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The Feminist Perspective in Austen's Novel

“If marriage be such a blessed state, how comes it, could you say, that there are so handful of pleased marriages?” (Astell 2421). Marriage is a single of the main themes of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, a key motivator for numerous of its characters. Set in the course of the Napoleonic Wars (1797–1815), the novel features marriage as a formally unified institution however, the individual motivations to get married differ significantly. In Some Reflections upon Marriage, predating Austen’s novel by more than a hundred years, Mary Astell explores the dysfunctional motivations top to marriage and the outcomes that might be expected. Applying her views to the marriages in Pride and Prejudice suggests that the ladies in Austen’s novel would have done better to take her suggestions into consideration according to Astell, most of the unions are conceived from faulty motivations, and consequently will not supply happiness to their participants. Astell’s feminist viewpoint on marriage was radical in these occasions. Today, as a common satisfied ending in novels and films alike, marriage “represents in their [feminists’] view submission to a masculine narrative imperative” (Newman 693). Certainly, Karen Newman argues that Pride and Prejudice’s fairy-tale ending does not devalue the operate from a feminist point of view, but that the novel’s interest to the conflicts in the situations of women around the turn of the eighteenth century is more valuable than “parody[ing] male models of action” (705). Exploring Austen’s novel from seemingly clashing feminist perspectives will show the intricate commentary upon the position of women in society that this work holds, from the developing plot to what appears to be a pleased ending.

In Some Reflections Upon Marriage, Astell argues that the initial enquiry of a man seeking for a spouse deals with her worth how wealthy is she, how many acres of land will she bring him? These considerations are most notably expressed by Mr. Darcy, as he explains to Elizabeth Bennet his attempt to stop Mr. Bingley from proposing to her sister, Jane. Darcy calls “The predicament of your mother’s family”(Austen 228), meaning their lower social class and significantly less than moderate wealth, “objectionable”(228). Marrying for wealth is a motivation surfacing in Austen’s work a number of times: Wickham, who ends up marrying Lydia Bennet, only agrees to do so soon after Darcy promises to pay off his debts and the Bennets assure him a modest revenue. Charlotte Lucas marries Mr. Collins, whom Elizabeth rejected, musing that marriage is “the only honourable provision for effectively-educated young females of modest fortune, and however uncertain of giving happiness, should be their pleasantest preservative from want.” (163). Charlotte does not romanticize her marriage living a fairly comfy life is her main objective, and happiness is a secondary consideration. Some Reflections Upon Marriage puts the main focus on the aim of being happily married, and so the closing statement on the subject of marrying for wealth clashed with Charlotte’s view: “But as an estate is to be regarded, so it ought to not be the main, much significantly less the only consideration for happiness does not rely on wealth.” (2421).

If monetary security is not the main consideration when picking a partner, it have to be a uncommon case of marrying for adore Astell argues that there is not such a huge distinction in between “marrying for the enjoy of funds, or for the love of beauty the man does not act according to cause in either case, but is governed by irregular appetites” (2422). Possibly the clearest example of marrying for the adore of beauty is the union between Mr. and Mrs. Bennet “[Mr. Bennet] captivated by youth and beauty . . . had married a woman whose weak understanding and illiberal mind, had quite early in their marriage place an end to all true affection for her” (262). Astell adds that, apart from obscuring someone’s less eye-catching personality, beauty also has a tendency to fade. Darcy’s love for Elizabeth centers on her wit and character for many, this would look convincing as a foundation for a pleased marriage. Even so, Astell argues that wit’s greatest attraction is its surprising, light and unaccountable nature it has no “real excellency and worth in itself” (2422) and as a result will not entertain for lengthy. Especially in the case of Elizabeth, with her outspokenness that can be characterized as temper at some moments, it is not improbable that Darcy will “provoke such a wife to exercising her wit, that is, her spleen on him, and then it is not difficult to guess how extremely agreeable it will be to him”(2422). Lydia Bennet, whose eloping with Wickham causes a scene short of a scandal, can be noticed to be motivated by really like as properly. As mentioned just before, Astell acknowledges the need to think about an estate both Lydia and Wickham have no money to their name when they choose to elope. Lydia’s motivation of marrying for love can only finish in regret, according to Astell: “there could be no actual kindness in between those who can agree to make every single other miserable”(2421).

For the duration of the time Pride and Prejudice was set, girls could not properly be mentioned to have a choice with regards to whom they wanted to marry all they could do was decline or accept the supply(s) created to them (Astell 2422). Astell encourages females to find out, to be educated and to boost themselves women should be taught that obtaining a husband is not the highest style they can have. This feminist view is supported to some extent by Elizabeth not basically does she reject the relatively wealthy Mr. Collins’ proposal due to the fact she knows their marriage will not be a pleased one, she even declines Mr. Darcy’s initial proposal, ignoring his considerable wealth and status, which would raise her into the larger ranks of society and supply her with a comfy life. Each instances Elizabeth weighs her extreme dislike of her suitor’s individual a lot more heavily than the positive aspects the marriage would entail. These decisions show that Elizabeth refuses to be motivated by wealth when it comes to marriage, and reveal that obtaining a husband is not her initial priority. At some point, realizing that she judged Darcy’s character too rashly, she relents and agrees to marry him when he proposes for the second time. Elizabeth, also, falls into the trap of marrying for adore – although some argue she is more motivated by wealth than she lets on (Newman 698).

