What would you put in a rough outline about the role women played in the 19th century in the novel Pride and Prejudice?
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In Pride and Prejudice, Austen actually represents a wide range of roles for women, though not so by contemporary terms. Mrs. Bennet is a pampered country gentleman's wife who has a servant and a cook. Lady Lucas is the wife of a newly created British Lord. Mary is a wanna-be scholar and musician (she really would have benefited from "masters," as Lady de Borough suggested). Mrs. Younge is a widow who became a governess and then a lodgings landlady--showing the options and independence a widow processes. Miss Darcy is the well educated sister of a man of wealth and prestige. Lady de Borough, also a widow, has all the power over her estate that her husband formerly had. Charlotte presents a pragmatic role as the character who marries in order to have a secure future and a life as wife and eventual mother.
The novel Pride and Prejudice offers a lot to write about when it comes to the role of women in the 19th century. First, it shows how women lacked social standing unless they were married. Their role in society would depend entirely of their marital status. A marriage made with a solid financial foundation where both parties blend in family fortunes would result in more social opportunities for females. They would have their door open for entertaining, which was a must for women of higher status during that time. In order to entertain well, one would have needed enough money for hiring personal services such as a dressmaker, servants, and a good cook that would make her the envy of her circle.
Another role of women would be that of nurturing mothers and faithful wives. Women were seen and not heard. When seen, they had to epitomize dignity, diligence, and impeccable behavior. They were representatives of their husbands so this meant that they would easily embarrass them if they behaved erroneously. Therefore, their poise and attitudes had to mirror a supposed home life in which all was in good order.
Therefore, Pride and Prejudice shows the struggles of a middle class mother, Mrs. Bennet, to marry off her five daughters "well" so that their positions in society would be secured. As a result, Jane, Elizabeth, and Lydia enter relationships which both please and (in Lydia's case) humiliate the household. All this trouble is for the simple fact that a woman was nothing without the title of "Mrs." Other than that, she would end up a spinster, and a nuisance to younger generations who would have to support and tolerate her presence in their families.
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