to voice her opinion; it was this characteristic that contributed to the tension between Elizabeth and Darcy that eventually gave way to mutual respect and love. 

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