To what extent do the female characters in Pride and Prejudice carry responsibilities for their actions and events?

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M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The female characters of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice are representatives Austen's own rebellious feelings against the social norms to which women are often attached as if they were not worthy to think and act for themselves.

The Bennet sisters are thought to be unruly by the likes of Lady Catherine, Miss Bingley, and Mrs. Hurst only because they do not seem to demonstrate the extreme rules of decorum that are customary of ladies of higher upbringing. However, the real problem of the Bennet sisters is not that they are not well-brought up, but that they are allowed to think for themselves.

This is moreevident in Elizabeth and Lydia than in the rest of the Bennet sisters. Yet, both sisters make contrastingly different choices as far as how they would take responsibility for their actions.

Elizabeth's main issue isspeaking out her mind before thinking straight. She is prone to generalizations and she emits judgement about things that she believes are true. In the end, when she realizes that Darcy was not a proud man, nor Wickham a victim, she takes the massive step of telling each man how she was in the wrong. Elizabeth takes her freedom of expression to both make the mistake and then ask for forgiveness about it.

Lydia's problem is that she is a bad influence to Kitty, that she is boy-crazy, unreasonable, and immature. She does not care about decorum at all and is not ashamed of her eloping with Wickham at the young age of 15, and unmarried. When Wickham is forced to marry her, Lydia is blind enough not to realize that her marriage is simply a patch to cover a potential scandal. She is even proud of the fact that she is to be known as "Mrs. Wickham", and that she has privileges over her sisters for being the first one married. In other words, Lydia has no notion of responsibility, and she is a flat character in that she never changes in the story. In fact, as time passes by, her lack of common sense becomes more and more evident.

Therefore, the two most controversial Bennet sisters have their way in that they can think and act independently, but only one of them seems to have matured enough to recognize right from wrong and accept responsibility for her actions.                                                                                                                   

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Pride and Prejudice

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