Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, the female protagonist Elizabeth Bennett has become one of the most famous literary character of all time. She is intellectual, clever, and passionate about her beliefs in which she cares little for the opinions of others. Elizabeth Bennett is very iconic for the time period she was set in because she defied social conventions. Nowadays, Elizabeth Bennett has become a poster child for feminist characters in literature. If you define feminism you can see that Elizabeth Bennett was clearly way ahead of her time.
Feminism fights for women’s independence to be their own person rather than being defined by their dependence on their husbands. In Austen’s time which was during the 1800s, women were stripped of any independence and were expected to be meek and submissive.
Since Austen used her own society for the backdrop of Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth was raised in a society where women were completely reliant on their husbands. Yet, Elizabeth has an unbelievable amount of individuality for her time. One example of her independence is when Mr. Collins proposes to her. Elizabeth is smart enough to refuse him as she expressively says, “You could not make me happy, and I am convinced that I am the last women in the world that would make you so.” Elizabeth knows that Mr. Collins is less than a suitable husband for her personally; although the Bennett estate will be given to him; which should give Elizabeth a good enough reason to marry him, alas she still refuses him. Back in those days, turning down a fitting marriage proposal was unheard of. This shows Elizabeth’s defiance towards what was expected of women during her time period.
Many feminists promote educated women who are rational and can make their own decisions. Access to education is crucial and a right that should never be denied. For Elizabeth’s time, stereotypical female tropes included frivolous behavior, a timid personality, and submission. Elizabeth defies every aspect of women her age in that era. However her sister, Lydia Bennett, matches the opposite perfectly. Lydia Bennett lacks Elizabeth’s self-reliance and strength, proving that she is a true product of her time.
Oppression is created to keep someone away from the rights they deserve. As Elizabeth comes to terms with her feelings for Mr. Darcy, she faces her own personal oppression. She must maneuver around social class, Darcy’s pride, and Lady Catherine. Lady Catherine is Darcy’s aunt who takes a strong dislike for Elizabeth because she believes that Elizabeth is not accomplished enough. Catherine views her social class is well below her own. Elizabeth does not take this lightly and commands respect by standing up for herself, reinforcing her strong-will.
In conclusion, we can all agree that Elizabeth Bennett was ahead of her time. She broke the common mold of what a women should be. She was a strong, independent woman in a time when women had no independence. These qualities are something that any feminist can appreciate.