Erode Sexist Stereotypes Of Women English Literature Essay

The novel Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen was conceptualized and written in 1796-1797 and was first published in 1813. Given the fact that the novel setting is in the context of 18th century scenario where women were not given the status they deserve and they had to face prejudice when it comes to socail status as also highlighted by Hildebrand “In 18th century American society, women played a subordinate role and had a subordinate social status” (5), one can get the first impression that the novel erodes sexist stereotypes of women. However, a close examination of the novel depicts that it reinforces sexist stereotypes of women. Though the purpose of this novel primarily has nothing to do with sexist stereotypes since it is story of two individuals neither superior or inferior to one another however are forced to think so about each other due to common human nature and the social classes they belong to, however this analysis can be carried out on the basis of characters (mainly Elizabeth and Darcy) and their talks with each other. This paper analyzes the novel to prove the thesis statement that how it (the novel) reinforces sexist stereotypes of women. The analysis starts with the examination of Mrs. Bennet character whose prime purpose of life was to see her daughters got happily married. Then comes the first meeting of Elizabeth and Darcy which was the foundation of misunderstanding between the two genders and then how the pride of Darcy and prejudice of Elizabeth (about Darcy that he sees women as inferior) doesn’t allow both to reach a common ground, however when the shadows of misunderstanding goes away they end up being together finally [1] .


Mrs. Bennet’s sole purpose of life was to see her daughters happily married, when she said “If I can but see one of my daughters happily settled at Netherfield and all the others equally well married, I shall have nothing to wish for” (Austen 6). This is the common nature of every mother and in the novel it reinforces the sexist stereotypes of women and there is, in my opinion, nothing bad in it. Every mother thinks this way and definitely it is her responsibility to wish and try best for her daugthers to get settled in their lives and even if someone doesn’t agrees finally every female has to marry someone as life without a partner in our society brings nothing good to a female’s life. Marriage is the major theme of the novel too as the novel’s opening statement is “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife” (Austen 2). Sauder also highlighted while talking about major theme of novel “The pivotal theme is that marriage is important to individuals and society” (6).

“She is tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me” (Austen 7) were the comments of Darcy when he was offered by Mr. Bingley to dance with his fiancée’s sister Elizabeth. Though Darcy was proud (however it is justified by the social class he belongs to, females of that class, like Ms. Bingley were equally elegant and proud) as Austen did mentioned in the novel “He was the proudest, most disagreeable man in the world, and everybody hoped that he would never come there again” (7) however, this was his nature not to mingle up with those he don’t know as Austen did mentioned as well that

“Mr. Darcy danced only once with Mrs. Hurst and once with Miss Bingley, declined being introduced to any other lady, and spent the rest of the evening in walking about the room, speaking occasionally to one of his own party” (7).

This first meeting offended Elizabeth and she became prejudiced about Darcy forming rest of her opinions on the basis of this meeting.

Third situation in the novel that proved Elizabeth’s prejudice against Darcy was her believe in what Wickham had to say about Darcy. Elizabeth believed Wickham even without giving a seond thought to Wickham’s sayings and that too just because she already holds a biased opinion about Darcy. Even when Darcy upon their meeting, later in the novel, addressed what happned to Wickham as misfortune when he said “Who that knows what his misfortunes have been, can help feeling an interest in him?” “His misfortunes! Yes, his misfortunes have been great indeed.” (Austen 106) Elizabeth still didn’t pay heed to the situation.

Another situation that reinforces sexist stereotyped behavior of women which narrow down their vision was Catherine De Bourgh’s views that Elizabeth contradicted quite decidedly. Elizabeth holds strong views and values and has the courage to defend her point as in when she contradicted Catherine conservativism by stating

“it would be very hard on younger sisters, that they should not have their share of society and amusement because the elder may not have the means or inclination to marry early. The last born has as good a right to the pleasures of youth, as the first” (Austen 92)


Thus we can conclude that overall attitude of Elizabeth towards proud Darcy was prejudiced which she formed due to the initial misunderstandings. Neither party was at fault or was considering anyone inferior over the other however the misunderstandings took place due to somewhat mixture of human nature, their opinions and social classes they belong to.

The novel reinforces sexist stereotypes of women in that women’s are obliged to think the way they think; like Mrs. Bennet has every right to think good for her daugthers and in that she has a role, not inferior or superior but different than men who are often more concerned about bread-earning issues and stuff. Elizabeth though was of modern views about marriage and love and offered direction for women in her age (Penner 1) was a bit hasty in making opinions about Darcy. In that too, the novel reinforces sexist stereotypes of women as women are different from men in this aspect.

Last but not the least, though Elizabeth was very firm in her opinions about women status, their right to have views and their right to choose their partner and she displays her instinct in various parts of the novel but she was somewhat wrong in deciding about Darcy. This was the prejudice on Elizabeth’s part and hence it reinforces sexist stereotypes of women in that both genders are different in nature and even today, even when the women are there in every field, these differences can’t be eliminated.

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