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The Social Dilemma's in Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

8:24:00 PM

Pages: 279
Publication Date: October 10th 2000 (first published January 28th 1813)
Publisher: Modern Library 
IBSN: 0679783261 (ISBN13: 9780679783268)

"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife." 

So begins Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen's witty comedy of manners--one of the most popular novels of all time--that features splendidly civilized sparring between the proud Mr. Darcy and the prejudiced Elizabeth Bennet as they play out their spirited courtship in a series of eighteenth-century drawing-room intrigues.

Now, What I Thought:

The novel, Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen is a classic romance story. Published in 1813, the story is about a girl, Elizabeth Bennet, and how she comes across issues, such as love, manners and marriage in the early 19th century in England. The novel was originally named First Impressions but was changed because the publishers wanted Austen to have a theme with her other book titles, such as Sense and Sensibility. The book itself has become one of the most popular novels in the Romantic and English literature categories. The novel is so popular that the book has sold 20 million copies worldwide. Many books after this, tried imitating Austen’s writing and themes but no one could ever match her specific writing style. Austen portrayed an excellent view on social standing and wealth, also, how they are not necessary in that word. The novel has various aspects to it; most of them are about love, social class, marriage and wealth. In the entire book, Elizabeth Bennet has to struggle with decisions that involve marriage and family. There are many factors that cause social dilemmas in Pride and Prejudice. Three examples of social dilemmas are: marrying for love and not for wealth, social class, and reputations to uphold. 

 The first line in the novel is, “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife”. This is a perfect example of what the most known theme is in the book, marriage. In the 19th century, when the novel was set in, it was known for wealthy men to marry wealthy women. It was very uncommon for a wealthy man to marry out of love, and not social status or for their social benefit. In Pride and Prejudice, a great example of this is Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet. At first, they both thought it was absurd to think of each other romantically because of their different social backgrounds. As the novel progresses, it is clear that both Darcy and Bennet forget the stigma against marrying for love and do end up falling in love and finally, marrying each other. Another example of this would be Mr. Collins and Elizabeth Bennet. Collins, being a wealthy but insensible man, tries to court Bennet and even asks to marry her. After refusing him because of the fact that she did not love him nor liked him at all as a person, it showed that even a refusal to such a wealthy man would be a crazy notion in those times. Again, this is another good example of marrying for love and not wealth because Bennet did the right, but unusual thing. That would have changed her social reputation completely. 

 Another social dilemma in the novel is reputation. In that time, a women’s reputation was one of the most important things to uphold. There are numerous times when a person’s reputation is almost ruined. For example, it is common knowledge that Mrs. Bennet only wanted her daughters to marry wealthy men, to uphold and improve the Bennet’s reputation and status. This is almost ruined when Darcy sends a letter to Elizabeth explaining that he refuses to let Mr. Bingley marry her sister, Jane. He states,

 “The situation of your mother's family, though objectionable, was nothing in comparison of that total want of propriety so frequently, so almost uniformly betrayed by herself, by your three younger sisters, and occasionally even by your father". 

It is clear that Darcy disapproves of Mrs. Bennet’s ways and will not let his friend be used just for reputation and to improve their family name. Another example is Lydia Bennet and Mr. Wickham. He, being an officer in the militia, seemed charming but secretly, a man in debt that runs off with a 16-year-old and ruins the family’s reputation. Mrs. Bennet is obliviously thrilled that her young daughter is the first to marry and to what seemed to be a respectful young man. Even after the fact that the knowledge of his debt was made publicly and he runs away with her out of wedlock, she (Mrs. Bennet) is still very oblivious and exclaims her joy. By Lydia running away, even if under the influence of charming Wickham, it ruins any chance her other sisters had for marrying a respectful man. 

 Lastly, social class was and still is a very popular theme in the 19th century. Austen did a very good job portraying that in her novel because it is a reoccurring feature that can be found in different spots in the book. Similar to reputation, the lines of class are strictly drawn in society. The perfect and most popular example in the novel is Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth’s relationship. When they had just met each other, it was clear that Elizabeth was not impressed by Darcy’s attitude. Darcy’s biggest struggle in the entire book was the fact that he was falling in love with someone of a totally opposite social class as him. Back then, this was a foreign concept to everyone and that resulted in him being confused and his attitude towards Elizabeth. He thought that if he outwardly showed disgust towards her, he would force himself to dislike her. This attitude does in fact really offends her and made her determined to hate him. This is why she refuses his first proposal. He did state, 

“In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you". 

This showed the transformation of his earlier thoughts about her  “not handsome enough” to his unrequited love, or so he thought. There is a reason why that quote is one of the most famous romantic lines in the history of romance. That single line showed that Darcy had overcome the borders and lines that social classes have and it showed that finally, true love wins over everything in the end.

 In closing, the novel, Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen is one of the most cherished, love stories in English literature. Austen wrote the most memorable characters, some being Darcy and Elizabeth. Their love story is known throughout all over the world. In this novel, the idea of marrying for love and not wealth was accomplished, the reputation of someone did mean a lot back then, and the lines of social classes were broken in the end.  The message that is portrayed in the novel is one of the best-known messages out there- love conquers all. 

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