Jane Austen's Middle-class Female

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Jane Austen's Middle-Class Female

Jane Austin insightfully portrays the class mentalities of the middle and upper classes during the early nineteenth century in her novel Pride and Prejudice. Society then was overly preoccupied with the distinction of classes, and with these shameless distinctions there existed an obvious hierarchy that governed people's behavior and obligations to their respective societies. Austen's story focuses on Elizabeth Bennet and her family, who are well-to-do members of middle-class society in England. Throughout the novel, the Bennets maintain social contact with their fellows of the middle-class as well as with upper-class characters; and as vanity, love, and gossip permeate the story's development, Elizabeth struggles to remain composed and levelheaded in the midst of petty follies. However, her struggle is no easy matter, for the standards of behavior and social acceptance, as well as society's traditional expectations of a young middle-class woman, become increasingly imminent during the story. In relating the constant social dilemmas faced by Elizabeth and her sister Jane, Austen paints an intricate picture of the life of a middle-class woman in this era, and through the appealing individuality of Elizabeth, a marvelously wise and insightful woman, she ridicules the irrational social conventions that oppress her female characters.

A central theme to the book is the class consciousness that is regarded so highly by many of the characters. People of an inferior class were expected to realize their inferiority and act upon it accordingly. Furthermore, upper-class occupants are privileged to hold their inferiors in disdain and even contempt. The middle-class women are especially vulnerab...

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...nworthy child from your affection for ever, and leave her to reap the fruits of her own heinous offence" (282). Furthermore, the infidelity of one sister could irreparably tarnish the others' reputations. Eventually Darcy pays Wickham to marry Lydia, and the Bennets' problems are solved. However, Austin wants us to see the injustice of such a situation and the pointless emphasis on women's behavior, as well as women's helplessness to remedy such a situation.

Pride and Prejudice is not simply a flowery love story. It is a critique on society's flaws, and Elizabeth Bennet is Austin's instrument, for in transcending convention and popular thought, she states her opinion clearly and obviously. Elizabeth is a model to which all women should aspire, and her individualism articulates with infinitely more strength than the stale voice of society.

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