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Pride and Prejudice - Essay Example

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In the time period of Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, the roles for men and women were clearly delineated. Gender roles were rigid. The expectations for women were quite conservative. A man searching for a wife would be seeking a woman who was well-mannered, with a good reputation…
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Pride and Prejudice
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Download file to see previous pages She should also be pretty to look at and someone who is willing to abide by the social norms of the time, since to do otherwise was to invite public scorn, disapproval, and humiliation. Women sought out men with good social standing and wealth as partners. For men, wealth and standing trumped all else. Your character was assumed to be good or justified if your standing and wealth were great enough. A single woman of no means was in a precarious situation since she needed to make a ‘good marriage’ (one to a wealthy man) in order to have any hope in society. If her social status was low, a potential partner would make negative assumptions about her character. Austen’s stance on the social practices of the time seems obvious. She uses irony to display her displeasure for the mores and norms of the time. The opening statement of the book is ironic: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife” (Austen 1). The suggestion is that if a man has money, then the next thing he needs to procure is a wife. And the flipside of that statement is that a woman wants to marry a man with wealth. The title itself is also ironic. Both characters suffer from both pride and prejudice, which interferes with their ability to recognize their affection for one another. Both exercise prejudice in assessing one another. And both let their pride get in the way. During the initial ball scene, Darcy’s behavior is quite foolish and excessive. He pronounces all of the women in the room to be unattractive and claims that Bingley is dancing with the only pretty girl in the room. When Bingley suggests that he dance with Elizabeth, Darcy says, “She is tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me; and I am in no humor at present to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men” (8). This is an attempt at humor on Austen’s part. It is ludicrous logic Darcy is employing; he only wants to dance with young ladies who are at present engaged with other dance partners. And he will pass on a woman who is available. Bingley’s behavior is much more socially acceptable as he claims to never have met so many pleasant girls. Jane is being quite sociable and getting lots of attention from the men in the room, so her behavior is very socially acceptable. Elizabeth is no doubt hurt by Darcy’s snub, but later uses it as entertaining fodder for her friends, which is also a socially acceptable response to the situation. In the Spring, Darcy suddenly proposes to Elizabeth, so his behavior at their initial meeting is all the more ridiculous. During this scene it is particularly obvious to the reader that Darcy and Elizabeth have strong feelings for one another. Austen even provides the ironic statement of Darcy to Elizabeth regarding the fact that she says things she doesn’t believe. “I have had the pleasure of your acquaintance long enough to know that you find great enjoyment in occasionally professing opinions which are in fact not your own’ (150). Elizabeth goes onto reproach Darcy for his refusal to dance with her at the ball. The fact that she is brining this up and teasing him about it reveals to the reader that she indeed has feelings for him. When Darcy tries to defend his behavior by saying that he didn’t know anyone outside of his party, Elizabeth sarcastically says, “And nobody can ever be introduced in a ball room” ...Download file to see next pages Read More
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