Love and marriage, described as two very dissimilar ideas during nineteenth century England, are introduced very quickly into the novel. Throughout the novel this unromantic view of marriage remains, and is conceptualized by noting that men will seek out a wife when they are ready and a woman will accept with no hesitation since it is her social duty. In Austen’s case, the road to matrimony was not that simple, and as a result she carefully described the struggles between classes through relationships she narrated throughout the novel, while also reflecting on how these relationships were influenced by these different social rankings. She did this mainly by writing about the relationship between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy and the constant conflicts their relationship faced. While also writing about three other marriages that had different motivations behind them. During this time, it was unusual for woman to pursue a career of their own, as the social standard was for a woman to take care of the home, cook, and clean. Austen broke this standard by writing novels, especially by depicting Elizabeth as a well-spoken and independent woman. By incorporating these different elements into her novel, Austen was able to effortlessly describe the life of middle and upper class people in England and bring to light ideas that many didn’t know existed. The style, form, and characters of Pride and Prejudice were influenced by feminism, romanticism, revolutions, and Austen’s own life.
Jane Austen grew up in the middle class, with a father who was born into that same class and her mother who was from a higher social order. This relationship heavily resembles the one between her two characters Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. As the readers see Darcy “ struggle hard to come to terms with himself before he finally decides to propose Elizabeth though he is conscious of her low connections” (Ashfaq, Samina, and Nasir 1). Like Jane’s mother, Elizabeth did not wish to marry for the luxuries the wealthy class had and instead preferred a life with someone she loved. As a woman, it was ever expected of Jane to become an author who wrote of love and other events. However society did expect woman of her class to be able to read and write, draw, and play instruments. She made this evident through her character Elizabeth, who was criticized by Lady Catherine for not having those abilities. Also, by Mr. Bingley’s sister who considers those values to be utmost important for a woman to be intelligent. Jane not only mocked these standards in her writing, but stood up against them by having a strong and independent female character.
Although her family did partake in reading her poetry and short stories, they were not aware of her books like Pride and Prejudice. They were not “published until many years after they had been written” which shows her apprehensiveness with going against society’s standards for woman during period (Jane 1). It was not common during the eighteen hundreds for woman to do the same things men were doing. Furthermore, to be a woman who has written work inspired by personal experiences was almost unheard of. It was not very ladylike of Jane to publish written works as a source of income during this time period. Austen would have faced enormous amounts of criticism if she chose to publish these books with her name on it, so she chose to do it all anonymously. Also, there was also a chance that her work may have never even been published if it had her actual name on it. If her work was not successful, it would have affected her even more and tarnished her name.
Austen was able to write effectively because she wrote about the “people of her own social class: the ladies and gentlemen of the landed gentry” which allowed for her to write about the social downfalls that this class faced (Jane 1). She was able to take the lives of ordinary people in her class, and transform it into a progressive story. While Jane wrote about what she knew, she also did explore the lifestyle of the class that was above her. Austen noted and incorporated “the financial problems of common people of her society as well as the cruelties of the aristocracy” (Ashfaq, Samina, and Nasir 1). She recognized the problems the upper class had as well. Looking at these people face forward, they were often viewed as people with no problems due to their large amounts of money, but Jane knew that the issues with standards in society plagued them as well. Austen makes it especially known through her character Mr. Darcy, who expresses to Elizabeth that it was not right of him to feel the way he felt about her because of how her family carried themselves.
Jane Austen’s writing was during the late seventeenth century. All of her novels were “all composed within a short period of about twenty years” (Historical 1). Pride and Prejudice was directly influenced by real problems and events happening during her which allowed for her to write a realistic novel. This time was a “period in history when England was at the height of its power” which was very significant since it meant that the people were living peacefully and prospering economically (Historical 1). The social classes became more divided since the rich were getting richer and the already established poor people were becoming poorer. People like Mr. Darcy who “is a landowner established for “many generations”,” his friend Bingley has no estate and has inherited £100″,000 from his father, who made money in trade” (Brown 1). Becoming wealthy in this time period is completely different from what it used to be, social mobility and changes of fortune are constantly changing.
