Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

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How are women portrayed in Pride and Prejudice and what is their role?

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The women we see portrayed in Pride and Prejudice range from the upper-middle and gentry classes to aristocrats like Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Elizabeth defends herself to Lady de Bourgh as a gentleman's daughter, and we note that her father owns an estate big enough to support hunting, a gentleman's hobby. We don't see what life is like for women in the servant or lower classes.

The women Austen depicts are united in being focused on their only career option (or their daughters' only career option), which is marriage. Marry they all must, or they face the humiliation and uncertainty of ending up old maids, dependent on fathers and brothers for support. In the case of the five Bennet sisters, the situation is dire: they have no brother to depend on, and after their father, who is not young, dies, the income and estate they have depended on will pass to Mr. Collins, the next male in line to inherit.

The book explores the various ways women try to cope with the race for a husband. Some, like Charlotte Lucas, are hardheaded and businesslike, marrying without illusions of love and happiness. Others, like Lydia, run off with the man they have a passion for in a soft-headed and foolish way that threatens ruin. Others, like Elizabeth, learn to fall in love with the man who also offers a financially prudent match. But all the women, one way or another, find that money plays a major role in the affairs of the heart.

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In the novel, there are many, many specific quotes that discuss exactly what lhc...

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