Patriarchal societies have been accepted as the norm in many cultures since the beginning of time. Escaping the restrictions of such a society has been a pursuit of women for just as long. Men have tried to control the women in their lives because of some divine right they feel has been given them by God. This theme is seen throughout Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte and Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Both Jane Eyre and Elizabeth Bennett overcome the efforts of men in their lives to control them.
Elizabeth Bennett grows up in a family with all sisters. Mr. and Mrs. Bennett feel the need to provide for their daughters through good marriages because their meager fortunes will be passed down to a distant male cousin of Mr. Bennett’s. When Elizabeth refers to her friend, Charlotte’s opinion of Jane Bennett’s lack of flirtation with Mr. Bingley, she indicates she would not use coercion to trap a husband:
“Your plan is a good one,…where nothing is in question but the desire
of being well married, and if I were determined to get a rich husband, or any husband, I dare say I should adopt it.” (Austen 14)
Elizabeth also responds to Charlotte’s feelings that it is better to not know a lot about the person you marry before the marriage with:
“You make me laugh, Charlotte; but it is not sound.
You know it is not sound, and that you would never act
This way yourself.” (Austen 15)
This is the first indication that Elizabeth would not be prepared to enter into a marriage arranged for her by her parents.
She is the second eldest, and is considered marriageable, although on first sight, Darcy states:
“She is tolerable, but not handsome
enough to tempt me; …” (Austen 7)
This is severely off-putting to Elizabeth who then tells her m...
... middle of paper ...
... a missionary. She does agree to go with him but refuses to marry him since she still longs for Rochester.
Eventually Jane thinks she is hearing Rochester call to her so she decides to return to him. She finds Thornfield burned to the ground and hears Rochester’s wife was killed in the fire. She then goes to find Rochester to fulfill her own dream of marrying him.
Both Jane Eyre and Elizabeth Bennett showed strength of character in the extremely patriarchal society of the Victorian era. They both followed their own hearts instead of bowing to pressures from the men in their lives to go against their own consciences and free will. They are a good role model for women and men of any age.
1. Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. New York: Dover, 1995. Print.
2. Brontë, Charlotte. Jane Eyre. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 2002. Print.
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