Lifting the Veil: The Deconstruction of Gender and Sexuality within Relationships in Pride and Prejudice
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Pride and Prejudice is about a strong, nature-loving woman named Elizabeth Bennet whose relationship with Fitzwilliam Darcy, her equal, is challenged by her prejudices towards him and societal prejudices towards their relationship due to their differences in economic class. In the Victorian era, gender roles were presumed. A man was assumed to be strong, intelligent, reasonable, aggressive, while a woman was assumed to be emotional, timid, and weak. This essay will explore the deconstruction of gender stereotypes, which are defined as: “… the psychological traits and characteristics of, as well as the activities appropriate to, men or women” (Brannon) in Pride and Prejudice. Yet, Jane Austen toys with these ideals by deconstructing gender and sexuality in Pride and Prejudice, by uniting two female characters in Bingley and Jane, two masculine characters in Darcy and Eliza, and further interrogating the supposed opposition of Darcy and Eliza as they represent the binary terms in the title.
Jane and Bingley, although of opposite sexes, represent the female character as they are both submissive and weak. Jane waits for Bingley to propose and when he leaves, she waits for his return. Jane is over washed with her emotions when Bingley is gone, as she confides in Elizabeth: “Oh! That my dear mother had more command over herself; she can have no idea of the pain she gives me by her continual reflections on him. But I will not repine. It cannot last long. He will be forgot, and we shall be as we were before”(120). Victorian women were also presumed religious and pure, which Jane demonstrates-as her sister Elizabeth notes, “My dear Jane! You are too good. Your sweetness and disinterestedness are really angelic” (120). Bingley, on the oth...
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... Darcy and Elizabeth’s unity represents the masculine character, they also represent pride and prejudice. What would have been Jane Austen’s purpose of deconstructing gender roles? Perhaps to prove that no one can be strictly feminine or masculine, thus it is possible to interchange. It is through the interchanging of gender roles that can give a man and woman individuality-take Elizabeth for example; she interchanges from feminine to masculine thus giving her a sense of individuality, while Jane is strictly feminine as any other Victorian lady.
Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. Oxford [England]: Oxford UP, 1990. Print.
Brannon, Linda. Gender psychological perspectives. Boston: Pearson/Allyn and Bacon, 2005.Pearson Higher Education. Pearson Education Inc. Web. 23 Feb. 2010. .