Jane Austen was born the seventh child in a family of eight, on December 16, 1775, in a small Hampshire village of Steventon. In August 1797, Austen wrote “First Impressions”, which eventually became Pride and Prejudice. In 1801, Thomas Egerton published around 1,500 copies of Pride and Prejudice, in three volumes, priced at 18 shillings (Baker). Austen holds feminist thoughts and uses the novel to show her opinions about women’s difficulties. Austen displays her individual feelings about the relationship between men and women, unblemished women, and marriage. Her plots, characters, and dialogue are influenced to express her beliefs.
The influence procedure and importance of marriage are seen in the first line of her book. Austen states: “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 single man is seen as the rightful property of their daughters, in truth, to the families around him. This suggests that the man wants and needs a wife and the woman is in no place to turn him down if she wants to become important in society. It appears as if women are abundant in numbers and men are rare. The man has the freedom to choose any woman he wants, while the women are in urgent need of a man and will take whichever man they can get. Austen shows how reliant women are on a man in this English society. This dependence is viewed as an essential part of the upper-class England by many and was not ridiculed. If Austen’s book would have merely been about English society, these opinions would not have showed up. The fact that they are announced and stated more than once in Pride and Prejudice shows that Austen inhabited feminist ideals and voiced them in her writing.
In order for a woman to be respected, accepted, and deemed accomplished, a woman must act a certain way, and be a certain type of person. The woman that masters all of this is the picture-perfect lady. The perfect lady was a classification. It meant the women must be a certain way. “A woman must have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing, all the modern languages, to deserve the word; and besides all this, she must possess a certain something in her air and manner or walking, the tone of her voice, her address and expressions, or the word will be, but half deserved” (19), Miss Bingley made this statement. Women, not only, did not have free will, but they were the ones that reinforced traditionalism. This did not apply to all women, but to the one who wanted to be the perfect ladies, which Miss Bingley strived to be. Austen compares Miss Bingley and the picture-perfect lady to show that a perfect lady is really a petty minded conventional. Austen generates a bitterness for the talented lady overview in the readers head with a character like Miss Bingley. This gives the reader a loathing of the highlight of English society, showing it is sexism in controlling women’s free will, and shows favor to characters that are for feminist philosophies, such as Elizabeth.
Elizabeth is a stubborn, free-spirited, intelligent woman, and the readers love to read about her. Opposite to the dramatic and betraying picture-perfect lady, Elizabeth is a delight to be around, because of this the perfect ladies do not like Elizabeth. Austen is shows that one of the best characteristics that a woman can have is a free will that is unique gives her the status of a arrogant and bad-mannered girl. This occurs because of the expectations and restrictions placed upon women in society.
The dominant ones in England are men. They have the freedom to make choices and do not have to relay on anyone but themselves. The expectations of marriage makes this fact obvious. When Mr. Collins assumes, his proposal to Elizabeth will be accepted, and she turns him down, he assumes she is just playing hard to get. Men are not used to hearing the word no because women are not their equals. This is why a man can choose who he wants to marry unlike women who take the first man to ask. Austen has Elizabeth turn down Mr. Collins proposal, because she do not love him and Mr. Darcy’s as well, because she believes he is a snob. Elizabeth is independent and does what she feels is best for her. She does not stand for what society thinks when making both of those decisions. She is criticized for her choices, in fact her mother promises to never speak with her if she does not marry Mr. Collins, but it is plain to see that the criticisms do not bother her. Elizabeth’s decisions make the readers think that more women should be like her. Elizabeth brings out values of equality and control and the way that the picture-perfect ladies meanderingly support them with their methods of character manipulation by Austen to prompt her opinions.
Austen shows how the sexism of the time also affects ideals of men and women. Men are described as socially well connected, rich, handsome, and polite. No where does it said a man needs to speak seven languages or play the piano, this is a clear difference to the aspect of a woman. Austen is not insulting the accomplishments, she is mocking that the accomplishments are forced ones. A woman does not practice playing piano each day for hours because it is fun, she does it because she is excepted to play well. Which leads us to the evidence of feminist cause.
The presented evidence can create no doubt that many features of this book prompt or favor main views of the feminist cause. However, the question is if the opinions stated were purposely put there by Austen to include her own feelings. The answer is yes but there are two positions that can be argued against. The first is that the feminist ideas in the book are accidents, and the second is that Austen took several views of her time and put them into the book to make it more interesting. The feminist opinions in Pride and Prejudice cannot be accidents because they are made up of many numerous factors. Austen could have disliked the picture-perfect ladies, but chances are that she would not have displayed the discrimination of the social standards between women and men. There are too many reinforced feminist views on parts of the lives of women for them to be coincidences. These had to be inspired by the author’s emotional state towards the subject. The second position taken against the argument is also incorrect. The feminist characteristics of the novel did not come from direct quotes by statements or characters but straight from attitudes and actions. They are too one-sided compared to the weak and prejudiced responses found in the novel. Of course, Austen included conflicting views with feminism in her book, but the feelings came from characters that she cleverly manipulated to be disliked by the reader. By doing this, she strengthened the indulgence that the reader has for her emotions. If Austen wanted to add another measurement to Pride and Prejudice she could put different views of her time into the story, the feminist influences of the book would not have been reinforced as well nor would they be as frequent. Opinions compared to feminism would have been much stronger, and feminist feelings may even have been frail because they were not even that mutual in Austen’s time.
With the evidence given, the only acceptable conclusion can be that Austen holds feminist views and uses Pride and Prejudice to demonstration them. In her society, upper class ladies are practically treated as delicate women, and marriage is a graceful courting formality, one of the most important parts of society. Austen reveals the picture-perfect ladies as snobs and marriage as a weighted process that women are required into by the prejudice of early 19th century England. She shows that the standards in her society take away woman’s free will and promote traditionalism, and her main character, Elizabeth is independent and rebels against traditionalism ideas, showing Austen’s ideal woman. This cannot be a fluke because in this time these views are often frowned up on and are not very common. If Austen is writing without the inspirations of her ideas, she would not make that choice. Harsh criticisms of English 19th century society that are very debated at the time are not in the book, they must be based upon feelings. These feelings are purposely placed into Pride and Prejudice to use the book as an indirect theory for Austen’s feminist beliefs.