What are the main differences with regard to the depiction of society between Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice?
The major difference between these two novels regarding the way that society is depicted is that Pride and Prejudice is incredibly insular, with only the vaguest of references to events outside of the novel, and Jane Eyre, although sharing some of these characteristics, is much more inclusive of other events outside the immediate action of the novel that have importance for the characters.
Jane Austen was famous for saying, in a letter to a niece about writing, that all you need was a small village with three or four families to write a novel. This perhaps may explain the incredibly narrow focus of her novels that have angered many critics. Although the Napoleonic war was going on during the time of the novel, mention is only made of troop movements. We have an incredibly feminine and restricted view of society. Charlotte Bronte, on the other hand, is much more inclusive. Although most of the attention is focussed on the immediate surroundings of Jane Eyre as she grows up and then works, reference is made to the West Indies and there is a definite sense in which the plot and action of this novel is impacted by events outside the immediate frame of reference of Jane Eyre, such as when her uncle dies making her rich. Thus we can argue that Jane Eyre is much more inclusive rather than the narrow and restrictive vision of society in Pride and Prejudice.