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Pride And Prejudice: Gender And Class Expectations

Decent Essays
Gender and class expectations in the Regency periods were based around a fixed social structure. This is the world represented within Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice. Gender expectations controlled and restricted the lives of people abiding by them, most primarily the women of the Regency period, who lived in the shadow of men and were disempowered. Men were expected to be financially viable through means of their occupation or through inherited family wealth.

Austen’s father, George Austen made his wealth through working with the church whilst Austen’s mother came from a more grand background. Austen’s family existed as part of the upper class, and she writes about this world in all of her novels, creating characters that live similar
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‘You speak your opinion very decidedly for a woman of your age.’ Elizabeth’s active nature and refusal to stick to the passive, submissive stereo type of a woman earns her much discrimination from Lady Catherine, Mrs. Hurst and Miss. Bingley. Upon walking to visit Jane during her illness, Elizabeth arrives at Nether field Hall looking far from presentable and shocking Bingley’s sisters, who pride them selves on their looks, ‘I shall never forget her appearance this morning. She really looked almost wild.’ Her petticoat, six inches deep in mud and her hair so untidy are talked about by Miss. Bingley and Mrs. Hurstas if unbelievably outrageous. Additionally, Lady Catherine is prejudiced against Elizabeth due to her social status and the fact that she is unable to competently sing, play the piano and that neither she nor her sisters are able to draw. Austen’s use of a fixed social structure helps to show clear messages about the expectations of women, it is Elizabeth’s challenging of these expectations and non-conformist attitude that highlights the significance and value of these expectations in Regency society and makes Elizabeth the pioneer for sexual equality. Austen exposes and challenges the class and gender expectations throughout Pride and Prejudice, using her courageous and independent woman, Elizabeth Bennet to create messages about the ridiculous expectations of the
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