Female Stereotypes In Jane Austen's Pride And Prejudice

Powerful Essays
Jane Austen’s ‘Pride and Prejudice’ is a female centric novel. The contrast between Austen’s strong female protagonist, Elizabeth Bennet, and the theme of marriage as a driving force throughout the novel suggests that, for an author whose own life was independent from a man, Austen was providing social commentary on women in society and could thus be seen to challenge traditional female roles. This is particularly important when taken into account the time period the novel was produced in. Austen was writing during a time where feminism was not a developed idea. As a female writer she was viewed as highly unusual for not marrying and having a career, something which ran contrary to the middle-upper class view for women as the domesticated, subservient housewife. Therefore, although Austen can be seen to conform to the view of gender stereotyping, it is possible to see the emergence of feminist attitudes in the way Austen presents strong female protagonists.

In Jane Austen’s ‘Pride and Prejudice ’ there are no less than thirteen female characters, in contrast to the seven male characters that appear throughout, suggesting that Austen does challenge traditional female roles by writing a female centric novel. To a certain extent the males in this novel are controlled by the females. Caroline Bingley’s controlling attitude towards her brother in his affections to Jane seen in volume 3, chapter 18 where ‘Miss Bingley's congratulations to her brother, on approaching marriage, were all that were affectionate and insincere’ suggesting with the word ‘insincere’ that her brother has gone against her wishes, her behaviour reflecting this. This is supported by Mrs. Bennet’s insistence from volume 1, chapter 1 that her husband ‘must visit h...

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...Bennet up as the protagonist whose unusual actions place her outside the social pale and who does not fit any of the four main female stereotypes, it can be suggested that Austen does to an extent challenge the idea of women being subsidiary to men. However, the ultimate concern of the majority of characters is marriage and how they can achieve a good one. Structurally the novel ends with marriage and this is seen as the resolution as the females are completed by marriage. For example, Lydia Bennet is only seen as a restored woman after she marries Mr. Wickham and as a reader this is the end of her story- her marriage resolves her journey. It is in this that, despite the appearance of strong characters such as Lizzie, Austen does not challenge traditional female roles as the conclusion of the novel centres around the characters reaching fulfilment through marriage.
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