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Class Consciousness in Pride and Prejudice

  • Date Submitted: 01/28/2010 10:09 AM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 40.2 
  • Words: 1178
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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 confront society’s class-consciousness, particularly with her family’s growing relationship with the wellborn Bingleys and their friend, Mr. Darcy. It is clear that author, Jane Austen, intended Pride and Prejudice to be a parody of English society’s emphasis on the social class structure, which parallels the social class system of today.

Although our present-day social class system is more flexible than it was in the 1700s, members of the elite, especially celebrities, are still more apt to marry other upper-class citizens, rather than their social inferiors. For example, it is expected by society, and usually veritable that rock stars, actors and models tend to pursue partners from a comparable social class. Similarly, a marriage between Fitzwilliam Darcy and Anne de Bourgh, 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   “ ‘[w]hile in their cradles’ ” , 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” (Chapter 56). Lady Catherine is aghast that the anticipated matrimony 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 (Chapter 56). During this confrontation,...

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