How are women represented in Pride and Prejudice?
Certainly Jane Austen lived and wrote during an era when women were not considered intellectually, politically, nor socially equal to men. This is perhaps one reason she was not famous until after her death - she chose to publish her works anonymously- perhaps with the thought that they would be better received without a name at all than with that of a woman.
That said - Austen certainly gives all of her female characters an opportunity to be a little more than her own society gives them credit for. Generally speaking, Austen is not overt about women's equality and rights. She does not, for example, have only unrealistically strong, outspoken, and intelligent female characters. Certainly some females (Mrs. Darcy and Lydia included) were written to clearly live up to exactly the frivolous, silly, and somewhat ditzy characteristics that women were stereotyped under at that time.
But brilliantly, Austen does this for a point of comparison to her real feminine heroines. In a world where they cannot inherit their father's land - these women are at the mercy of a suitable marriage arrangement - yet they have the courage to be picky. In a world where women were expected to paint still life and play music, these women are witty and speak up for themselves. These women are intolerant of ignorance and even if patient enough to put up with it on a social level - won't stand for it in close personal relationships and certainly not marriage.
In short, Austen paints women as individuals who have minds of their own, thoughts and opinions equal (and possibly superior) to the men in their lives, who deserve to get what they want.
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