Senior Honors Theses

Publication Date

Spring 2014

School

College of Arts and Sciences

Major

English

Keywords

Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth Bennet, Regency England, Marriage

Disciplines

European History | Literature in English, British Isles | Women's Studies

Abstract

During the period of Regency England, a woman’s life was planned for her before she was born, and her place in society was defined by her marital status. Before she was married, she was her father’s daughter with a slim possibility of inheriting property. After she was married, legally she did not exist; she was subsumed into her husband with absolutely no legal, political, or financial rights. She was someone’s wife; that is, if she was fortunate enough to marry because spinsters had very few opportunities to earn enough money to live on alone. Therefore, it was imperative that women marry. It often did not matter what a man may look like or how he acted; however, it was essential that he be a man of equal or more wealth. Rather than marrying for love, women sought husbands as means for financial security. The pressures of society led many women to pursue empty sexual passions in a desperate attempt to secure husbands. In her novel Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen expresses her idea that marriage should not be based on the pressures of society but rather on sincere love and acceptance of the other person. Through the contrast of other loveless relationships, Austen convinces her readers that Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy have found a truly successful marriage with security, money, and passion; they are in a marriage based on true love and respect for one another. Through the novel, Austen portrays the idea that women of Regency society should pursue a relationship of mutual understanding and love rather than one that only provides financial security or empty sexual passion.

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