When Jane Austen wrote P&P, children were expected to be obedient to their elders and parents..
can you please help me explain how jane austen both endorses and criticizes the idea of obedience of parents and elders in the novel.
Jane Austen criticizes the idea of children being obedient to their parents in the way the sub plot with Mr. Collins plays out in the book. The reason Mr. Collins is so important is because he is the male heir to the Bennett home & property, as Mr. Bennett produced no male heirs, only daughters. Because of this, when Mr. Bennett dies, all of his titles and property will be left in the care of Mr. Collins. Mr. Collins, if he so chose, could then kick out the Bennett women from their home and leave them destitute. However, if he were married to one of the Bennett daughters, this would not happen. Thus, a marriage between one of the daughters and Mr. Collins would be quite fortuitous.
Mr. Collins proposes to Lizzie. However, Lizzie refuses him because he is a repulsive and unattractive character. When Mrs. Bennett finds out about her daughter's decision, she is upset because Lizzie not only refused an offer of marriage, but an offer of security for the entire family. Mrs. Bennett pleads for Mr. Bennett to make Lizzie be obedient and marry Mr. Collins. Mr. Bennett, however, takes his daughter's side and allows her to make her own decision. This is Austen's way of criticizing the idea of total obedience to one's elders because even though Mr. Bennett is the master of the house, he allows his daughter to make her own decisions--even though it is not in the best interest of the family, but rather in her best personal interest.
One situation in the book in which Austen endorses parental obedience is the elopement between Wickham and Lydia. Although he let Lizzie earlier in the book make a decision that was in her personal interest, he is not pleased when Lydia does the same thing. By running off with Wickham, although it makes her happy, it brings shame & a bad reputation on the Bennett family. Rather than having the same reaction to Lizzie, Mr. Bennett is furious and must rush off to find Lydia and Wickham in a desperate attempt to save his family's name.