What are the differences and similarities between Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen and A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf?
In Virginia Woolf's considered opinion, Jane Austen is one of the best female writers, especially in view of the fact that she wrote at a time when women's issues were purely domestic and women were protected by a patriarchal society. Woolf states in A Room of One's Own, " Here was a woman about the year 1800 writing without hate, without bitterness, without fear, without protest, without preaching." Unfortunately, however, this still limited her writing as Jane Austen had no "more experience of life than could enter the house of a respectable clergyman." This stifled Austen's creativity and made her fight for liberty very subtle, almost to escape notice.
In Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen does provide Charlotte with a measure of independence, most unexpected for a married woman. It compares to A Room of One's Own as women cannot hope to be themselves, nor to express themselves without “money and a room of her own if she is (they are) to write fiction."(ch 1).The atmosphere in Charlotte's home and the privacy of the sitting room, whilst not the most favorable room in the house, give Elizabeth the assurance that Mr Collins "must be often forgotten" (ch 28)as Charlotte is content in a room that her husband is not inclined to enter often. Elizabeth gives Charlotte "credit for the arrangement," (ch 30) realizing that Charlotte's choice is subtle and deliberate.
The privacy that Charlotte has attained is however, incomplete but perhaps appropriate for the time in which Pride and Prejudice was written. Her private space is not a library or study or anything remotely intellectual but a sitting room and, therefore, a place of entertainment, so not really her "own." The difference then between striving for privacy in Jane Austen's world and Virginia Woolf's is indicative of the restrictions of the setting of Pride and Prejudice. In Woolf's interpretation, having a room, an income and a lock on the door, allows women time for writing whereas, in Charlotte world, it does not necessarily infer any need for academic pursuits.
Virginia Woolf tries to escape the confines of society's expectations on women. At the beginning of A Room of One's Own, the narrator breaks the rules when she walks on the grass; a symbolic gesture showing the conflict between what is right and what is real. In Pride and Prejudice, even the title suggests the same kind of reality - one that is based on life in a male-dominated environment.
The relationship between Elizabeth and Mr Darcy contradicts the one she has with Mr Collins who, although he has married Charlotte, was shocked when (prior to this)he was turned down by Elizabeth and made his presence felt thereafter, despite her discomfort - thereby invading her privacy - a privacy that, as a male he does not think she deserves anyway. Darcy respects Elizabeth's privacy and loves her more for it but it is still granted to her rather than simply deserved by her.
In Woolf's world, academic pursuits prove a woman's equal worth and ability whereas in Pride and Prejudice, when fighting "a truth universally acknowledged" that a man is only complete with a wife, rendering him "rightful property.." it is made that much more difficult. Restrictions in both settings are male dominated but definitely not male- driven as women play an equal part in maintaining their lowly status.
The main similarities exist in the quest for identity outside of male perception and the differences are in the application of that quest.