What were Jane Austen's concerns or motives or interests as reflected in Pride and Prejudice?

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One of Jane Austen's interests as expressed in Pride and Prejudice (and confirmed in Emma) was the status of women in regards to marriage. She represented and respected all perspectives on the issue yet also represents her preferred perspective. Some characters representing significant perspectives are:

  • Miss Bingley (covetous)
  • Charlotte (financial and social independence and opportunity)
  • Jane (love and romance)
  • Elizabeth (self-sufficiency and personal independence)
  • Emma (from Emma) (self-sufficiency and personal independence)

Miss Bingley represents the perspective of marriage for for covetousness: Miss Bingley coveted the power, wealth, social prestige that marriage to such a powerful man, with such admirable personal attributes, as Mr. Darcy would give her.

Charlotte, was not esteemed for her beauty nor benefited by wealth and exposure to London's society, desired only financial and social independence away from her parents home: she desired only a home, family and social sphere of her own.

Jane represents the ideal of love, romance and marriage. She represents the happy attainment of marriage to a greatly beloved person and the life and family that will come of it.

Elizabeth represents Austen's preferred self-sufficiency and personal independence. Elizabeth not only turns down a proposal from Mr. Collins, who could have given her the same financial and social advantages he afterward gave Charlotte, she also turns down Darcy's proposal, who would have given her all the things that Miss Bingley coveted, including a connection with at least two titled relatives (Lady de Bourgh and Earl Fitzwilliam).

Emma, from Emma, confirms this analysis of Elizabeth's preferred perspective and represents Jane Austen's own situation in life. According to scholars, Austen had loved and been loved but had lost him by death in war. Austen had accepted a marriage proposal on a later occasions but had fled the next morning after begging her brother to retract her acceptance. Austen may be seen as representing her chosen and preferred perspective on marriage through the speech on the subject that Emma makes to Harriet:

I have none of the usual inducements of women to marry. Were I to fall in love, indeed, it would be a different thing! but ... it is not my way, or my nature; and I do not think I ever shall [in love]. ... without love, I am sure I should be a fool to change such a situation as mine. Fortune I do not want; employment I do not want; consequence I do not want: I believe few married women are half as much mistress of their husband's house as I am of Hartfield; and never, never could I expect to be so truly beloved and important; so always first and always right [as here] .... [As for] objects for the affections, ... [the lack of which] is really the great evil to be avoided in not marrying, I shall be very well off, with all the children of a sister I love so much, ...  My nephews and nieces!

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Pride and Prejudice

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