Portrayals of Patriarchy in Literature, Especially Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice

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““It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” -Jane Austen Pride and Prejudice, Volume I, Chapter I Literature can be seen as a reflection of social evolution. It is in the literary works that we find live accounts of the progressive appearance of individuality in history. It portrays the growth of social equality and ideas on ruling ideologies through the author’s eyes. Patriarchy is one such ideology which is discussed through the works of Victorian female author Jane Austen. Patriarchy is a socially constructed belief in which men are considered to be the heads and superiors to women. The ideology of patriarchy is founded on a system of power relations where men are seen as the dominant sex and in control of women’s reproduction, production and sexuality. Patriarchy evokes gendered role stereotypes which serve to strengthen the inequality between men and women. Sylvia Walby in Theorizing Patriarchy describes patriarchy as “a system of social structures and practices in which men dominate, oppress and exploit women” (Walby, 1990). Ideals on masculinity, femininity and sexuality in the Regency and Victorian periods, were based on a fixed social structure. The conventional role of women at the time was one of inferiority, their roles in society were primarily domestic and they were forced to remain in the private sphere of the public. Contrastingly, men were seen as superior and ruled in all aspects, even through over half a century of Queens, the women lived the life of the inferior sex. Judith Butler in her book Gender Troubles asserts that gender is a construction of an individual’s society and upbringing, believing that the concept of female and ma... ... middle of paper ... ...less and penniless. For this reason, the women in the novel have great preoccupation with acquiring a wealthy husband. Feminist critics perceive the literary arts in a way which gives power to the female point of view and in so doing rejects the patriarchal language that has traditionally dominated literature. In contrast to the traditional forms of writing at the time, Austen placed her female characters in the center of her novels, and through them, she described the lives of women in a male dominated world. She constructs her female characters as free spirited beings, who try to rebel from the traditional gendered roles at the time as with the character Elizabeth Bennet and her wanting to marry for love rather than money. This can be seen as a revolt by the author against patriarchal rule and the idea of male superiority and female inferiority.

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