Everyone is fair and has the same freedom. That is what culture harps on. But does it actually work this way in person, when you go to school or look for a job? Inequality exists everywhere: colonialism, ageism, misogyny, and nationality are real issues not just in fiction, but also in everyday life.
The XVIII century was a cruel century for a woman, and it was especially cruel for a female writer. The woman was poorer than man, and their positions in culture and family were distinct and distinct. The man was the embodiment of intellect and strength, while the woman was the embodiment of a domestic creature of boring responsibilities. Female authors were uncommon, unpopular, and unread. Nevertheless, Jane Austen proved both with her own example and with one of her protagonist Elizabeth that women are capable of everything and do not surrender to power. Jane, together with her character Elizabeth, in Pride and Prejudice breaks the mould that woman exists only to please a man, and belie the stereotype about the need of marrying to survive and live decent in those volatile times.
Pride and Prejudice is a great masterpiece about confrontations of genders and classes. And the narrative techniques are chosen so professionally,. that in Victorian Era it was difficult to grasp, that the novel was written by a woman.
The author hardly gives us any description of settings, sceneries, not even physical or psycological description of characters. She is clear and precise, and focuses directly on a plot and involves us into a story from the first sentence. Plot serves characterization and events reveal characters. Although the author is present, we maintain the illusion of reality. Austen creates such an emotional backgroud that makes it easier for us to make the idea of the characters. She keeps us constantly in tension with the help of dialogues, that make avalanche effect. Even Bakhtin emphasized the importance of dialogue in revealing characters. A constant battle of words is a battle between gender and classes. In society Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy are completely different: rich man against provincial woman. But dialogues between them reveal that they are equal in conversation. This narrative technique is very important, as it puts woman and man on an equal ground.
Woman had no employment opportunities, she was supposed only to know how to entertain her husband : “A woman must have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing, and the modern languages, to deserve the word; and besides all this, she must possess a certain something in her air and manner of walking, the tone of her voice, her address and expressions”. Not very promissing job will she obtain with such a “practical” knowledge.
A novel depicts not only a gender, but a class oppression as well: “The country can in general supply but a few subjects for such a study. In a country neighbourhood you move in a very confined and unvarying society.” J. Austen makes speech of every character individualized, language differs due to class or education of the speaker. Irony is widely used to show the neglected attitude towards lower class people. She depicts every detail – such as dirty petticoat – to make an illusion of reality and one more time highlights the gap between classes. “Yes, and her petticoat; I hope you saw her petticoat, six inches deep in mud, I am absolutely certain; and the gown which had been let down to hide it not doing its office.”
Even for a mother daughters are not of equal importance: “I desire you will do no such thing. Lizzy is not a bit better than the others; and I am sure she is not half so handsome as Jane, nor half so good-humoured as Lydia. But you are always giving HER the preference.”
The title “Pride and Prejudice” was borrowed from Fanny Burney´s “Cecilia”. Allusion to a plot and gender inequality leitmotive also send us back to this novel. Such intertextuality proves the existence of a problem throughout the country during years. Woman can not possess anything in society. Cecilia has inheritance from her unckle, but can not obtain it, because she is a woman and, what makes it even worse, not married. In Pride and Prejudice it is the same: “Mr. Bennet’s property consisted almost entirely in an estate of two thousand a year, which, unfortunately for his daughters, was entailed, in default of heirs male, on a distant relation”
Literature is a reflection of society. Every fictional story is a veiled reality, an echo of the history. Slavery – a shameful period, and a extremely popular topic in literature. The striking example is Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe. This novel is an important milestone in a history of America. It explains how slavery creates racism. For this, author uses a technique of racial stereotypes, as she describes all slaves dark-skinned: “The traveller in the south must often have remarked that peculiar air of refinement, that softness of voice and manner, which seems in many cases to be a particular gift to the quadroon and mulatto women”.
African people are considered as animals that should be educated by people. Stowe uses the same technique as Austen, she allows her black protagonists speak in a backward manner, without proper grammar and missing words, showing different classes and superiority of white race: “Wal, now, who’d a thought this yer luck ‘ad come to me? Why, Loker, how are ye?”
Even if these sentimental or women´s novels where written in XIX century, we still may ask, is it any different today? Have we stoped behaving like savages? The truth is, that we still experience appalling disparity. Have you ever experienced ageism or glass ceiling trying to find a job, or bullying at school because of your skin colour? Let focus on making ourselves better, and creating an upbeat society, rather than pigeonhole people.