The Influence of Regency England in Pride and Prejudice

1604 WordsJun 24, 20187 Pages
English culture has often been guilty of exclusionary attitudes toward those of inferior social rank. Class divisions and their respective roles were established by the Middle Ages, and chronicled in literature. A man’s place in society determined his reputation. Several centuries later, the eighteenth-century magistrate and writer Henry Fielding noted in his novel, Joseph Andrews, that the class-conscious population continued to feel that even “the least familiarity [with those below in social rank was] a degradation” (137). One of Regency England’s most beloved writers, Jane Austen, continued the tradition of casting literature as a reflection of contemporary society’s biases. Her novels brim with indicators of Regency England’s…show more content…
In Lucas’s case, his occupation as mayor led to knighthood and then a rise in social rank. This in turn bred in Lucas a pointed “disgust” (Austen 18) at his former exertions, and now to merely “think with pleasure of his own importance” (18-19) satisfies him. Otherwise good-natured, this apathy violates the concept of the ideal gentleman. In contrast to William Lucas, Mr. Darcy epitomizes Regency England’s model gentleman. His sensibleness affects his romantic pursuits. For example, he can discern a superficial prospect from a higher-minded individual like Elizabeth Bennet. He ignores Miss Bingley’s transparent overtures for his affections, favoring Elizabeth’s independent spirit. In one episode centering on Miss Bingley’s pretended interest in literature, Mr. Darcy recognizes that the young woman focuses on the insubstantial; she reads the second volume of a book Mr. Darcy is reading, and she does this purely to impress him, rather than out of any interest in the book’s contents. This focus detracts from the more attractive “accomplishment” of learning the ability “to deal with the day-to-day supervision” of a married household, an attribute treasured in Austen’s time (Teachman 109). Were it present in Miss Bingley, she might have enticed Mr. Darcy. A similar contrast differentiates the Bennet sisters. Mr. and Mrs. Bennet favor Jane and Elizabeth, the two oldest Bennet daughters, over their younger daughter Lydia,
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