What are the political issues that Jane Austen wants to convey in Pride and Prejudice?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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This is a very interesting question, because actually, very few direct political issues are addressed in this novel, and they are not really addressed, but rather only referred to obliquely, in passing. One of the major criticisms that critics have of Austen is the way that she wrote during a period of massive political turmoil with issues such as slavery, the Napoleonic War and the Industrial Revolution. Yet Austen's novels as a whole, not just Pride and Prejudice, offer a curiously very restricted picture of English society, with the focus being on the landed gentry and the interactions of various individuals. This is not because Austen herself was unaware of what was going on in the political scene; her brother after all fought in the Napoleonic War and she was obviously aware of what was happening within her country. The only reference that there is to such political realities is the presence of the militia in Meryton and their removal to Brighton, which clearly was for military reasons. As it is, however, Austen presents the reader with a very feminine view of the world, where soldiers are viewed as attractive and desirable catches, as the following quote from Mrs Bennet suggests:

When they get to our age I dare say they will not think about oficers any more than we do. I remember the time when I liked a red coat myself very well--and indeed so I do still at my heart; and if a smart young colonel, with five or six thousand a year, should want one of my girls, I shall not say nay to him...

Mrs Bennet's reference to marrying off her daughters yet again and the idea of her own youthful longings makes this a humorous quote, but it does also serve to establish the extent of the political references in this novel. The militia's presence and their removal, and the grief this causes the female population of Meryton, is the extent of the politics in this text.

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