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Everyone is fair and has the same freedom. That is what culture preaches over and over. But, in fact, does it behave this way when you go to school or want to find a job? Inequality is present everywhere: colonialism, ageism, misogyny, and nationality are real issues not just in literature but also in everyday life.
The 18th century was a difficult period for women, and it was much more difficult for female authors. A woman was lesser than a male, and their positions in society and family were distinct and distinct. The man was the epitome of intelligence and power, while the woman was an embodiment of a domestic creature with regular home duties. Female writers were unusual, unpopular and their written work (if any) was not given due attention. Despite these challenges during this difficult time one lady by the name Jane Austen proved, both with her example and with one of her protagonist Elizabeth that women are capable of doing everything and do not surrender to power. Jane, together with her character Elizabeth, in Pride and Prejudice breaks the mold that woman exists only to please a man and disapproves the stereotype about the need of marrying to survive and live decently in those volatile times.
Pride and Prejudice is a great masterpiece about confrontations of genders and classes. The narrative techniques used in the novel are chosen so professionally, to the extent that it was tough to believe that it was written by a woman in Victorian Era. The author hardly gives us any description of settings, sceneries, not even physical or psychological description of characters. She is clear and precise, and focuses directly on a plot and involves us into a story from the first sentence. In the novel, the plot serves characterization and events reveal characters. Although the author is present, we maintain the illusion of reality. Austen creates such an emotional background that makes it easier for us to make the idea of the characters. She keeps us always in tension with the help of dialogues, something which makes an avalanche effect.
Even Golemac emphasized the importance of dialogue in revealing characters. In the novel, the notion of dialogue comes out through the constant battle of words surrounding gender and classes. For instance, the author provides a society, where two characters (Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy) are completely different regarding social class and gender - a rich man against provincial woman. Despite the difference, dialogues between them reveal that they are equal in conversation. This narrative technique is imperative, as it puts woman and man on the same ground.
A woman had no employment opportunities, and she was only supposed to know how to entertain her husband. In the novel, the author explains that the society expected a woman to have a sound knowledge of music, singing, drawing, and dancing, for her to qualify to be called a "woman." Apart from these attributes, she had to possess certain things in her hair, and the tone of her voice, manner of walking, her address and expressions were all supposed to be in certain ways (Golemac). The women were expected to possess the knowledge and skills, but even after doing so, they could not be absorbed into any promising jobs that require practical knowledge or skills.
The novel depicts not only a gender but class oppression as well. In the text, Jane explains that the country can supply but a few subjects for the study involving class stratification since when one move in a neighborhood of society then a feeling of confinement emerges as you notice the difference in the societal organization, culture, norms, and values. Such deviations are clearly as a consequence of social segregation. As an author, Jane Austen makes a speech of every character individualized; and the language differs due to class or education of the speaker. The irony is widely used to express the attitude of neglect towards lower class people. She depicts every detail - such as “dirty petticoat” to make an illusion of reality and one more time highlights the gap between classes. "Yes, and her petticoat; I hope you saw her underskirt, 6 inches deep in mud, I am sure; and the sleeping gown which had been let down to hide it not doing its office" (Wilson).
Even for a mother, daughters are not of equal importance as shown in the novel. At one instance, a mother is cited saying: "I hope you will not perform such thing. Lizzy is not better than the others, and neither is she half so handsome as Jane, nor half so good-humoured as Lydia, but you always prefer her" (Golemac). The title “Pride and Prejudice” was borrowed from Fanny Burney´s “Cecilia.” The allusion to a plot and gender inequality leitmotiv also sends us back to this novel. Such intertextuality proves the existence of a problem throughout the country during the past years. From the perspective of property possession and inheritance, a woman cannot possess anything in the society. Indeed, Cecilia has an inheritance from her uncle, but cannot obtain it, because she is a woman and, what makes it even worse, not married. In the other scenes, Mr. Bennet who possessed a lot of things including several acres of land and real estate's but her daughters could not have an entitlement as inheritors just because they were women. As a result, Bennet has to look for heirs from the distant male relatives (Golemac).
Literature is indeed a reflection of society, and every fictional story is a veiled reality, an echo of the history. The novel talks about the shameful and extremely popular topic in literature - a period of Slavery. An example of such articles is the remarkable story of Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe. The work of Jane in the novel is an important milestone in a history of America since it explains how slavery creates racism. To provide an exploration on the same, the author uses a technique of racial stereotyping, as she describes all the slaves as dark-skinned. The following extract from the article is an example: "The traveler in the south must often have remarked that unique, refreshing air, that soft tone, which is apparently a particular gift to the quadroon and mulatto women" (Wilson).
The story depicts Africans are considered as animals that should be educated by people (Golemac). In this case, Golemac uses the same technique as Austen, shallows her black protagonist's speech in a backward manner, without proper grammar and missing words, but shows different classes and superiority of white race. Even if these sentimental or women´s novels were written in the 19th Century, we still might ask, is it any different today? Have we stopped behaving like savages? The truth is that we still experience appalling disparity. Have you ever experienced ageism or glass ceiling trying to find a job, or bullying at school because of your skin color? Let us focus on our betterment, and creating an upbeat society, rather than pigeonhole people.
Golemac, Andrea. Representation of Women in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion, and Emma. Diss. The Josip Juraj Strossmayer University of Osijek. Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences., 2015.
Wilson, Cheryl A. "Bride and Prejudice: A Bollywood comedy of manners." Literature/Film Quarterly 34.4 (2006): 323.
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