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Jane Austen's novel Pride and Prejudice was published in 1813. Jane's novel is one of her most well-known works. The novel portrays emotional growth as well as bitter family conflict. Sexist stereotypes of different women portrayed in the novel are also elicited by the book. Mr. and Mrs. Bennet, along with their five daughters, are the central characters in the book. Mr. Bennet's property is encumbered, meaning that one of the daughters would have to marry into a rich family in order to support the others. The novel's primary setting is the British Regency, as well as schooling, marriage, and wealth.
The book is centered on the 18th-century scenario in which women got prejudiced and lacked considerable status in the society. The women’s role was limited and their social status was subordinate. With the level set in such a context, it may imply an immediate impression of eroding sexist stereotypes of women, which is not the case. This is because the first part of the novel focuses on the imitations of women with regard to sexist stereotypes. However, evaluating the later occurrences depicts that this was just for introductory since depending on whatever that transpire, the later parts focus on reinforcing women sexist stereotypes. The paper will delve into an in-depth scrutiny of Austen’s Novel to determine if it reinforces sexist stereotypes of women.
Sense and Sensibility Stereotypes of Women
In Sense and Sensibility, we often see women as domestic creatures. The father imposes orders, the daughter must obediently follow his wishes, and the wife spends her free time at home. The stereotypes of women in sense and sensibility films have a distinctly negative connotation. Moreover, women are stereotyped as inferior, emotional objects, and sexual objects. In many cases, they are portrayed as unable to achieve any of these goals.
The use of cinematography, point of view, and extensive framing techniques to depict the sister-heroine relationships is a crucial aspect of this film adaptation. These devices play on the stereotypes of women and enable male spectators to identify with the male characters and their views. In the end, these strategies empower male spectators and further perpetuate the gendered cycle of violence. This is because women are portrayed as emotionally receptive objects who are not capable of decision-making.
The aristocracy and upper-middle class are also key components of the novel. The heroines of Sense and Sensibility come from these groups. Her heroes are clergymen and titled landowners. Both Elinor and Marianne spend their spare time socializing, while the male characters spend their time productively. While men and women in the novel display similar traits, the female characters are more chaste. Despite this, men like Willoughby and Colonel Brandon are allowed to flirt. Despite this, Colonel Brandon is treated with respect and even a little jealousy, a trait which may be detrimental to the female protagonists.
Mrs Bennet was dedicated to ensuring that all her daughters were happily married. This dedication is evidenced where Mrs Bennet states that she would wish for nothing more is she just saw one of her "daughters happily settled at Netherfield and all others equally well married” (Austen 6). The assertion confirms the reinforcement of sexist stereotypes of women. The mother is not wishing her daughters to be just married, but be happily married. It affirms that her joy would be realized when her daughters are well settled in their lives (Chin-Yi 23). As a fact, marriage is an essential phase in every person's life. Life without a partner may end up not bringing anything useful. Couples can share ideas, help each other, fight away loneliness and reproduce children. Marriage is among the central themes of the novel, due to its apparent importance to individuals, it involves their relatives and the society. Austen also notes that it is universally acknowledged that any man with riches will always be on the lookout for a wife (Austen 2). This stresses the point further to imply that even successful and prominent men in the society need a wife at their side. All these aspects of marriage depicted above, amalgamated with Mrs Bennet's desire to view all her daughters getting happy marriages. It affirms that the novel strongly reinforces sexist stereotypes of women.
In another situation, the sexist stereotype is depicted in the novel whereby women have the authority and obligation to think as they wish. For instance, Mrs Bennet is rightful to think about happy marriages for her daughters. Another example is that of Elizabeth who had modern views about marriage, and did not hide those feelings but instead shared them with other women. For instance, she believed that the young sisters ought not to be prevented from marrying until the elder sister gets married, claiming that it was a violation of those sisters from having the pleasures of their youth especially if the elder sister fails to marry early (Austen 92). She stands firmly to defend her point even on account that it contradicted Catherine's conservativism. These instances reinforce sexist stereotypes of women pointing out that they have the right and freedom to express their personal views and air out their preferences.
Pride and Prejudice extensively illuminate the concept of both genders being different in nature. These differences between the female and male genders still exist even today in all fields, and it is hard to eliminate them. For instance, dowry is paid by men in most parts of the world, most of the nurses are female, most engineers are men and air hostess is dominated by females. The novel accepts the existence of such gender differences, but further puts them in a way that reinforces sexist stereotypes of women. For instance, Elizabeth was persistent in her opinions regarding choosing partners. She states firmly that both genders should have an opinion and a right when choosing their partners, thus reinforcing sexist stereotypes of women. She further displayed her instinct throughout the novel in many occasions thus proving that although both genders are different, women too have a right to give their views and opinions.
Sexist stereotypes of women are also reinforced with regard to involvement in various activities and have personal independence. During the era, prominent activities were set aside for men as they were considered symbolically and socially more superior. However, the novel follows a change in this male dominance and depicts how women too could embrace their own independence and get involved in any activity. Women were also prevented from pursuing education as they were thought to have weaker minds (Gilman 3). For example, Mr Bingley's two sisters played piano and were well educated. These were aspects associated with men, but as women, they had been able to achieve them too. Miss Darcy was well educated too. She exercised her independence without being controlled by her brother. Another example is Lady Catherine whose freedom exceeded those of other females featured in the novel. She was free to do what she pleased and controlled most of the happenings around her. She even played some roles that were expected to be done by men, such as telling Mr Collins to find a wife, which he later did. It demonstrates that the ideas of women having no power could be overcome.
Pride and prejudice have many themes, of which gender stereotypes are among the key ones. The gender stereotypes are mainly directed towards women. In the period during which the novel was authored, women were considered inferior and did not have an equal say with men. Their roles in the society were also limited. They were always required to have permissions of their husbands before getting involved in anything. However, despite all these negative sexist stereotypes of women that gave them an inferior position in the society, the author reinforces them and shows how women could change the way they were perceived. Reinforcing sexist stereotypes of women are depicted in many places throughout the novel such as where we see women making their own decisions, becoming independent, getting educated, playing the piano, and giving out their opinions. The author demonstrates how various women authors went beyond mediocrity and overcame the stereotypes that undermine them, turning them into an advantageous edge.
Austen. Pride and Prejudice. London: Michael O'Mara Books Limited, 2011. Print.
Chin-Yi. "Gender and Class Oppression In Jane Austen' S Pride And Prejudice." Academia.edu. N.p., 2017. Web. 9 Oct. 2017.
Gilman. “The Yellow Wallpaper” and Other Stories. Mineola, New York: Dover Publications Inc, 1997. Print.
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