Radical Novel “Pride and Prejudice” Compare And Contrast

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Published in 1813, Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen is a radical novel about a young woman’s struggle between love and security. The novel, set in the Regency period of England, takes place in the counties of Hertfordshire and Derbyshire in the late 18th century. The time setting of the novel is what produces many of the major conflicts that appear throughout the novel. The main conflict being Elizabeth’s struggle to find a balance between the traditional views of marriage set by society and her own belief that one should marry for nothing other than love. The novel is set in a time of patriarchy where the male figures in society dominated and held the power, while women, in their best interests, obediently sought out a wealthy companion.

As the story progresses, a variety of different characters emerge with each of them holding an important role in the storyline. A handful of the characters that are introduced are a stark and utter contrast to Elizabeth Bennet, the heroine of the novel. The contrast that these characters provide accentuate the atypical female mindset that Elizabeth maintains throughout the story. Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice utilizes characterization to demonstrate how progressive the character Elizabeth was for her time period in order to portray a figure that, for Regency England, was not traditional and broke social boundaries.

Elizabeth Bennet and her older sister, Jane Bennet, have a close relationship throughout the novel. Their close relationship reveals their similarities but also accentuates their apparent differences. Through her actions and interactions with other characters, Jane proves to be a naive girl that trusts in people too quickly, whereas Elizabeth is a lot more practical and less likely to fall for a man. Jane falls for Mr. Charles Bingley as soon as he shows an ounce of interest in her at the ball. On the other hand, Elizabeth does not reciprocate Mr. Darcy’s feelings even after he confesses his deep love for her. Jane is a prime example of a societal following female; she never challenges the male figures in her life or questions whether one should marry for money or love.

Elizabeth is quick to call out Mr. Darcy’s wrongdoings, even if it temporarily would cost her a secure marriage, “I have every reason to think ill of you. No motive can excuse the unjust and ungenerous part you acted there” (Austen 143). Jane is not the only sister that is used to contrast Elizabeth. Kitty and Lydia, Elizabeth’s two youngest sisters, are used in the novel to bring out Elizabeth’s independent characteristics, “The narrator tells us that the “minds” of Kitty and Lydia “were more vacant than their sisters”’, but while the “vacancy” and superficiality of the youngest sisters form a negative contrast to… Elizabeth’s sharp wit, their vacuity also provides a liberating obliviousness to the pressures brought about by the entail and by the family’s precarious position in the marriage market” (Veisz). The obliviousness that the two girls hold further accentuates the importance that Elizabeth sees in marriage. The contrast between the sister’s mindsets highlights the modern views that Elizabeth holds.

Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, although Elizabeth’s main love interest, is a binary opposite in relation to her. Elizabeth is characterized as being an outgoing and self-confident individual while Mr. Darcy is presented as being of a haughty and stiff nature. In the beginning of their interaction, Elizabeth boldly denies Mr. Darcy’s request to dance. This act of resistance was seen as a huge risk during her time period. Although not being married before your late twenties is quite common in the twenty first century, it was almost unacceptable in the eighteenth century. An unmarried woman would be labeled a spinster, a title that was looked down upon by society. When Elizabeth repudiated Mr. Darcy, she defined herself as an equal to him, and that she too could deny him.

Jane Austen accentuates Elizabeth’s bold nature by having her decline not one, but two marriage proposals, one from Mr. Darcy and one from Mr. Collins. Before Mr. Darcy asks for her hand in marriage, Mr. Collins attempts to court the young heroine. Even though marrying Mr. Collins would provide her and her entire family with security, she declines his proposal, “Elizabeth chose autonomy over financial security, showing her lack of concern with the conventional goals of women in Regency England” (Wang). She sees no potential future with him because of his self-importance, smugness, and vanity. Elizabeth, unlike many women from her time period, does not wish to marry for financial gain, but for long term happiness. This denial of a qualified suitor parallels an event in Jane Austen’s own life.

