Edna Pontellier and Elizabeth Bennet: Challenge of 19th Century Conventional Methods

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Kate Chopin and Jane Austen could readily be referred to as literary heroines of the nineteenth century. Both women often challenged conventional societal methods within their works, which inherently caused these literary geniuses to write in complete secrecy. Chopin and Austen gave birth to characters such as Edna Pontellier in The Awakening, and Elizabeth Bennett, the renowned protagonist of Austen’s novella Pride and Prejudice. While noble in their respective ways one can easily mistake Edna and Elizabeth to be selfish creatures of society because of their ardent pursuit of happiness and love, and their disregard of nineteenth century societal constructs and family expectations. In similar aspects Edna Pontellier and Elizabeth Bennett were able to successfully challenge Nineteenth Century conventional methods with regards to marriage and society. The Bible which is seen as one of the most sacred text to man has contained in it not only the Ten Commandments, but wedding vows. In those vows couples promise to love, cherish, and honor each other until death does them apart. The irony of women accepting these vows in the nineteenth century is that women are viewed as property and often marry to secure a strong economic future for themselves and their family; love is never taken into consideration or questioned when a viable suitor presents himself to a women. Often times these women do not cherish their husband, and in the case of Edna Pontiellier while seeking freedom from inherited societal expectations and patriarchal control; even honor them. Women are expected to be caretakers of the home, which often time is where they remain confined. They are the quintessential mother and wife and are expected not to challenge that which... ... middle of paper ... ...es for love and overcame the social expectations of the quintessential woman in the nineteenth century; whereas their counterparts around them would have chosen class and wealth. Edna Pontellier’s decision to move into her pigeon house and away from her husband’s rule and the vexing job of caring for her children was viewed as societal suicide, but to her liberation and self-actualization as a woman was more important. Elizabeth Bennet ultimately disregarded her mother’s wishes, and passed over Mr. Collins, she initially disregarded Mr. Darcy as a possible suitor but love proved otherwise. These women were on a path of destruction to free themselves from a long reign of oppression, their challenge of conventional methods within the nineteenth century, proved successful not only to them, but for a future collective group of women who would follow in their footsteps.

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