Monday, 20 June 2011

Elizabeth Bennet

Throughout Jane Austen's novel Pride and Prejudice, there are many references to the unusual character of Elizabeth Bennet; she is seen to be an atypical female during those times. Her wit, bravery, independence and feminist views all describe a most extraordinary model for women.

Elizabeth Bennet's wit is both humorous and intelligent. There are repeated instances within the story in which she proves her cleverness and liveliness. Joel Weinsheimer believes that Elizabeth demonstrates her intelligence by acknowledging that marriage does not always bring happiness. This would have been a big step for a woman living in a society in which the sole purpose of that particular gender was to marry well. She also had daily proof of how marriage might not bring happiness in her own parent's relationship. She sees their shortcomings as husband and wife and sees the shortcomings of not being able to respect your life's partner and vows that only the "deepest of love would ever induce her to matrimony". In those days, to not marry would put one in a very precarious situation financially and to be able to denounce tradition for the sake of one's principles is foolhardy but brave.

Norman Sherry takes the approach of basing the intellect on the dialogue and speech of the characters and not just their behavior in certain circumstances. She is under the impression that the dialogue between Elizabeth and Darcy reveals effectively the intelligence of both. Their forcefully expressed opinions provide us with ample indication of the strength of their personalities. Again Norman Sherry points out that the nature of Elizabeth Bennet is shown on the first visit to Rosings. She alone is unafraid. Rosings Park is the manor of the Lady Catherine De Bourgh who is a most unpleasant and bossy woman. Everyone is intimidated by this woman except for Elizabeth who is strong enough in her own mind and character to be least bit worried. This shows immense courage for someone of less breeding not to be worried about the opinion of a lady with greater consequence who could, if in ill favor of her, vex any hope of a good marriage.

Elizabeth is also brave in other ways. Robert Heilman pointedly notes that Elizabeth approaches the letter with "a strong prejudice against everything he might say", but in a little while begins to perceive that "she had been blind, partial, prejudiced, absurd". The letter he refers to is one that Darcy had written to her in reply to her biting accusations that he had behaved in an ungentlemanly-like manner. To be able to realize that one had founded an unjust opinion of someone and to be able to try to make amends for the wrong doings takes an incredible type of courage that can be hard to find in a person.

Elizabeth also shows a lot of independence for one that was raised in a society that was bent on making women dependent on their husbands and families. Her views on an impossible relationship with Collins are extremely humorous and true : "You could not make me happy, and I am convinced I am the last woman in the world who would make you so". To be able to turn down a suitable offer of marriage was highly unheard of back then. Elizabeth would have had to be extremely independent to do so. She also illustrated her self-reliance in her dealings with Lady Catherine. She stood up for herself in a manner that commands respect and praise - "I am only resolved to act in that manner, which will, in my own opinion, constitute my happiness, without reference to you, or to any person so wholly unconnected with me".

Elizabeth Bennet was a feminist for those times and should be praised for making the female gender seem more equal towards that of men. However, she can be seen as both an inspiration and a lesson . She should inspire all to have confidence and courage , but should also bring one's attention to the fault of assuming too much and developing a prejudice towards someone in which their full story has not been revealed.

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