Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Elizabeth Bennet in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice-an Atypical Woman for her Society

In what ways Elizabeth was different from her contemporary women?

Throughout Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice , there are many references to the unusual character of Elizabeth Bennet. She is seen to be an atypical female during those times. Wit, bravery, independence, and feminist views Elizabeth shares make her a totally different young woman than other women of her society.

She was not meek and so called obedient

The women of Austen’s age were expected to be meek and weak. Elizabeth, Austen’s heroine, was raised in a society that was bent on making women dependent on their husbands and families. But she shows incredible amounts of independence. Elizabeth Bennet is fearless and independent. Elizabeth Bennet is also very brave for the position in life that she is in. She knew that it would put her in a very precarious situation both financially and socially, if she denounced tradition for the sake of her principles.

Elizabeth shows this independence in two different circumstances. The first would be her dealings with Mr. Collins who is a pompous , moron. The family first comes into contact with him when it is made known that the estate is entailed on to him , their cousin , because there is no male to inherit it. Mr. Collins soon becomes infatuated with Elizabeth and asks her hand in marriage. Elizabeth is both independent and smart enough to realize that he is far from a suitable mate as she poignantly addresses the subject. Her views on this relationship are extremely humorous and true : “ You could not make me happy , and I am convinced I am the last woman in the world who would make you so” ( Austen 102 ) . To be able to turn down a suitable offer of marriage was highly unheard of back then. Elizabeth would have had to be extremely independent to do so.

She also illustrated her self-reliance in her dealings with Lady Catherine. She stood up for herself in a manner that commands respect and praise. Her exact words left no doubt in one’s mind of her independence : “I am only resolved to act in that manner , which will , in my own opinion , constitute my happiness , without reference to you , or to any person so wholly unconnected with me” ( Austen 322 ) . This statement, which was made to a lady of high society , proves that Elizabeth definitely has a will of her own.

Elizabeth seems to have very feminist views which is odd for a woman to have such views at that time in history. Alice Chandler is of the opinion that “ Elizabeth acts out a traditionally defensive female role” ( 37 ) . Elizabeth is far from defensive however. One should find her outgoing and far from traditional. She was a feminist for those times and should be praised for her accomplishments and achievements of making the female gender seem more equal towards that of men.

Elizabeth is also different from other Bennet sisters

Elizabeth is different from her other sisters. Actually by the word of “woman of 18th century” the image of a beautiful, shy, silly and headstrong woman comes to our mind. But Elizabeth is different from this common type as she is different from her other sisters.

Jane Bennet is the eldest Bennet sister and considered the most beautiful young lady in the neighborhood. Her character is contrasted with Elizabeth's as sweeter, shyer, and equally sensible, but not as clever; her most notable trait is a desire to see only the good in others. Jane is closest to Elizabeth and her character is often contrasted with Elizabeth.

Firmness and strength of mind that we find in Elizabeth’s character is completely absent in Lydia’s character. Lydia is frivolous and headstrong by nature. Her main activity in life is socializing, especially flirting with the military officers stationed in the nearby town of Meryton. After she elopes with Wickham and he is paid to marry her, she shows no remorse for the embarrassment that her actions caused for her family, but acts as if she has made a wonderful match that her sisters should be jealous of.

The character of Mary Bennet and Kitty" Bennet are quite contradictory with Elizabeth. Mary is often impatient for display while Elizabeth tries to understand human character at first. She has neither genius nor taste while Elizabeth is always appreciated for her great taste. At the ball at Netherfield, she embarrasses Elizabeth by singing badly.

Similarly "Kitty" Bennet is portrayed as a less headstrong but equally silly shadow of Lydia which is far removed from Elizabeth.

Elizabeth’ s character is not very hard to determine based on her actions , speeches, and general behavior . It is quite clear that throughout this novel there are many references to the remarkable character of Elizabeth Bennet ; who is seen to be quite clearly an atypical female during those times. It is through her intelligence , bravery , independence , and feminist views that one can make the outline of her character. Elizabeth Bennet can be seen as both an inspiration and a lesson . She should inspire all to have confidence and courage.