Jane Austen's view of Accomplishments in Pride and PrejudiceAfter reading Pride and Prejudice, I'm having a difficult time analyzing the material. I was hoping for some positive and helpful feed...

Jane Austen's view of Accomplishments in Pride and Prejudice

After reading Pride and Prejudice, I'm having a difficult time analyzing the material. I was hoping for some positive and helpful feed back regarding these issues.

Here are my questions:In pride and prejudice, Darcy, Elizabeth, and Miss Bingley discuss what it takes to an "accomplished" woman. A woman must have knowledge in singing, music, languages, dancing and more. But what I'm trying to understand is why would Jane Austen place that in her novel. What point is she trying to make? I mean is she trying to help improve her audience in some way? Or, could she be mocking this view what it takes to be an accomplished woman? If yes or no, why? If yes, is she clearly defining that women don't need this type of education? I mean what point is she exactly trying to get across?

If anyone can provide clear and constructive feedback on the questions I would be most greatful. Plus, if anyone could give text from the book that clearly defines their opinion, I would appreciate that as well. I would like to be able to have a clear understanding by comparing opinion with text.

Thank you in advance for the much needed help.

Expert Answers
Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Well, it's been a few years since I've re-read the novel and I don't have a copy here, so this will be more general than you'd like, I'm sure.  There is no question that Austen was doing two things with her description of an "accomplished woman."  First, she was reflecting the Victorian view of what a woman should be spending her time and energy doing--with the primary goal of catching a man.  This is not an uncommom picture of women in this era, and she is faithful to the time period in her novel.  Second, she is being satiric--making fun--of this view of "accomplishment."  Look at the characters she has doing these things, and it's the silly, foolish, vacuous, and ridiculous females.  Elizabeth and her father recognize such silliness and even make fun of these empty pursuits in other girls--perhaps even some in their household.  The more commendable characters are also the more educated and thinking ladies, such as Elizabeth. Austen's clearly saying accomplishment is not measured primarily by things that may "polish" young ladies but certainly should not be all they have to offer. The novel as a whole has a satiric edge, so you're wise to wonder if what Austen says is really what she means. 

marbar57 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

You have to remember that in many of her books, Jane Austen is poking fun at and ridiculing the established "norms" of her day.  British society placed such emphasis on appearance, prestige, money, and position that good character traits were often overlooked or not even considered.  A person was judged by their outward appearance and certain acceptable "accomplishments" such as piano playing, singing, music, flower arranging, foreign languages, riding, shooting, and dancing.  All these "accomplishments" were skills in and of themselves, but they didn't make someone a whole person.  Sometimes people could be someone very "accomplished" yet be a perfect scoundrel as far as their character was concerned! 

Many fine people were the working class and the work they did was noble and fine.  They worked long and hard but rarely got acknowledged.  Weren't they accomplished, too?  You bet they were, but the upper class (Caroline Bingley) rarely noticed or acknowledged them.

I think Jane Austen was mocking the established views of her day and she did it subtely through the characters in her books.  In a sense, she was laughing at herself and anyone else whom the shoe fit!


accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

#3 seems to have it spot on - remember the entire purpose of the novel which can be seen to be expressed in the famous first sentence. It is all about satirising the way young single women gain partners and really asks serious questions about marriage in Jane Austen's time. Remember too that Caroline Bingley is one of the few characters to remain unmarried in the novel - that says a lot about the value of her "views". Austen throughout seems to be arguing for women to be allowed to be accomplished in their own understanding of the word rather than accomplished in the eyes of patriarchal society. Of course, in the novel we can say that Caroline Bingley and Lizzie Bennet act as foils for each other - Caroline Bingley is so focussed on doing what is proper and right in the eyes of society and being an "accomplished" woman to gain the hand of Mr. Darcy, whereas Lizzie is quite open in her failings - for example her bad piano playing. Yet she wins Mr. Darcy on her own terms, marrying for love and for money. Says a lot about the value of the so-called accomplishments of such women as Caroline Bingley.

lsumner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Darcy's, Miss Bingley's, and Elizabeth's discussion of the characteristics of an "accomplished" woman, Austen is not only mocking societal views, but she is establishing the fact that Darcy sees something in Elizabeth that intrigues him, even though she is not an "accomplished" woman by society's standards. When Darcy describes his sister as a skillful pianist who is educated in all aspects of life, the reader can clearly see he admires her. More so, he adores her. However, one can only wonder why he is hesitant in marrying Lady Catherine's daughter who is by societal standards an "accomplished" woman. Why does Darcy choose Elizabeth over lady Catherine's daughter? Could it be his prior judgment of the accomplished woman is wrong? Austen is gifted in her satirical evaluation of what characteristics the accomplished woman should have. When Darcy falls in love with a lesser accomplished woman, either his judgment is lacking or society has been wrong all along.   

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Pride and Prejudice

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