What is the role of women in Pride and Prejudice?

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

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This is a question that there are many different responses to, depending on who you ask. The very first sentence would have the reader believe that the soul function of women in this book is to marry, and not just to marry, but to marry as well as they can in order to gain wealth and social status for themselves. This is certainly something that both Mrs Bennet and Charlotte Lucas would agree with. Note, for example, what Charlotte says to Elizabeth about how Jane should be acting in order to capture Mr Bingley:

Jane should therefore make the most of every half-hour in which she can command his attention. When she is secure of him, there will be more leisure for falling in love as much as she chooses.

She feels that Jane should show more affection that she actually feels, because marrying a man like Bingley, who is described as something of a "catch," is far more important than her own feelings about him. Of course, this puts her into conflict with Elizabeth, as she, like Jane, feels that the role of women is not just about marrying as best as they can, but it is about marrying for love as well as marrying wisely. This is why Elizabeth is happy to acknowledge that in spite of her liking of Wickham, she knows they can never marry because of her lack of wealth. The role of other women in this novel concerns the matchmaking of their youngers. 

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