The Lack of Social Mobility in Jane Austen’s novel "Pride and Prejudice"

The Lack of Social Mobility in Jane Austen’s novel "Pride and Prejudice"

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Pride and Prejudice, a novel written by Jane Austen during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century is often thought of as simply a love story and although on the surface this is true, it is in fact much more than that. Austen focuses greatly on the class system and lack of social mobility allowed in England during this period (the Napoleonic Wars, 1797-1815) and the pride and prejudice that these social divides reveal, as well as the personal pride and prejudice shown by individual characters and how these interlink. The novel is in many ways a comedy of manners (that is, a comedy that ridicules a particular social group because of their attitudes and behaviour, in this case the Upper class and to some extent the Middle class).
According to The Collins English Dictionary pride is: ‘A feeling of honour and self respect; a sense of personal wealth’ or ‘excessive self esteem; conceit’. Prejudice is described as ‘an opinion formed beforehand, especially an unfavourable one based on inadequate facts’ and ‘the act or conditions of holding such opinions’. These two themes are demonstrated by characters such as Mrs Bennet, Miss Bingley, Lady Catherine de Bourgh and Mr Collins as well as the novels male and female protagonists Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy (from now on referred to as Darcy) and these are the characters that I will base my essay on.
The story begins when Mr Bingley, a wealthy young gentleman, decides to rent Netherfield Park. Mrs Bennet immediately starts to devise ways of making him fall in love and marry one of her five daughters: Jane (the beauty of the family), Elizabeth, Mary, Catherine (‘Kitty’) and Lydia, who is just fifteen. He does fall in love with Jane and they eventually marry after some mi...


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...nnection makes him feel he has the right to introduce himself to Lady Catherine’s nephew, Mr Darcy (something that would be seen as improper due to Darcy’s higher status). His narcissism extends even as far as his proposal to Elizabeth when he refuses to accept her rejection, instead being convinced that it is “the established custom” to reject a man before you agree to marry him. His reasoning was that he was not unworthy; his situation, connections and relationship to the family were desirable and that it was “by no means certain another offer of marriage may ever be made” to her. When he does finally accept that Elizabeth’s decline is serious he proposes to her confidant Charlotte Lucas. Elizabeth visits Charlotte once they are married and Mr Collins takes great pride in showing her how happy they are, almost as if he wants her to regret her refusal of his hand.

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