Consider the representation of class difference in Jane Austen’s novel
Pride and Prejudice
Pride and Prejudice was written during an epoch when France was in the midst of a violent revolutionary upheaval and vividly depicts the social response to those events in England. England had already undergone a major social upheaval with the dethronement and execution of Charles I and the Glorious Revolution of 1688, laying the essential basis for evolution of liberal democracy. In spite of these two major cataclysmic changes, a century later, it was once again threatened with revolutionary change by contagion from across the channel. Pride and Prejudice depicts this silent process of social transformation in the lives of the English gentility. The whole process is summarized in Elizabeth's accusations against Darcy, accusing him of arrogance, pride, conceit, and selfish disdain for others. Darcy's conscious individual response epitomizes the collective subconscious response of the English upper classes. He accepts the truth of her accusations and endeavors and transforms himself for the explicit purpose of pleasing and winning her. Thus, a charming story of romance and marriage becomes both a vehicle for and a product of social evolution.
Austen exposes and challenges the class expectation throughout Pride and Prejudice, using her courageous and independent heroine, Elizabeth Bennet to create messages about the ridiculous expectations of the time. The opening sentence of Pride and Prejudice, although ironic, defines the social standardsand expectations of the Regency period, ‘It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune,must be in want of a wife.’ Women were expected to marry single,wealthy men, showing both joy and gratitude. Whilst the men were expected to be in possession of wealth I order to attract a wife.
Elizabeth, the non-conformist heroine defies this expectation...