Austen’s Game of Feminism

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Durrani, Faris
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It is a universally acknowledged truth that marriage was a critical element in a woman’s life in Regency England. In the patriarchal society, only men can inherit the wealth of their parents, forcing women to marry to climb the stairs of social status and wealth. Marriage became an instrument through which families could quickly gain capital and parents were desperate to marry their daughters to rich young men, leaving women with no choice but to bow to society’s demands and be a slave to the system. But Elizabeth Bennet is a woman ahead of her time. Through the romantic and comedic scenes in Pride and Prejudice (1813), Jane Austen orchestrates the heroine could live a life which finds herself marrying not for money, but for love and in so, setting herself apart from the traditionalist culture which has done so much to suppress a woman’s right to choose who she wants to marry. She is different in that she refuses to be an object through which her cousin could use to gain her family’s wealth despite there being no sons of her parents and the diminishing possibility of her finding a man who could secure her financial independence. Despite Collins’s repeated attempt to push Elizabeth to accept his poor-thought marriage proposal and her own mother’s disapproval of her actions, she stands her ground for what she believed to be true and free. But by refusing what might’ve been her only chance to escape her precarious position in a family with no sons and with an aging father, she is playing a game which sees her as the player who is willing to gamble her future to stand for her feminist values. This paper will attempt to assess the situation Elizabeth is in, the pressures inflicted upon her to make choices against her will, and how Austen’s views of a post patriarchal ideal woman influenced this single scene to paint a woman who is not only intelligent and brave but also willing to defy others whom she believes to hold opinions detrimental to the advancement of women. In this analysis, I will be explaining how Austen illustrates her liberal feminist views through Elizabeth and the other characters which contrast her progressive views and, will focus on this proposal scene which I believe best illustrates the liberal feminist views of Austen and Elizabeth through a game of chance, marriage, and integrity.
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