The Jane Austen novel is often celebrated as one of the greatest texts of the 19th century. Here are my reasons as to why I dislike the heroine of the novel with a passion and my issues with the conformist ideals she represents.
Pride and Prejudice is a novel written by Jane Austen. The premise of this novel predominantly revolves around the daughters of Bennet Family and their journey to find suitable husbands for themselves. The narrative hinges on money and how it affects the future trajectories of the characters of the novel.
Austen is often deemed as narrow for her limited range of themes and plot narratives. Her fictional cosmos appears constricted to us at times, she lays a great stress at appearances, manners and countenance, which some may call shallow but it is what she saw around herself in her small country life and has represented the truth brilliantly.
Many critics had deemed her as vulgar for talking about money, but they were the concerns of that society and if their representation is vulgar, then maybe the society in reference could have been a bit vulgar too.
That being said, Elizabeth, the celebrated heroine of the story, seems like a voice for gender equality, but to me it seems like she operates within the constraints of her society and moves slowly conforming to the ideals but bringing new variables to the equation. Her fearlessness is shown during her conversations with Darcy and Lady Catherine, she speaks her mind and sets them in their place. Her dialogues are witty, she is the one who helps evolve Darcy’s character, as it is a blow to his pride when he is refused by a woman. While Elizabeth is an agent of change, she often falls prey to her own idealistic morals about virtue and respect while dealing with Lydia. She is ashamed of her and sees her as an outcast, rather than a product of the concerns of that very time. Elizabeth holds high standards which realistic characters often fall short of, even herself sometimes.
The obnoxious character of Lydia, defying every definition of morality is ridiculed in the Austen universe but all she is doing is trying to climb up the class and status of ladder for a maiden had no authority. Her constant sly remarks at her sisters, referencing that she’ll take them to the balls goes to show that in her universe she is victorious, as she was one step ahead of her sisters. The women in the Austen universe are supposed to be rebellious, dexterous in words, but in action when they try to defy conformity they are ridiculed upon. Austen may give the right to her heroine to find their husbands but the superiority of the other sex is still maintained, “I know your disposition Lizzy. I know you could be neither happy nor respectable, unless you truly esteemed your husband; unless you looked up to him as a superior.” This sentence is uttered by Mr. Bennet to Elizabeth while giving her hand to Mr. Darcy. The concept of superiority is brought into picture time and again. This superiority is often talked about in terms of intellect, which the supposed ‘feather brained’ wives lack.
It is debatable that this might be sarcasm but the character who speaks this is a force of reason and intelligence. So it begs the question: Is the whole narrative mold around to find suitable chains to bound women or is Jane Austen operating within her milieu and doing the best with the resources she had at the time?
Rutba Iqbal is a student pursuing English Literature from Jamia Millia Islamia.
edited by: Nuzhat Khan
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of The Jamia Review or its members.