Pride and Prejudice, published in 1813, is one of Jane Austen’s most popular novels. The narration reflects internal growth as well as a bitter family rivalry. The novel also elicits sexist perceptions of the female characters in the plot. Mr. and Mrs. Bennet, as well as their five daughters, are central to the story. The primary background in its entirety is the British Regency, schooling, marriage, and wealth. Women’s positions were small, and their social prestige was poor. With the standard set in such a way, it may give the appearance that sexist perceptions of women are being eroded, which is not the case. The first part of the novel focuses on the imitations of ladies regarding sexist stereotypes of various women featured in the story. The novel revolves around Mr. and Mrs. Bennet, and their five daughters. In its entirety, the primary context lies in the British Regency, education, marriage, and money. The women’s role was limited and their social status was subordinate. With the level set in such a context, it may imply an immediate impression of eroding sexist stereotypes of women, which is not the case. The first part of the novel focuses on the imitations of ladies regarding to sexist stereotypes. The paper will delve into an in-depth scrutiny of Austen’s novel to determine if it reinforces sexist stereotypes of women.
Mrs. Bennet was dedicated to ensuring that all her daughters were happily married, stating that she would wish for nothing more but to see one of her “daughters happily settled at Netherfield and all others equally well married” (Austen 6). The assertion confirms the reinforcement of sexist stereotypes of women. The mother desires her daughters not to be just married, but to be married happily. It affirms that her joy would be realized when her daughters would have been well settled in their lives (Chin-Yi 23). As a fact, marriage is an essential phase in every person’s life. Couples can share ideas, help each other, fight away loneliness and reproduce children. Marriage is among central themes of the novel. Due to its apparent importance to individuals, it involves their relatives and the society (Pat and Judd 384). It is universally acknowledged that any man with riches will always be on the lookout for a wife (Austen 2). Thus, even successful and prominent men need a wife to stand their ground.
Another situation depicts the sexist stereotype whereby women have the authority and obligation to think as they wish. For instance, Mrs. Bennet is rightful to think about happy marriages for her daughters. Another example is Elizabeth, who had modern views concerning marriage, and shared her thoughts with other women instead of hiding them. For instance, she believed that the young sisters ought to be non-prevented from marrying until the elder sister gets married, claiming that it was a violation of those sisters from having the pleasures of their youth, especially, if the elder sister fails to marry earlier (Austen 92). She stands firmly to defend her point even knowing that it contradicted Catherine’s conservativism. These instances reinforce sexist stereotypes of women pointing out that they have the right and freedom to express their personal views and air out their preferences.
Pride and Prejudice extensively illuminate the concept of both genders being different in nature. These differences between the female and male genders still exist even today in all fields, and it is hard to eliminate them. For instance, dowry is paid by men in most parts of the world, most of the nurses are female, most engineers are men and air hostess is dominated by females. The novel accepts the existence of such gender differences, but further puts them in a way that reinforces sexist stereotypes of women. For instance, Elizabeth was persistent in her opinions regarding choosing partners. She states firmly that both genders should have an opinion and a right when choosing their partners, thus reinforcing sexist stereotypes of women. She further displayed her instinct throughout the novel in many occasions thus proving that although both genders are different, women too have a right to give their views and opinions.
Sexist stereotypes of women are also reinforced with regard to involvement in various activities and have personal independence (Pat and Judd 387). During the era, prominent activities were set aside for men as they were considered symbolically and socially more superior. However, the novel follows a change in this male dominance and depicts how ladies could embrace their own independence and get involved in any activity. Women were also prevented from pursuing education as they were thought to have weaker minds (Gilman 3). For example, Mr. Bingley’s two sisters played the piano and were well educated. These aspects were associated with men. Miss Darcy was well educated, too. She exercised her independence without being controlled by her brother. Another example is Lady Catherine, whose freedom exceeded those of other females featured in the novel. She was free to do what she pleased and controlled most of the happenings around her. She even played some roles that were expected to be done by men, such as telling Mr. Collins to find a wife, which he did later. It demonstrates that the ideas of women having no power could be overcome.
Pride and Prejudice have many themes, and the problem of gender stereotypes is among the key ones, and is mainly directed towards ladies. In the period the novel was authored, women were considered inferior and did not have an equality with men. Their roles in the society were also limited. However, despite all these negative sexist stereotypes, the author reinforces them and shows how women could change the way they were perceived. Reinforcing sexist stereotypes of ladies are depicted in many cases throughout the novel, such as women making their own decisions, becoming independent, getting educated, playing the piano, and giving out their opinions. The author demonstrates how various women authors went beyond mediocrity and overcame the undermining stereotypes, turning them into an advantage.
Chin-Yi. “Gender and Class Oppression in Jane Austen; Pride and Prejudice.” Academia.edu. 2017. Accessed 9 Oct. 2017.
Pat and Judd. “Sexism and TESOL materials.” Tesol Quarterly, 1978, pp.383-393.
Gilman. “The Yellow Wallpaper” and Other Stories. Mineola, New York: Dover Publications Inc., 1997.