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

Pride and Prejudice

by Jane Austen

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Is Pride and Prejudice an anti-feminist novel?

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While this question is ultimately up to personal interpretation, many would argue that Pride and Prejudice isn't an anti-feminist novel, because the book's main character, Elizabeth Bennet, is a strong, independent-minded young woman.

Numerous critics and scholars through the years have seized upon Austen's presentation of Elizabeth Bennet as a highly intelligent young woman who knows her own mind as evidence that the author was a kind of feminist before her time.

What's all the more remarkable about Lizzie's character is that, like all women in her society, she is in a subordinate position, both legally and socially, to men, so there are severe restrictions as to what she can or can't do in life.

Even so, despite the stifling conventions of early-nineteenth-century England, Lizzie is still a well-rounded, multidimensional character with opinions of her own. What's more, she's unafraid to express those opinions, even though she's expected to be demure and passive.

As Lizzie is arguably the most important character in the book, it is reasonable to infer that Jane Austen wished to present her as constituting an ideal of womanhood she dearly wished others to follow. It is this, more than anything else, that counts against Pride and Prejudice being an anti-feminist novel.

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