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Pride and Prejudice was written by Jane Austen and published in 1813. It follows the journey of Elizabeth Bennet, second eldest daughter of the Bennet family, as she learns to navigate the expectations for women in the late 18th century British society while maintaining her own view of herself. This essay will explore Elizabeth Bennet as a character, using her interactions with Mr. Darcy to exemplify the shifting nature of her beliefs and desires.
Elizabeth Bennet is a character who struggles against the parameters set by the surrounding society in which she lives. Bennet prizes her independence, and this is counter-intuitive to the demands on young women of the time: to marry suitably. Marriage was a woman’s primary means of surviving socially and economically, and the Bennet family is one that has fallen on hard times in terms of money. As such, Elizabeth and her eldest sister, Jane, must marry so that their younger siblings can also marry. However, Elizabeth cannot accept this forced way of living and chooses to seek more in her life.
Enter Mr. Darcy. This character is, in many ways, a male version of Elizabeth Bennet. He too seems to be disdainful of the current ways in which society dictates that people operate—and this is expressed through a general attitude of boredom with the local setting of the novel. Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy clash throughout the story, and it seems that Darcy finds fault with Bennet over her refusal to live as expected. Bennet takes this as a sign that Darcy stands against her own values. Their pride in who they are, and prejudice of who they see each other to be, keeps them at odds until—upon realizing they are more similar than different—the two come to love one another and eventually get married.
Elizabeth Bennet is not threatened by Mr. Darcy so much as she is threatened by the standards of the time in which she lives. The same could be said of Mr. Darcy and, once the two overcome these obstacles, they are able to recognize their feelings towards each other and agree to marry.
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