What lessons did Anne Elliot learn from Mrs. Smith that she could share with Harriet (Emma) & Elizabeth (P & P) about their experiences? Specifically concerning women, class mobility &...

What lessons did Anne Elliot learn from Mrs. Smith that she could share with Harriet (Emma) & Elizabeth (P & P) about their experiences? Specifically concerning women, class mobility & marriage.

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sullymonster eNotes educator| Certified Educator

What a fun question!  Harriet and Elizabeth have both been protected in their lives.  Although Elizabeth is certainly not naive about the world, she has never experienced first-hand the suffering of women who are trapped by their situation.  She momentarily considers what it would be like to suffer spinsterhood as the result of Lydia's behaviors, but she is always in the company of the elite, the wealthy.  Harriet, although ultimately class-less, has been protected by the families around her.  She is encouraged by Emma to feel that she has the opportunity to move up through marriage.  At the very least, she is "safe" in her situation and not aware of the possibility that poverty could easily be hers.

Mrs. Smith has taught Anne that women can not move through the classes unless they marry.  And if they have no dowry, their chances of doing this are slim.  They are left to marry in their own class, and when their husbands pass, they are left to sink lower.  Women could not make their fortune - they could barely make anything in the realm of profit. 

Anne would be able to enlighten Harriet and Elizabeth about the harsh realities that just a step away from their position.