In December of 1802, her neighbor, Harris Bigg-Wither proposed to her. Even though Jane Austen was in a period of financial instability and Mr. Bigg-Wither’s inheritance would greatly be in her favor, her ultimate decision was to turn down his proposal. This directly translates to Elizabeth Pride and Prejudice, as she also values love over money. Elizabeth’s denial of two socially qualified suitors is a stab at the gender norms that Jane Austen was facing, the denial of these men exposes Elizabeth’s and Miss Austen’s views on traditional society.

Caroline Bingley, Mr. Bingley’s sister, is one of the most evident characters when it comes to opposing Elizabeth. Caroline and Elizabeth share a common interest in Mr. Darcy, and Caroline soon realizes that Mr. Darcy’s interest in Elizabeth seems to spike. Unlike Caroline, Elizabeth refuses to play games with Mr. Darcy in order to gain his affection or attention. Elizabeth also does not resort to belittling Caroline, as Caroline often does to her, in hopes of lowering Mr. Darcy’s opinion of Caroline and raising his opinion of her. While Caroline tries to grab Mr. Darcy’s attention by walking around the room, Elizabeth has no need for this. She does not need her beauty to charm him. Elizabeth’s assertive and bold nature is what ultimately attracts Mr. Darcy to her. Elizabeth’s feminist nature and inability to conform to the gender roles are what escalate Mr. Darcy’s affection, showing that women can be assertive and still acquire a desirable suitor.

Caroline Bingley asserts a set of standards that a woman must meet in order to be the ideal female in the 19th century, which demonstrates how gender stereotypes are a categorization. Not only are women expected to change to fit in the mold that society creates for them, other women support this conformity. Although feminism might seem like every women would be in favor of it, there were many, Caroline Bingley, who degraded other females because they did not have characteristics that were seen as normal. Caroline states that in order for a woman to be deemed accomplished, she must have a , “…thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing, all the modern languages” (Austen 29). Even though she is a female herself, Miss Bingley suppresses herself to fit the traditional and botched ideology. Elizabeth contradicts the mold of a perfect woman, showing that the “perfect woman” is really just a conventionalist who restricts herself. Elizabeth displays a disregard for others and they way they view her. This shows a sense of individuality in that Elizabeth carries more value than her actions or words. On the other hand, Caroline Bingley is a shallow-minded woman whose only desire is to undermine Elizabeth to grasp the attention of Mr. Darcy.

As the novel advances, Elizabeth’s feminist characteristics continue to develop. Near the end of the novel, Lady Catherine de Bourgh makes a visit to the Bennet household. She openly and contentiously confronts Elizabeth about her relationship and feelings towards Mr. Darcy. Had Elizabeth been a conformist, she would have not stood up for herself, but being the outspoken and independent minded character that she is, she delivers one of the most feminist lines in the novel, “He is a gentleman; I am a gentleman’s daughter; so far we are equal” (Austen 267). Since feminism is defined as, “‘a movement that aims to make women the social equals of men’” (Fernflores), this is the defining moment where Elizabeth transitions from simply being an unreserved female to a true feminist.

Throughout the entirety of Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen utilizes the character Elizabeth to demonstrate the radical views that she herself held. By creating characters that contrast Elizabeth, Austen is able to effectively illustrate a progressive young woman. Elizabeth goes against almost every social norm for women that was instituted during her time period. The characters Jane, Mr. Darcy, Caroline, and others, all accentuate the feminist characteristics that Elizabeth possesses, revealing her positive attributes. Jane Austen’s novel focuses on altering the concept of the denunciation of females and denouncing the belief that females must conform to a male dominated society.


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Radical Novel “Pride and Prejudice” Compare And Contrast. (2020, Sep 13). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/radical-novel-pride-and-prejudice/



Is Pride and Prejudice conservative or radical?
Surprisingly, Claudia Johnson sees Pride and Prejudice, the novel which is usually praised for its free spirit, as Jane Austen's most conservative work.
Is Pride and Prejudice radical?
No, Pride and Prejudice is not radical. It is a novel that tells the story of a young woman who falls in love with a man she has never met.
What are the 3 themes of Pride and Prejudice?
The three themes of Pride and Prejudice are love, marriage, and social class.
What type of literature is Pride and Prejudice?
The primary treatment for depression is medication and therapy.
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