The author of Pride and Prejudice shows us different ideas of womanhood through the Bennet sisters. All the sisters are very different types of women with widely different personalities nonetheless we are mostly going to be focusing on mostly three out of the five sisters Elizabeth, Jane, and Lydia because Catherine aka Kitty and Mary they just get influence by the other sisters. In this thesis, I’m going to attempt to depict Austen ideals of womanhood present in her novel Pride and Prejudice.
First, let’s start with the main character Elizabeth Bennet, she represents a confident, strong, outspoken, and determined woman her personality reminds me of a modern woman of today making her both likable and relatable to even this century. Everyone in the novel has the same social norm of what a perfect woman should look like, and that social norm isn’t meant to be questioned. Elizabeth, unlike everyone else, isn’t afraid to call these norms out when they appear. For example, when Mr. Darcy lists what an “accomplished” (Austen 39) woman should look like, she interrupts him and says “I never saw such a woman, I never saw such capacity, and taste, and application, and elegance, as you describe, united.” (Austen 39). In this part, Elizabeth is able to recognize the absurdity of Mr. Darcy ideal woman, and while many women of the time would have stayed quiet or agree with him Elizabeth does the opposite, she wants respect from everyone be it a man or someone of a higher status than her. Elizabeth stands up for herself and what she believes in she not perfect and doesn’t try to be she just tries to follow her heart whenever she can she very complex woman that shows herself as equal to a man or anyone else Elizabeth reflects equality and opposition to the social norm.
The next Bennet sister is very different from Elizabeth her name is Jane Bennet she is the eldest sister. She is described as the prettiest girl in the county. She is represented as the most kind-hearted of everyone in the novel and always thinks the best of people, which makes her a bit naive at times. For example, when she has the good opinions of Mr. Bingley sisters and believes them to approve of her. However, is the opposite they do not see her as a suitable match to their brothers, so they take him away to London. When they leave Jane gets heartbroken, but she doesn’t let it show, she states “He may live in my memory as the most amiable man of my acquaintance, but that is all. I have nothing either to hope or fear, and nothing to reproach him with. Thank God! I have not that pain. A little time, therefore. —I shall certainly try to get the better” (Austen 132). Jane proves to be a strong woman who decides to conceal her pain from others. Jane is also a very complex woman that cares more about others than herself she reminds me of an angel that stays positive no matter what she portrays women as being pretty, innocent, naive, trusting, and kind she the ideal woman of that era but she has hidden strength.
Lastly, we got the two most vexing sisters Lydia and Kitty they are the youngest of the sisters. They are not so intelligent but they are naive and troublemakers Mr. Bennet describes them as being “..two of the silliest girls in the country..” (Austen 30). Their life only revolves around balls, and the military fellows “Every day added something to their knowledge of the officer’s names and connections. Their lodgings were not long a secret, and at length they began to know the officers themselves.” (Austen 29). They behave inappropriately and are not interested in anything except the soldiers and marriage. Lydia is much worse than Kitty, as she has “..high animal spirits, and a sort of natural self-consequence, which the attentions of the officers, to whom her uncle’s good dinners and her own easy manners recommended her, had increased into assurance” (Austen 45). Her ideals lead her to do a shameful act later on in the novel. She ends up elopes with Mr. Wickham, thus bringing shame to her family she puts herself in a position where she almost ruins her sisters on the chances to get married. Lydia does not care about how her actions might affect others she selfish and only caring about becoming a married woman her reckless behavior shows how social norms regarding marriage make young women do foolish things and enter a marriage they will one day regret.
The different ideals all this girl represented was more different than I expended Elizabeth gives us the strong modern woman. Jane gives us the perfect pretty and sweet woman norms that have always been in place in sociality but like all women, she proves to have a hidden strength. As for Lydia, she shows us the big mistakes a woman can get herself into if they idolize certain social ideas too much. In my opinion, I believe that Austin argues that women should live their lives as free as possible and to be strong emotionally to follow your heart not some social norm society has a place to just be yourself to make mistakes and to improve on them to think twice on decisions that will affect your future to question sociality and think for yourself.
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