Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Social Picture in Pride and Prejudice


Social Picture in Pride and Prejudice


Pride and prejudice by Austen's is a detail portrayal of the social atmosphere of the late 18th and early 19th century England and it is principally concerned with all social aspects of English gentry. It is Austen's great masterpiece, a sharp and witty comedy of manners played out in her time, a world in which men held virtually all the power and women were required to negotiate mine fields of social status. Marriage was then considered as the way of a women's security and also it paved the way for a woman to gain property. Austen contains vivid and realistic pictures of the social life of her time -the conventions, the manners, and the mode of living of that time and which are depicted in the novel in a most graphic manner.


In the novel we see that money, marriage and the security of a woman are very interrelated. In  pride and prejudice, we see that money is essential to begin a marriage. "It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife." By saying it is universally acknowledged', we get the impression that marriage is something wanted by all. It also implies that any rich man wants a wife, when actually it is a woman that wants a rich husband, the opposite of what Austen says.


Here in a conversation with Mr. Bennett, we see that Mrs. Bennett convinces her husband to wed one of their daughters to "A single man of large fortune; four or five thousand a year.'', namely, Mr. Bingley. Mrs. Bennett is especially interested in his income.


When MR. Collins proposes to Elizabeth, he presumes he will not be refused because he is richer. We see that he is one of the people who believe marriage is just about money. Another man wishing to marry Elizabeth is Colonel Fitzwilliam. He understands if one wishes to marry, one must be rich, and this saddens him because he cannot marry the girl he wants: "There are not many in my rank of life who can afford to marry without some attention to money." Elizabeth can't understand how many people marry where there were no feelings of attraction with having only simply desire for more money. Mrs. Gardiner said to Elizabeth: "affection" for Wickham would be "so very imprudent" because of his "want of fortune". Charlotte's marriage to Collins is a monetary trade. She marries Collins primarily because he will be able to provide her enough livelihoods and will be able to make her life easy.


In the pride and prejudice we find that marriage was thought as an acceptable path to his high status or their economic way according to the view  of the society.    Thus marriage was the main concern of the mother and also of the daughters  of that time .


Here we see that Mrs. Bennet always thinks about their daughters' marriage. "The business of her life was to get her daughters married "and she thinks that could fetch her daughter's wealthy and high status husbands; so marriage becomes a straight and quick to change their situation. When Mrs. Bennet comes to know that a bachelor is coming to occupy Nether field Park, her first thought is whether that  rich bachelor would choose one of her five daughters as his would be wife . She says to her husband "My dear Mr Bennet how can you be sotire some: You must know that I am thinking of his marrying one of them ". (1).  ``If I can but see one of my daughters happily settled at Netherfield,'' said Mrs. Bennet to her husband, ``and all the others equally well married, I shall have nothing to wish for.'' Charlotte Lucas, whose pragmatic views on marrying are voiced several times in the novel: "Without thinking highly either of men or of matrimony, marriage had always been her object; it was the only honorable provision for well-educated young women of small fortune, and however uncertain of giving happiness, must be their pleasantest preservative from want."   


This novel also portrays the pride of upper class society. Darcy, a wealthy bachelor alienated himself from the others at first because of his intense pride. His eventual love, Elizabeth, was disgusted at his behavior  and formed a prejudice against him. Even after he fell in love he completely debased her family for his pride. At Maryton. he dances only with the Bingley's sisters who belong to his class. When Bingley's offers to dance with any girls he says -``I certainly shall not. You know how I detest it, unless I am particularly acquainted with my partner. At such an assembly as this, it would be insupportable. Your sisters are engaged, and there is not another woman in the room whom it would not be a punishment to me to stand up with.''- Again when Bingley says to dance with Elizabeth Bennet, Darcy comments - "She is intolerable but not handsome enough to tempt me ;and I am no more humor at present to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by others man ".(3). Pride is represented also by his aunt Lady Catherine. When she was talking with Mrs. Charlotte and Elizabeth, she shows herself   to be a woman who is acutely conscious of her social status over the other two women. She humiliated Elizabeth by saying -"her (Elizabeth's) taste is not equal to Anne's". She puts all posts of insolent questions to Elizabeth and she expresses her surprise that the Bennet girls never had a governess to look for them -"No governess! How was that possible? Five daughters brought up at home without a governess!". 


Prejudice is another picture in the society. Elizabeth was disgusted at Darcy's behavior and formed a prejudice against him. Elizabeth concerns a dislike for Mr. Darcy when she overhears his remark that she is not beautiful enough to dance with him. Her prejudices were increased when Wick ham made a long take of his grievances against Mr. Darcy she believed every word which Mr.Wickham has said. Her dislike of Mr. Darcy now hardens into hatred due to a prejudice which Mr. Wick ham's account has created in her mind. Darcy's cold arrogance and snobbery prejudiced her from him from the beginning and it took Elizabeth a lot longer time to overcome her prejudice.


In the novel, Austen portrays the women's low status and the reasons of women's low status. But they in the novel didn't try to strive for their right; they thought little of their status. No right of inheritance, such is particularly the case of the Bennets,a family of five daughters whose father's estate is entailed to a distant relative because women have not the right possess  his father's property. After Mr. Bennett's death, they will loose home, land, and income, everything else. Money played in determining a woman's daily life, marriage and destiny.


The women in Austen's age lived in a patriarchal society ,a world in which men held all the advantage. Women could not entail their fathers estate, which has a quite iniquitous affairs to the daughters in the Bennets, as their property was entailed to a distant male heir. And they felt angry about it -"I don't think it is the hardest thing in the world that your estate should be entailed away from your own children.'' Since the law of the then England said that the property of a family should be entailed to a male heir and since the social power of a society was exercised by the male members of the society, marrying to a wealthy man was the only solution for a woman to gain property and, of course, shelter and security. So, when Mrs.Bennet knows Elizabeth's refusal to Mr. Collins , she threats her –''If you go on refusing every marriage , you will never get a husband , and  I am sure I don't know who is to maintain you when your father died ''-illustrates the point that women have to depend on the men through her lifetime.


Again in this connection is that assembles, balls and gossips were the order of the lady . The ladies are the upper middle class play in the in the hash ladies and gentlemen play cards or pass the time in held gossip. Listening news, collected news and the communicating news were the chief interest of the girls and ladies. Thus we see in the novel Mrs. Philips gathers news then it imparts to her nieces.


Subrata Ray said...

Well thought and reflected .Marriage and money are yoked to carry the contents of the novel

Bijoy Bhuimali said...

Good to read