The only explanation for a lady to get married, according to Astell, is a heroic self-sacrifice as a service to God and mankind, an act which may effectively earn her a spot in Heaven right after this life none of the ladies in Austen’s novel seem to have this motive. All look to take a selfish perspective, marrying to obtain a comfortable life for themselves, to stay away from a scandal, or to conclude a search for happiness. Additionally, apart from Elizabeth and Darcy, none of the couples seem to waste any time in tying the knot. In the case of Charlotte, Mr. Collins’ affections are transferred from Elizabeth to her in a matter of days, resulting in an engagement the really next day. Astell states the following: “’tis much less to be wondered at that ladies marry off in haste, for perhaps if they took time to consider and reflect upon it, they seldom would.” (2424). Pride and Prejudice offers no indication of how happily married these couples turn out to be, apart from Mr. and Mrs. Bennet. Their marriage does not benefit them or their young children: “Had Elizabeth’s opinion been all drawn from her personal family, she could not have formed a extremely pleasing image of conjugal felicity or domestic comfort. . . she had by no means felt so strongly as now, the disadvantages which must attend the youngsters of so unsuitable a marriage.” (262) Astell’s predictions appear to have come correct in this case, considering that faulty motivations result in an unhappy marriage.

Elizabeth’s ‘happily ever after’ scenario seems to disagree with Astell’s considerations, and even feminist perspectives on marriage as a whole the robust female protagonist’s character seems to decline and she is needed to “dwindle by degrees into a wife” (Newman 693). Newman emphasizes that marriage “does soon after all refer to a real social institution that, in the nineteenth century especially, robbed females of their human rights.” (694), a scenario that the seemingly cheerful ending appears to romanticize. Adding this view to the comparison of Astell’s work to the novel suggests that Pride and Prejudice is anything but a feminist work, at least judging by its depiction of marriage. However, Newman argues that the ending must not be observed as the determining factor: “by reading [the] novel as a unity with romantic marriage as its final statement, we impose a resolution . . . that tends to make it conform to the quite expectations for women and novels that Austen’s irony consistently undermines.” (694). This irony is visible in the way Austen appears to emphasize the discrepancy between society´s best of enjoy and its implicit monetary motivation her depictions of unsatisfactory marriages and frequent use of financial language to describe human relationships stop the reader from dismissing Pride and Prejudice as a romantic adore story in which women´s greatest reward in life is marriage (Newman 695). One more way in which Austen’s irony shines by means of has to do with producing an “artificial plausibility” (696), as gaps of information about or plausibility of the narrative are filled by “authorial commentary [which] justifies the plot” (696). The novel’s first sentence sets the tone for the rest of the narrative: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a very good fortune, need to be in want of a wife.” (Austen 51). It is worth noting that neither of the men who match this description seem to be in a hurry to get married on the contrary, it appears the young ladies with no house to their names, such as the Bennet sisters and Charlotte Lucas, are the ones in dire want of a spouse. The function of the opening line does not appear to be justification, “but exposure, for it serves as a continual ironic reminder of the discrepancy or gap in between social convention and economic necessity. . . Austen creates a deliberate disjunction between received opinion and social reality.” (696)

The irony Newman describes sheds a new light on the tone of Pride and Prejudice the narrative, which seems to go against Astell’s primary principles in her feminist essay on marriage, actually supports her views on marriage to a certain extent. Even though seemingly subtle, the novel holds a commentary upon society as a entire and most importantly marriage and its motivational ambiguity. The content ending does not necessarily devalue the plot: Austen’s protagonist leads a effective life “within the limits imposed by ideology. . . [She] redefine[s] what we feel of as power, helping us to avoid the trap that classic male definitions of energy present, arguing that a woman’s freedom is not basically a freedom to parody male models of action.” (Newman 705). Pride and Prejudice can be noticed as a novel with a feminist tone, which it vocalizes through ironic constructions as opposed to the superficial narrative.

Works Cited

Astell, Mary. “Some Reflections Upon Marriage” The Norton Anthology ofEnglish Literature. Ed. Stephen Greenblatt. 9th ed. London: Norton, 2012. 2420-2424. Print.

Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1972. Print.

Newman, Karen. “Can This Marriage Be Saved: Jane Austen Tends to make Sense of an Ending.” ELH 50.4 (1983): 693-710. JSTOR. Internet. eight June 2016.
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