Ava Cotliar Cockrill English 10 B 2 Ferbruary 2011 Gender Roles for Women in Pride and Prejudice The novel Pride and Prejudice represents life in the middle and upper classes in the 19th century. Jane Austen, the author, does an excellent job of differentiating the status and roles that people play. Georgiana Darcy, the Bennet sisters, and Charlotte Lucas are limited in their opportunities because of their social class, gender, and birthright. Being born into a high social class leaves a woman with no pressuring obligations. Georgiana Darcy was lucky to be born into a wealthy family that could support her throughout her whole life.
It would not be necessary for her to marry unless she wanted to. With all the family’s money came and education for young Miss Darcy. She was highly educated in piano, drawing, and singing. Mr. Darcy loves his sister dearly, so he allows her to do as she wishes, but in other circumstances a woman is merely entertainment and pretty. Lady Catherine, Mr. Darcy’s aunt, is a most prestigious woman with quite a large fortune. She makes it clear that women should have the skill of art, drawing, singing, or playing. When Elizabeth informed her that her family had no governess, Lady Catherine was shocked.
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Lady Catherine and Georgiana Darcy never have to work for anything. They can simply buy what they need. Gender plays little difference for women of a high class. They can do whatever they wish as long as it does not involve politics, estate, or other jobs for men. At the time though, they would not have cared to do any more than be proper women. This whole exchange between Lady Catherine and Elizabeth shows just how much lower the Bennets are in comparison to Mr. Darcy and Lady Catherine. The Bennets grow up with no governess, therefore no education. Lady Catherine expresses her shock at having no governess by saying, “‘No governess!
How was that possible? Five daughters brought up at home without a governess! – I never heard of such a thing”” (Austen 110). They are certainly not lower class because they have servants and maids, but the Bennet family is definitely not traditional. Mr. Darcy confronts Elizabeth of her family in a letter writing, “The situation of your mother’s family, though objectable, was nothing in comparison of that total want of propriety so frequently, so almost uniformly betrayed herself by your three younger sisters, and occasionally even your father” (Austen 131).
Elizabeth is highly embarrassed because she knows that he speaks the truth. Mrs. Bennet is a gossiping whiner that encourages each girl to marry as soon as possible. All of the Bennets know that, unlike Georgiana Darcy, the girls must marry for money not love. By not correcting them, Mr. Bennet seems to have a lack of backbone and care in his daughter’s affairs and behavior. The most unacceptable and similar to Mrs. Bennet is Lydia. She is merely 15 and the most immature, narcissistic, and promiscuous girl. Jane and Elizabeth seem to be the most appropriate daughters in the family.
The Bennets class is a main obstacle in Pride and Prejudice because the sisters must marry higher even though men look down upon women of such families. The gender plays a role in the fact that Mr. Collins is the closest male heir to the Bennets’ estate. None of the Bennet sisters could inherit the Bennet estate or help support the family because they are women. The most unfortunate character in the novel is Charlotte. As a bland, older, middle class woman, she must marry anyone who can fully support her. At the age of 27, she settles down with the distasteful man, Mr.
Collins. “Mr. Collins to be sure was neither sensible nor agreeable; his society was irksome, and his attachments to her must be imaginary. But still he would be her husband,” is an example of how odious Mr. Collins is, but because he has money, is tolerated (Austen 83). Being in the lower middle class, Charlotte needed to separate from her parents support to a husband’s. The sad part about Charlotte’s situation is that she married for love, not money. She simply states to Elizabeth: “‘I am not romantic you know. I never was.
I ask only a comfortable home; and considering Mr. Collins’s character, connections, and situation in life, I am convinced that my chance of happiness with him is as fair as most people can boast on entering the marriage state” (Austen 85). Having grown up knowing she must marry, Charlotte does not seem upset, but relieved at the marriage. Many women were required to marry for money in order to support themselves and their family. As the novel ends, Jane Austen contradicts the class dilemma by allowing Darcy to marry Elizabeth and Bingley to marry Jane.
If one is rich, then they can marry whom they love, but if one is poor, it is up to chance. Georgiana, Charlotte, and the Bennet sisters are all given different circumstances in social class, gender, and birthright, but find ways to manage. By letting Darcy and Elizabeth marry despite their differences, Austen advocates that true love is a power that even society cannot influence. Work Cited Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. 3rd. New York: W. W. Norton ; Company Inc, 2001. 413. Print.