Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is a complex romantic novel that follows the life of a girl named Elizabeth Bennet. Many different themes are shown throughout the book but no matter what theme is being portrayed the audience still becomes awfully familiar with Elizabeth.
In the late 1700’s the idea of a strong woman who makes decisions and expresses their feelings was quite unusual. Women were seen to live their life in the shadow of the man they marry.
Elizabeth’s independence makes her stand out which allows for a great story that Austen has provided. As most protagonists are seen in a story, Elizabeth is meant to be the likeable character, but Austen is not shy with expressing Elizabeth’s flaws.
Elizabeth has many strengths but one of her more important ones is that she can live her life without following the social norms. She can be loved while also being independent. Elizabeth is amazingly comfortable with herself all around especially with her beliefs. One of Elizabeth’s strongest beliefs is her disagreement with the idea that marriage is simply to share assets and wealth. She believes that marriage should be done to publicly express love. Austen shows this strength in Elizabeth when Mr. Collins asks for Elizabeth’s hand in marriage.
Elizabeth turns down the offer of not only the increase in social status but also the wealth that Mr. Collins would have provided. Had she said yes then Elizabeth easily would have been set for life with a husband but at the cost of her own happiness. “I do assure you that I am not one of those young ladies… who are so daring as to risk their happiness on the chance of being asked a second time.
I am perfectly serious in my refusal.” Elizabeth tells Mr. Collins this after he explains his reasoning behind why she should marry him. This reassures the audience that she sticks by her opinions and is not easily swayed. Elizabeth shows great pride in this scene by rejecting Mr. Collins.
Although Elizabeth proves to be strong and lovable, she has prejudice against others just like most human beings. Nobody is perfect and Austen clearly showed this in Elizabeth’s case. Elizabeth shows her prejudiced side when she sees George Wickham. Elizabeth was wooed by Wickham’s looks and personality. Even though she was able to stand prideful with Mr. Collins as soon as she saw Wickham all her pride dropped.
Her first-time meeting Wickham set her idea of him as a charming man. “His appearance was greatly in his favor; he had all the best part of beauty, a fine countenance, a good figure, and very pleasing address. The introduction was followed up on his side by a happy readiness of conversation—a readiness at the same time perfectly correct and unassuming.” Austen has set up Wickham to be the perfect man in the book. Wickham’s looks allow him to show the prejudice within Elizabeth.
Austen using a man to weaken Elizabeth is an incredibly clever idea on her part. She has made Elizabeth do the exact thing that the audience expects her to not do. She shows her prejudice. “Mr. Wickham was the happy man towards whom almost every female eye was turned, and Elizabeth was the happy woman by whom he finally seated himself.”
Jane Austen was perfectly able to show both sides to the main character’s personality. She clearly expressed Elizabeth’s strengths while also directly countering them with her flaws. Elizabeth is a great example of a modern-day human with feelings.
Austen’s capability of expressing this idea more than 200 years ago is an incredible achievement for her. She sets an idea that should not be taken lightly especially in today’s world.