How are women portrayed in Pride and Prejudice and what is their role?
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.
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Okay, so I must write a critical research paper, and argue the role of women during the 19th century. I am struggling to put a thesis together that is both argumentative and specifically deals with the novel and the topic.