New ideals began to rise during this time, one major one being Romanticism. Individuality began to rise within everyone, including woman. This idea is presented within Pride and Prejudice when “Elizabeth Bennet works out a new institution of love based on a new conception of self” which allows her to let go of her prejudices towards Mr. Darcy and her pride harbored within herself and fall in love with a man who she never before thought she could be with (Kneedler 1). This idea of individualism influenced her characters, especially in Elizabeth, who was content with waiting for a man she loved instead of marrying a man strictly to benefit her and her family. Austen’s reasoning behind Elizabeth’s marriage to Mr. Darcy was more complex than one would, Elizabeth had to change and fix herself before she could commit to marriage with Mr. Darcy. One major characteristic that Elizabeth bestows that none of the other females posseses in this novel is the distinction between passion and reason. This is a major ideal in Romanticism. She “recognizes that to join Darcy’s family and become mistress of Pemberley would indeed “be something.””, but could not do it due to her inability to recognize the feelings she has for him (Brown 1). Austen used these ideals that were prominent during her lifetime and balanced them together to make a book that was realistic.
Austen implemented ideals into her female characters that made them stand out. One being independence, she does this by having Elizabeth “refuse him without giving way even for a moment to anxiety concerning the future” it shows that she is not intimidated by power or authority (Brown 1). She is acting as an independent woman who making decisions that are strictly beneficial to her. Elizabeth’s attitude is similar to what Austen’s would have been during this time. Being in the same social class, Jane had the independence and flexibility to act as she pleased, and that included being selective enough to choose who she would marry. Austen does however show other side of this with the character Charlotte, when she is approached with a marriage proposal by Mr. Collins, and she cannot dare to refuse it. Charlotte comes from a family that is not as financially stable as Elizabeth’s is, so she is financially a burden to her family and realizes she has to do this for them and herself so she can live comfortably. By Austen giving her female characters this much power and independence, it becomes “a pivotal moment in our feminist heritage, an achievement whose power has in many senses been lost” (Kneedler 1). Austen strictly took after the women, including herself, who were striving to do things that men did without the social consequences that came along with them.
Although Pride and Prejudice did not take place in France, it was slightly influenced by some of their ideas. This novel was written in the year of nineteen sixty-seven, which “marks the time of the French Revolution, while the period from 1799 to 1815 marks the ascendancy of Napoleon” (Historical 1). While the novel was written by Austen during the French Revolution, it was not published officially until the Napoleonic era. Although the war was prevalent during her life, she did not see much change in her life due to Prime Minister, he made sure to have strict control over their people so they did not support anything that had to do with the French Revolutions (Historical 1). In order to make sure nobody in England mimic what was occuring in France, the “government suspended the right of habeas corpus, giving themselves the power to imprison people for an indefinite time without trial” (Historical 1). This was a movement that the government took to ensure nobody thought to do anything relative to France. The only time the readers read anything regarding war efforts is when we read of their “continued presence of the British soldiers in Meryton” (Historical 1). This shows how limited their view on the whole world is, these people in the small towns outside of major cities are not exposed or told of the issues going on, characters like Lydia think of the soldiers as entertainment rather than war.
One major change that was influenced by the French was the style and design. Austen references this slight change when Mr. Bingley’s sister is conversing with Mr. Darcy in the parlor and she mentions how a woman was decorating her estate with French styles. She continues to call it unpatriotic which pokes fun at the circumstances happening during that time. Fashion was inspired and influenced heavily by the French, even though England during this time was at war with the French (Historical 1). The style became much simpler during this time and instead of wearing elaborate gowns, it was now normal to see someone in Elizabeth’s class to be wearing a simple dress. Men of Mr. Darcy’s status would be wearing a “civilian costume of tight breeches, a ruffled shirt with a carefully folded neckcloth, and a high-collared jacket” (Historical 1).
England’s society was a major influence on how life was portrayed in Pride and Prejudice. England was still an aristocracy during this time and it progressed during Austen’s time to having the gentry govern the countryside in which she resided in (Brown 1). The rich continued to own most of the land and as a result heavily influenced the government. For example, both Lady Catherine de Bourgh and Mr. Darcy “control the lives and incomes of scores of people on their estates, many of whom had no voting power until the Reform Bill of 1832” and as a result had lots of power (Brown 1). When the Industrial Revolution began in England, it changed their economy for the better. Austen depicts “the “landed gentry” who have earned their property, not by inheriting it from their aristocratic ancestors, but by purchasing it with their new wealth” (Historial 1). Now instead of inheriting money like how it was previously done, many are able to acquire their own. This new way created a very large middle class and a growing upper class. The men of England were not as they once were, now young men were going out “to drink, gamble, race horses, and spend money” (Historical 1). Austen illustrated that they were unfaithful and not as they used to be. She did this through the character Mr. Whickham, who not only attempted to seduce Mr. Darcy’s younger sister so he could inherit money, but successfully doing so with Lydia, who ran away from her home to marry him.