Pride and Prejudice Reinforce or Erode Sexist Stereotypes of Women?

In: English and Literature

Submitted By vierocka
Words 1202
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Are women the weaker sex and in need of constant care?

Jane Austen wrote Pride and Prejudice at the end of 18th century, in a time when women were considered to be weak and without options. Many literary scholars seem to agree that in her writing Austen tries to define her personal concept of feminism and she critiques the patriarchal, social, and marriage structures of her time. Pride and Prejudice portrays a male dominated society, in which women are expected to behave in ‘lady-like’ ways and forced to depend on males for social prestige and financial support. Through the plot of the novel and its main characters, Austen indirectly presents social problems to raise awareness of the then current issues of equality, respect, and options women lacked.

Austen is recognized as a critic of gender and social codes of her time. According to Susie Steinbach “she was a harsh observer of the legal, economic, and cultural limitations placed on the women of the upper-middle classes who were her main characters” (Steinbach 131). In Pride and Prejudice Austen relates the prevailing attitudes toward women of the day, for example, by presenting how Bennets’ girls are not entitled to inherit Mr. Bennet's estate because of their gender. This entitlement belongs only to a male, which in this case is their cousin, Mr. Collins. Therefore, if they do not get married to someone affluent, who would ‘take care’ of them, they would stay dependant on the charity of a male relative. As Bennets’ girls have no secure future ahead of them, they are constantly encouraged by their mother to marry well off. Dorothy Van Ghent argues that this normative thinking of the society creates some kind of hunt for wealthy men. “The desperation of the hunt is the desperation of economic survival: girls in a family like that of the Bennets must succeed in running down solvent young men in order to…...

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