What are some quotes from Pride and Prejudice that shows that women in the early 19th century lived in a patriarchal society? What quotes suggests that hegemonic man ruled English society?

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

(Do recall that though Pride and Prejudice was published in the early 19th century, it was actually written in the late 18th century.) Quotes taken from Charlotte's explanation to Elizabeth of her choice to wed Mr. Collins will serve to indicate the patriarchal nature of English society as will Mr. Bennet's and the narrator's remarks about the entail on his property directing the estate to the nearest male heir and withholding it from female heirs. One of the more interesting quotes that illustrate the nature of England's patriarchal society is part of what Elizabeth replies to Lady de Bourgh when rejecting de Bourgh's demand that Elizabeth never enter into an engagement with Mr. Darcy. To prove her qualification to enter into just such an engagement should she wish to do so, Elizabeth, though almost impoverished by Mr. and Mrs. Bennet's careless spending in their youth while waiting in vain for an entail-breaking son to be born, has no hesitation in telling Lady de Bourgh that she is the equal of Darcy, therefore qualified to marry him, because her father is a gentleman, thus a member of the upper class, right along with Darcy and Lady de Bourgh herself (though de Bourgh is also titled nobility). 

  "In marrying your nephew, I should not consider myself as quitting that sphere. He is a gentleman; I am a gentleman's daughter; so far we are equal."
   "True. You are a gentleman's daughter. But who was your mother? ..."

A quote exemplifying that "hegemonic man ruled" England might be found in Pemberley's housekeeper's remarks about Mr. Darcy's nature. She and, through her, his tenants praise him as a landlord, which might be metaphorically applied to male rule throughout England. Yet, bear in mind that one of Austen's ploys was to undercut this idea by showing Lady de Bourgh in precisely the same role as ruler of an estate in which Darcy is cast. Lady de Bourgh had been willed full control over the estate of her deceased husband Lord de Bourgh, and she exercised the exact "ruling" authority over Rosings village that Darcy is shown to have over Pemberley village. An interesting question to ask might be: How extensive was this subversive intrusion of women into the hegemonic rule of men in English society?

"If I were to go through the world, I could not meet with a better [than Mr. Darcy]. ... just as affable to the poor. ... He is the best landlord, and the best master," said [Mrs. Reynolds], "that ever lived; ... There is not one of his tenants or servants but will give him a good name."

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Pride and Prejudice

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