Pride and Prejudice: Social Class Analytical Essay

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Literature, as a part of art, gives pleasure, contentment, and some experiences for people who are interested in it. It appreciates more about life, because the problem of human life, society and the environment can be seen through literary works. In other words, literature gives the reader experiences through the way of artistic form. This is why literature is a vital record of what humans have seen in life, what they have experienced about it, what they have thought and felt about those aspects of it which have the most immediate and enduring interest for all of the readers.

One of the literary works is a novel. It rises as something that people may understand with the same principle in daily life. That is why the novel as a literary work reflects the social reality which is seen from social aspect ,economic aspect, political aspect, science and technology aspect, cultural aspect, and religious aspect. However, our particular focus would revolve around class differences highlighted in the spectrum of social class within the novel “Pride and Prejudice”.

For decades, sociologists have keenly examined social class, differences in classes, its causality and its societal impacts. Various scholars have made an attempt to provide a definition for “Class”. Classes are social categories sharing subjectively-salient attributes used by people to rank those categories within a system of economic stratification. Class, in this sense of the word, would be contrasted to other forms of salient evaluation – religion, ethnicity, gender, occupation, etc. – which may have economic dimensions but which are not centrally defined in economic terms.

Class is defined in terms of material standards of living, usually indexed by income or, possibly, wealth. Class, in this agenda, is a gradational concept; the standard image is of rungs on a ladder, and the names for locations are accordingly such things as upper class, upper middle class, middle class, lower middle class, lower class, under class. Class as the relational explanation of economic life chance. Class thus becomes a relational, rather than simply gradational concept. This concept of class is characteristic of both the Weberian and Marxist traditions of social theory. Class, in this usage, is contrasted to the many other determinants of a person’s life chances – for example, geographical location, forms of discrimination anchored in ascriptive characteristics like race or gender, or genetic endowments

A wide range of theoretical approaches exist to class analysis, most of these are built around the work of Max Weber and Karl Marx. Therefore, shedding light upon their work is the dire need of this study.

Karl Marx was one of the first social scientists to focus mainly on social class. His main focus on social class was that one’s social class dictated one’s social life. Basically, Marx meant that if one is in the upper class, life was one of leisure and abundance, while those in the lower class lived lives of hardship and poverty. According to Marx, there was one social element that would determine where one fit in the social class hierarchy: that of who controls the means of production, meaning who owned the resources necessary to produce what people needed to survive. The wealthy would be the individuals who owned the land and factories. The wealthy would then control all elements of society – including the livelihoods of the lower, working class. The lower, working class would work for hourly wages on the land or in the factories. Marx wanted to better understand how so many people could be in poverty in a world where there was an abundance of wealth.

Max Weber described social class in terms of market-determined Life Chances. In capitalism it is the market that determines the life chances enjoyed by individuals. Life chances can be understood as, in Giddens’s terms, ‘the chances an individual has for sharing in the socially created economic or cultural “goods” that typically exist in any given society or, more simply, as the chances that individuals have of gaining access to scarce and valued outcomes. Weber writes that ‘a class situation is one in which there is a shared typical probability of procuring goods, gaining a position in life, and finding inner satisfaction’ in other words, members of a class share common life chances. If this is what members of a class have in common, what puts them in this common position? Weber’s answer is that the market distributes life chances according to the resources that individuals bring to it, and he recognized that these resources could vary in a number of ways. Aside from the distinction between property owners and non-owners, there is also variation according to particular skills and other assets. The important point, however, is that all these assets only have value in the context of a market: hence, class situation is identified with market situation.

The objectives of this study were to critically review the novel Pride and Prejudice written by Jane Austen and describe class difference reflected in the novel.


  • To critically analyze the novel Pride and Prejudice written by Jane Austen
  • Create a depiction of class differences reflected in the novel


Class differences is one of Jane Austen’s themes in the novel, and the differentiation related to it is evidently depicted. Reading the novel, one can realize that the author clearly illustrates that class is what matters most in many of the incidences displayed by the characters. Unless an individual is of a given class, the idea that he or she has money is not valued, since only birth in a certain background is what is of value. When a person openly values money over class, such a person is frowned upon. In general terms, the Novel shows a social world extremely stratified and full of pretension and class struggle.

The author tried to express how people of the eighteenth and the nineteenth century perceived the class differences and the possibility of mixing among the classes. Austen tried to put an emphasis on the main issues which divided particular classes like money, political position, or parentage. Moreover, the author reflected how these social issues determined the fate of the main characters in her novels. For example, in Pride and Prejudice Austen tried to explain the whole system of primogeniture which was one of the biggest problems of Bennet’s family. The most important problems were daughters` marriage issues.

