Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

How Does Elizabeth Conform to Society’s Expectations of Women?
“Pride and prejudice” is a social novel that focuses on fictitious
characters, their behavior and how their mannerism reflects the ethical
standards of their society. The story is graced by Elizabeth, the main
character in the plot dealing with social concerns of moral uprightness,
manners, marriage and education, and upbringing in a fictional Meryton
town. The significance of this research paper is to show the
expectations of the society, the struggles and the mistakes they make in
trying to attain a high social standing towards women. In this research
paper, I will illustrate the behavior of the fictitious character of
Elizabeth in the novel, and how her innate behavior was influenced to
match the desires and expectation of the society.
The main subject of the narrative is courtship and marriage within the
idea of the low class society wanting to marry off their young women to
wealthy men to escape poverty (Austen 12). Jane Austen has managed to
convey the idea of pride and prejudice in the characters of Elizabeth
and Darcy. The story revolves mainly around two unlikely characters that
had to go through many social barriers before finally tying the knot
(Goode 45). The idea of prejudice is better portrayed in Elizabeth who
has the tendency to judge people on first sight. The character of Darcy
is that of pride demonstrated in his antisocial behavior because of his
immense wealth (Rubinstein 67). Elizabeth and Darcy are forced to
accompany each other although they are totally different.
During her time, Elizabeth as a woman had to observe various
expectations of the society for her to be accomplished. A woman was
expected to be shy and socially polite in public circles to maintain the
trend of a woman (Austen 12). Unlike those expectations, Elizabeth had a
strong will power, intelligent and lively, humorous and outgoing.
Throughout the novel, Elizabeth is portrayed as conforming to the
society’s expectation of women by behaving politely while in public
places and remaining socially polite (Monaghan 53). Another society’s
expectation is that of a woman to be married off to a wealthy man. This
was not Elizabeth’s character, but her innate behavior had to conform
to the society’s expectation to agree to marry Darcy, a wealthy man
(Fritzer 36).
Despite her intelligence and self-reliance, Elizabeth does not entirely
disregard the expectations of the society (Monaghan 83). She maintains
good manners all through although with some few scenes of stubbornness.
She practices restraint in the effort of trying to manage her prejudice
on people especially towards Darcy who later becomes her husband. Her
self-reliance inspires her to realize she needs to focus and take
responsibility of her education (Fritzer 36). This is against the
expectations of the society and an indication of her character towards
general life. The author portrays this approach as a sign of pride which
she unconsciously suffers (Goode 45).
The author, Jane Austen portrays gender injustice of the society’s
expectation of women to marry men not because they are in love with
them, but simply for financial gain. The opening statement she makes
that women need men with fortune is a clear indication of the extreme
unjust of the then society towards women. A woman needs to marry a man
who she truly loves and not because of financial security. Poverty drove
many women to be married off to wealthy men as is portrayed in
Bennett’s family. The novel criticizes this conformity among women and
seeks to bridge social structures between the poor and the rich in
regard to women.
Works Cited
Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. Ed. Donald Gray. New York: W.W.
Norton & Company, 1996.
Fritzer, Penelope Joan. Jane Austen and Eighteenth-Century Courtesy
Books. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1997.
Goode, Ruth. Jane Austen`s Pride and Prejudice. Woodbury, N.Y: Barron`s,
1984. Print.
Monaghan, David. Jane Austen Structure and Social Vision. New York:
Barnes & Noble Books, 1980.
Rubinstein, E., ed. Twentieth Century Interpretations of Pride and
Prejudice. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1969.
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