Pride & Prejudice
Pride & Prejudice
“Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance..”, Charlotte said to her best friend Elizabeth Bennett in the popular movie “Pride & Prejudice”. Her statement portrays the small mindset of most women in the movie, taking place in the early 1800s. Gender roles, especially for females in this time period, were very one-dimensional and specific. However, there is one female character who stands apart from her contemporaries, Elizabeth Bennett. Elizabeth breaks some of the gender roles about marriage given to her by society, and chooses not to conform herself for anything or anyone. Although gender stereotypes restrict her during this time period, Elizabeth always finds a way to remain true to her self and her definition of marriage.
Women during this time period were treated as property. A man owned his wife just like he owned livestock or his home. Women were expected to follow “traditional values” (Tannen 412) such as taking care of the children and cleaning the home. In “Pride & Prejudice”, these values are predominately shown. The story entails a conventional mother of five daughters, who were all “out in society”, and the extravagant measures this mother, Mrs. Bennett, took to see that all five of her daughters married above their social status. Since the Bennett’s have no sons and women were unable to own property, the girls’ marriages are essential. Conventional wisdom maintained that women “having smaller brains than men” were lacking the ability to “equal them in intelligence” (Gould 131). Consequently, women were inferior to men and completely dependent upon them. Women were defined by their husbands. Without a man by her side, a woman was thought to be a burden on family and might as well have been invisible.
Throughout the movie, Elizabeth Bennett fits into most of the social standards given to her. She acts as she is expected by conforming to the rules of society. Each morning she adheres to her housework, including serving her father, the man of the house. When attending social events, Elizabeth not only respects those above her in social class but also conducts herself as a well mannered lady in behavior and etiquette. However, when it comes to the subject of marriage, Elizabeth does not fit the mold of the stereotypical woman. If she was to be married, it was going to be to a man she loved, rather than a man’s superior social standing or wealth. She is offered, on more than one occasion, the opportunity to accept the proposal of elite men in society, worthy prospects for any woman, but her pride makes her unable to conform in accepting either proposal. Only when she truly falls in love does she agree upon a marriage.
“Once upon a time, it was a man’s world” (Brooks 410). Men dictated the do’s and don’ts of women in society and gave women their value. Elizabeth portrayed the perfect “traditional” woman but also expressed her own individuality. This movie portrays 19th century society’s philosophy as small-minded. Women are not property or inferior in all ways to men. Mr. Darcy chooses Elizabeth despite her social class or his social expectations. The movie proves that men can not only love a woman, but see her as an equal and respect her intellect. Perhaps Charlotte is right, “Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance..”, a chance that can only occur when a man and a woman enter into marriage as equal individuals. Nineteenth century society may not have embraced this fact, but Elizabeth Bennett most definitely did.
Brooks, David. “Mind over Muscle”. The Language of Composition: Reading, Writing, and Rhetoric. Eds. Renée Shea, Lawrence Scanlon, and Robin Dissin Aufses. Boston: Bedford/ St. Martins, 2008.410-412. Print.
Gould, Stephen Jay. “Woman’s Brains” 50 Essay: A Portable Anthology. Ed. Samuel Cohen. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, 2004. 130-137.
Tannen, Deborah. “Lost in the Kitchen” 50 Essay: A Portable Anthology. Ed. Samuel Cohen. Boston:Bedford/St. Martins, 2004. 412-415.