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Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Pride and Prejudice

karly, March 30, 2012

The first thing to note when cracking open a copy of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is that it is a classic with good reason. With descriptive dialogue, bold statements about love and social class, and poetic language, it is hard to dislike Austen’s works. Pride and Prejudice goes far beyond the surface and dives into the messiest subjects of her time that even live on into today’s society. On the surface the novel follows a strong willed girl finding love in the wealthy and proud Mr. Darcy, but her story tackles much greater ideas than just that of love. Jane Austen dared to defy the masculine world of the 1800s with her feminist novels, examining female self-worth and independence.
Jane Austen wrote her books during the early 1800’s, a time which can profess to harboring few female authors, and those that did exist generally wrote under a pseudonym. Austen, on the other hand never concealed her gender through her publications. This fact, plus the very feminist ideas in her novels makes her writing all the more impressive. She faced a “man’s world” with her writings, which exhibited women finding confidence in themselves and their emotions, such as Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice. She loves herself and embraces the fact that she may become an old maid due to her undesirable family and modern ways. She is not afraid to reject proposals of marriage if she feels it is not right. This idea was nearly unspeakable in the times of Austen. The common belief was that a woman should be honored to marry a man, no matter their feelings towards him. This heroic character proved that women who decide to wait to marry for love (or even no one at all) can still have a successful and happy life.
Not only did the novel challenge the way men thought about women, but also the way in which women thought about themselves. No longer do women need to find a man to feel fulfilled or have self-worth. Elizabeth Bennet provides proof that a woman can love herself whether she is single or not. Her character is fine with the fact that others around her find marriage, as well as that it is a very real and probable possibility that she will never find a husband to love. She understands that her family is not entirely desirable but instead of wallowing in grief she still visits friends and family, enjoys her life, and mainly worries only about her sisters. This frame of mind is one that Austen obviously supports, as many of her heroines act similarly. One can learn a lot from enjoying life, and Austen attempts to make the point that once a woman can respect herself enough to, say, stand up to Lady Catherine de Bourgh by saying, “I am only resolved to act in a manner, which will, in my opinion constitute my happiness, without reference to you or any person so wholly unconnected with me,” (332) she really can pursue her own contentment. Elizabeth obviously respects herself and her happiness enough to stand up to someone who can ruin her social life forever. The modern idea that happiness and social status are not connected was highly uncommon, just proving how revolutionary some of Austen’s plot developments really were.
It was these exact ideas that made me love Pride and Prejudice so much. Austen dared to go where few other authors had gone before, and she pulled it off brilliantly. She used her signature poetic language and strong, blatant dialogue to create a world of social class struggles and conflicted lovers. The lack of symbolism or great amounts of descriptive language allow the reader to focus mainly on the plot developments, which harbor the most controversial and modern ideas in her novel. She achieved her goal by creating what appears to be a typical romance that unfolds into a beautiful story of a woman respecting herself, a lesson that many people could learn even today. The book bravely suggests that women have a role in future societies, not just as housewives and mothers, but as independent and strong human beings. The fact that Austen wrote this novel to be so applicable in the 1800s is impressive. What is more impressive is that the ideas live on even in the 21st century where many women struggle to love a man before they love themselves. They don’t need to marry to be happy, nor must they bow down to the upper classes. When they achieve this, they can truly find happiness. Overall, the novel proved to me that when a woman loves herself, she can find love in others, no matter their social standings. When one forgets about money and social status, she may focus on her own happiness and this, I think, is one of the most important lessons one can learn.
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