In Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen creates a humorous family for the character Elizabeth. However, what is Austen's view on the family in general?In Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen creates a...

In Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen creates a humorous family for the character Elizabeth. However, what is Austen's view on the family in general?

In Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen creates a humorous family for Elizabeth. Please explain Elizabeth and/or Austen's feelings toward this family or toward family in general. It is common in Austen for parents not to be wise, and in this book, Elizabeth's mother is often mocked and seems quite silly. The sisters, especially the younger ones, can also be silly. Elizabeth is often embarrassed by her family. Given all of this mockery of the family, what is Austen's view of the family? (Please be aware that Elizabeth is not always ashamed of her family and that not all of them are mocked. Who does Elizabeth definitely respect in her family? Why?)

Comment by using specific evidence from the text

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marbar57 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

For every family, you have to realize that both the father and mother usually come from different backgrounds, and their children are a product of the "melding" of their genes.  You'll get some just like the father; you'll get some just like the mother; you'll get some not like either of them! 

In Elizabeth's family, the father was a sensible, practical person, and Elizabeth and Jane took after him in their temperaments, demeanor, and personalities.  Therefore, Elizabeth had great respect, love, and admiration for both him and her eldest sister, Jane. 

The mother, however, was silly, loud, unstable, and unsteady.  Unfortunately, all of Elizabeth's younger sisters took after their mother.   To someone like Elizabeth, who was naturally modest, unassuming, proper, quiet, unpretentious--the epitomy of how Jane Austen herself was--the innappropriate behavior of her mother and sisters was devastating!  Especially in light of the fact that both she and Jane were attempting to find suitable husbands!

In the movie, Becoming Jane, you can see that the social circle around Jane Austen was somewhat disfunctional itself, leading me to assume that that may be the reason why in her books she often has family members that are an embarassment to the rest of the family.   She had a way of bringing out the abnormalities and idiosyncrasies of English society that's both ironic and humorous at the same time!  We laugh at the same time that we want to cry!

This doesn't give us reason to suppose that Elizabeth doesn't love her mother and sisters, though!  But it's hard for her to have much respect for them!  Even her father admits to not having much respect for them, even though he still loves his wife somewhat despite her odd ways.   We may have a difficult parent or sibling that we have trouble respecting, but that doesn't mean we still don't love them!

So many times in literature, the author creates a difficult personal situation for the main character in order to prove them and also to make a contrast between them and the other secondary characters.   It also creates a conflict for the main character and a situation that they can rise out of and prove themselves.  It also makes the book more realistic as life itself always gives us adversity and challenges to overcome!


Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Hmmm.  It's been a year or two since I read this novel, but I don't recall any what I would call "typical," intact families in the piece.  Darcy's family, while it does demonstrate one pretty normal, loving sibling relationship, is certainly not typical.  Nor is the Bingleys' nor the Gardiners'.  Even the families established during the course of the novel (the Collins's and the Wickhams) are created by circumstances which don't bode well for future "normalcy." 

Perhaps it is the Bennets, after all, who are most average.  As mentioned in the posts above, this is a family comprised of practical and inappropriate, educated and silly.  This mix is at least explained by the characters of the parents, making their oddities at least explainable.  Their dysfunction is no more or less the dysfunction every family has when it tries to blend disparate people and the offspring which generally follow. 

Pride and Prejudice is, in part, a commentary on the Victorian family and even Austen's own family. At worst, Austen sees the family as a convoluted web of faults and flaws and foibles; at best, as a colorful blend of personalities which create an engaging and likeable whole.

Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Austen's purpose for developing Bennet's family as a humorous one is to show the follies of marrying for beauty, as to his deep regret Mr. Bennet did, and for demonstrating multiple follies and errors for families to stay away from. The only families that represents what Austen sets forth as families to admire (except Elizabeth's soon-to-be family at Pemberley with Mr. Darcy) are the childless marriage of Aunt and Uncle Gardener and the reported upon family of the late Darcy of Pemberley who took Wickham under his wing to raise and educate. Therefore Austen's view of family is that it must be begun with a marriage based upon virtue and reasonableness along with affection and love and that it must be genuinely guided by the virtues of reasonableness, goodness, kindness and open-minded humility.

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Pride and Prejudice

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