I have to write a 2500 critique of a literary work. I want to use feminist criticism as my approach to Pride and Prejudice (I love that book). Anway, I am completely new to feminist criticism and I am wondering what I should cover. I have never written anything as large as this or where the topic seems so open. Basically I am trying to come up with a bunch of mini-subjects to discuss (each being a paragraph or so of my final essay). So far I have:
- how are women portrayed
- the power dynamics (imbalance) between men and women
- female character identity/self awareness/understanding of role in society (e.g Charlotte Lucas, I would contrast her with Austen herself)
This is all I have come up with and I would be very grateful for any suggestions about what I else I should discuss. Thanks.
I like your subpoints so far of how are women portrayed, the power dynamics (imbalance) between men and women, and female character identity. Consider adding another subpoint, women's roles in the novel and how they adapt to those roles. There are some female characters who readily embrace their role (Lydia) and others such as Lizzie who rebel against it (think her refusal of Mr. Collins' offer!)
One of the most potent aspects of feminist criticism is to uncover the latent dynamics in a novel relevant to women's inferior role in society. In conjunction with that, it is equally important to discuss if/how the author asserts an antithetical position to the latent power imbalance. For instance, on the first point, you might consider how society views Wickham in relation to his vices versus how society would have viewed Miss Darcy and did view Lydia contingent upon their relationships with Wickham. On the second point, you might consider the relevance of Mrs. Younge (who works for her keep) and Lady de Borough, who has as much power and clout as a man, along with Elizabeth, who is as opinionated and directly outspoken as a man.
Well, from your initial plans you seem to have quite a thorough grasp on the topic already, so well done for all the work you have put into it so far! I will offer some comments on the novel as a whole and Austen's presentation of women that should help you think through some of the central issues.
Key to discussing this novel from a feminist stance, to my mind, is considering to what degree does Austen specifically address the issues facing women in the society she depicts in her novels. Firstly, it is a woman's perception of events that we are shown. Interestingly, men are never shown away from the company of women in this novel. We are shown sisters, aunts and female friends sharing and discussing. Through this method of communication, many different ideas about marriage and love are expressed, from Mrs. Bennet's ridiculous planning to the irony of Mr. Bennet. However, the main theme of this novel arguably is the nature of a good marriage, and it does not present in a positive light any possible role for educated young women other than marriage. The only character that looks as if they are going to stay single is Mary Bennet, but she is not presented as a role model to follow! Even analysing the character of the most dominant female figure, Lizzy Bennet, reveals that her strength and character does not go beyond the conventional propriety of a daughter and wife - it seems that in Austen's world duty to family and husband remains central to the female agenda. Thus, as you can see, the extent to which this text can be described as presenting a feminist agenda is somewhat limited.