To depict the classes of English society Austen created the memorable characters. She associated people with the English social classes. That is why, all social groups became clearly depicted and they could reflect the reality of everyday life. In Pride and Prejudice, gentry were divided into upper and lower-middle classes. That division was dependent on the assets. Upper-middle class was represented by Lady Catherine de Bourgh, her daughter Miss de Bourgh, Fitzwilliam Darcy, his cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam, and Darcy’s sister Georgiana, It was hard to classify Charles Bingley and his family, sister Caroline and Mr. and Mrs. Hurst. According to the general rule, they should have land in order to be members of the upper-middle class.

On the other hand, they possessed a huge asset, but they still were without their own land. Lower-middle class was represented by the Bennet and Lucas families. Austen smartly mixed these two groups of middle classes by the love affairs to show the manners, behaviors, traditions, and characteristic way of thinking of the particular groups. In the novel lower and upper-middle classes were very clearly divided. To put more emphasis on these differences, the characters in Austen’s novels were very attached to their class, or group. What is more, people who belonged to one of these groups presented their parentage with its importance and advantages. Above that, Austen tried to create characters that depicted also the defects of belonging to particular classes. For example Mrs. Bennet was always complaining about her poor social position, and the future prospects of primogeniture in her family.

Moreover, she was afraid that her daughters would be deprived of a family asset. As the novel follows the author very accurately describes the upper-middle class. Austen presented all the main features of the people who were associated with this group. Ladies were refined with a smart sense of humor. Moreover, they were pretty, but haughty, and conceited. The author correlated upper-middle class with education. Upper-middle class girls` education had to include reading, singing and playing. Furthermore, it was unacceptable to not hire a governess who would be responsible for teaching girls and preparing them for the role of a wife. During the conversation between Elizabeth and Lady Catherine de Bourgh Elizabeth admitted that she and her sisters ever had a governess, and that was why they were not as good at playing the piano, or singing as girls from the upper class. Also Mr. Darcy and Bingley’s sister had their own opinion about the topic of education for women, they clearly considered themselves as the most intelligent and educated ones in the society.

The Bennet family presented the social and the financial situation of the lower-middle class. Despite that fact, they were beautiful and quite intelligent, for sure more bright than their sisters, their financial position limited the possibility of good marriage. In the beginning of the nineteenth century people considered it shameful if a wealthy man wanted to marry a woman from the lower-middle class. Social criticism was so strong that most couples did not decide to stay together. Austen perfectly pictured that situation by creating the plots between Jane and Bingley, or Elizabeth and Darcy. Mr. Darcy, rich, proud, mostly arrogant, and disrespectful for people who were in a poorer financial situation, fell in love with a beautiful and intelligent girl. For Mr. Darcy it was hard to confess that he loved a girl who was not so wealthy and did not lead a refined social life.

Mr. Darcy tried to fight that feeling, but he could not “His sense of her inferiority–of its being a degradation-of the family obstacles which judgment had always opposed to inclination. The best description of the lower and the upper-middle classes was shown during the quarrel between Lady Catherine and Elizabeth. Lady Catherine could not believe that her nephew Mr. Darcy proposed to Elizabeth. In her opinion, it must have been an awful slander for Mr. Darcy. What is more, later Lady Catherine explained that because of honor, customs, and prudence Elizabeth should not accept that proposal. Elizabeth should know that after marriage to Mr. Darcy she could be humiliated and criticized. For Lady Catherine it was obvious that Mr. Darcy had to marry someone from his class, like for example her daughter.

It is clearly evident from the characters and the way they interacted with each other, showing notions of class differences present in british society in the 18th and 19th centuries. Various evidences from the novel have been given to portray different categories of social classes that existed in England at that time.


The study elaborated the work of Jane Austen on social classes and the societal made distinction among them. A perfect social depiction of the English classes in the nineteenth century is highlighted in this study. The particular focus of this study revolves around the distinction of lower and upper-middle classes. Evidences from the novel ‘Pride and prejudice’ are presented to discuss the artificial barriers raised by the society of that time. Characters stances on social divisions with relevance to the study have been emphasized to retain the ultimate objective of criticality within the study.


Cite this paper

Pride and Prejudice: Social Class Analytical Essay. (2020, Sep 13). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/pride-and-prejudice-social-class/



How does social class affect relationships in Pride and Prejudice?
Social class plays a significant role in relationships in Pride and Prejudice, as it determines who is considered an eligible match and who is not. The novel explores the tensions and conflicts that arise when individuals from different social classes attempt to form romantic relationships.
What does Pride and Prejudice say about social class?
Pride and Prejudice is a novel about social class. The novel is set in the Regency era, which was a time when there was a lot of social class distinction.
What social class are the Bennets in Pride and Prejudice?
The Bennets are a middle-class family. Their income is derived from Mr. Bennet's job as a gentleman farmer.
Why is social class important in Pride and Prejudice?
The East German government decided to build the Berlin Wall in 1961.
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