Pride and Prejudice : Class Consciousness

Topics: Social class, Pride and Prejudice, Middle class Pages: 4 (1278 words) Published: October 18, 2004
Originally written in the late 1700s, Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice satirically depicts the universal ideals in Regency England, primarily regarding social class. Austen follows the development of an outspoken, middle-class British woman, Elizabeth Bennet, as she encounters and overcomes the many social barriers that separate her from her aristocratic neighbors. Throughout the novel, Lizzie must face society's class-consciousness, particularly with her family's growing relationship with the wellborn Bingleys and their friend, Mr. Darcy. The author's objective of writing Pride and Prejudice is to provide an examination of English society's emphasis on the social class structure, which seems to parallel our own modern day society.

Our present-day social class system is more flexible than it was in the 1700's, despite this, we can assume that people from the elite class, such as celebrities, will tend to marry other upper-class citizens. Similarly, a marriage between Mr. Darcy and his cousin, daughter of the distinguished Lady Catherine de Bourgh, is expected because both parties are of equally notable lineage and hail from the same prestigious family. The union between the two aristocrats was planned " 'while in their cradles' " , (McKey 23) according to Lady de Bourgh, who makes a trip to Longbourn to see Elizabeth after hearing that she is engaged to Anne's "future husband". Lady Catherine is appalled that the anticipated matrimony between Darcy and her daughter may " 'be prevented by a young woman of inferior birth, of no importance in the world, and wholly unallied to the family' " and makes every effort to prevent any chance of an engagement between Elizabeth and Darcy (McKey 56). During this confrontation, Lady de Bourgh's behavior towards Elizabeth is quite comical and can be compared to Mrs. Bennet's often-

embarrassing behavior; had Lady de Bourgh not had such stately ancestry, she may have lowered her social status with her ridiculous conduct....
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