Pride And Prejudice: Elizabeth Essay

This essay has a total of 1256 words and 5 pages.

Pride And Prejudice: Elizabeth

Jane Austen was a child of the Enlightenment, an age when reason was valued while many
romantic traditions still lingered on in society. [* By the way the romantic period
follows the Enlightenment (a reaction)] As one of the educated and intelligent women
emerging from this era, Austen has used the character of Elizabeth Bennet to epitomise the
harmonious balance between reason and emotion in a woman, making her a truly admirable and
attractive character.


Elizabeth's strength of character is emphasised by its contrast with the weak, naave
acceptance of Jane's, the instability and excess of Mrs Bennet's and the blind,
weak-willed following of Kitty's. Her strength is also shown in her rejections of the
proposals of Mr Collins and Darcy. Unlike her mother, she does not base her choice of
lovers on the financial security they will give her, and has the strength to reject them.
This is especially evident in her rejection of Darcy's initial proposal, when she displays
a passionate strength in her anger due to her belief that he has wilfully prevented Jane
and Bingley's marriage and wronged Wickham by refusing to grant him the property that the
old Mr Darcy bequeathed him. In both cases, the suitor is self-assured that his suit will
be accepted, and as a result Elizabeth's rejections are amplified by the size of the blows
that their egos receive. In Rosings, she does not let Lady Catherine tyrannise her as "the
mere satellites of money and rank, she thought she could witness without trepidation." The
Lucases and Collinses are submissive to Lady Catherine, with Maria being "frightened
almost out of her senses", and it is probable that society as a whole behaves likewise, as
Elizabeth suspects she is "the first creature who had ever dared to trifle with such
dignified impertinence". She is again presented as a rebel against ideas of class when
Lady Catherine pays a visit to her to ensure that she does not marry Darcy and Elizabeth
refuses to accept the idea that Pemberley will be "polluted" by her presence. Elizabeth
also expresses her rebellion against society by taking little trouble to become
accomplished, as young ladies were expected to then. She devotes little time to becoming
skilled at playing the piano, and has not learnt drawing at all.


Elizabeth's intelligence reveals her to be one of the few reasoning characters of the
novel, a sensible individual in a society largely composed of fools. In this way, this
attribute was less a product of the civilisation of her immediate society than of the
civilisation of the Enlightenment which emphasised the importance of reason in life and
served to educate Elizabeth. As the daughter of Mr Bennet, her view of society is a
cynical, ironic one, heightened by the presence of brainless family members and
neighbours. It is her sense of irony which enables her to survive in such a society, as
she enjoys the humour of the ridiculous pomposity of Mr Collins as her father does. [I
disagree with the introduction here. A sense of irony gives Mr Bennet the ability to
survive a disastrous marriage, but Elizabeth does not share such emotional detachment --
she is "engage".] However, she does not employ as insulting a tone as her father does, but
chooses to define it as "impertinence". After Darcy's proposal is accepted, Darcy tells
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