Essay, Research Paper
The plots of Jane Austin s novels Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion revolve around wealth, status and class distinction. In both novels the social values and pride stand in the way of love between the hero and the heroine. The romantic relationships between Darcy and Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice and Wentworth and Anne in Persuasion experience problems due to class differences. Desire for upper class mobility is found so as to raise status or to attain material gains. Pressures coming from the society as a result of the emphasis on upward mobility keep the sets of two lovers apart. However the personalities of the characters play an important role and help them to overcome these societal pressures. The conclusions of both the novels support the idea that true love can overcome class distinction. In both novels there is found a competition to raise status and to raise monetary conditions through marriage. At the beginning of the novels Pride and prejudice, it is the ball dance that is the center of attention for the ladies of Netherfield. Mr. Bingley who is a man of wealth and status holds it. Mrs. Bennet s main motive in the novel is to marry her daughters to rich men. When at the dance Mr. Bingley dances with Jane not only one but two times Mrs. Bennet continuously brags about the possible match of Bingley and Jane to her friends. It is basically Mr.Bingley s status and wealth that is the main attraction for the mother of four girls who belong to a comparatively low status. Darcy being richer brings him more attention at first but his rudeness and pride takes over. This obsession to raise status through marriage is basically found in the older generation of the era. Mrs. Bennett and Lady Lucas are a part of this competition. Mrs. Bennett in the novel purposely visits Lady Lucas to brag about the match of Bingley and Jane. Her disappointment and feeling of defeat is revealed when Charlotte gets married to Mr. Collins, whereas for Lady Lucas the marriage symbolizes victory. However, this rat race is scarcely seen in the younger generation. Along the way Elizabeth and Charlotte remain friends and it is very much evident that Jane and Elizabeth are least bothered about wealth. On the other hand the willingness to gain fortune is evident in the way Wickham (the villain of the novel) traps and takes full advantage of Lydia s immaturity and foolishness and marries her for her fortune.In Persuasion, this race is found when Anne gets engaged to Wentworth and is compelled to break her engagement with him due to his low status. In Persuasion, Sir Elliot and Lady Russel are the members of the older generation and like Pride and Prejudice are a part of the competition to reach the higher echelons of society. They both want Anne to get married to someone her own class or of a higher class and with fortune. Anne herself belongs to a high class but still the competition to further raise status is found. Sir Elliot s wish to get Elizabeth married to Mr. Elliot is also based on monetary gains. Mr. Elliot on the other hand marries a rich lady with the same intention. Anne belonging to the younger generation is not a part of this race. In both the novels, it seems that the trend of upward mobility overpowers self-respects and dignity. It is stated in the novel that Lady Russel overlooks the faults of people with status and fortune (Austen1993, 43). This is exactly what happens when Wentworth returns as a man of high status and wealth. Here again it seems that self-respect is over-shadowed by the urge to raise status or for mere materiality. Except in the case of Wentworth, marriage is the tool essentially used to raise status and to make fortune. Throughout Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion this status race is very much evident and though members of the younger generation marry for love, they face the pressures of society to go up the status ladder and to achieve a higher position in the society. At the end of the novel Pride and Prejudice the members of the older generation are satisfied with the fact that Jane s and Elizabeth s lovers as well as Anne s lover in Persuasion belong to a higher class. Pressure of society on the main protagonists of the novel, due to this status consciousness becomes a hindrance between the love of the hero and the heroine. In Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion, it is the personalities of the characters that help them overcome the societal pressures. Throughout Pride and Prejudice it is seen that Miss Bingley tries her best to convince Darcy that Elizabeth is of lower class and as such is a mismatch. This can be called the pressure of society but Darcy s strong personality in the novel does not let it be a hindrance. Elizabeth is also pressurized by her mother to accept Mr. Collin s proposal but she refuses to accept it even though she is accused of being disobedient. Also when Lady Catherine pressurizes her to refuse to Darcy when he proposes to her for a second time (Lady Catherine is not aware of it first), she clearly maintains her right to choose and decides on her own. In both novels, it is seen that the pressures of society are more evident on the female characters than on the male ones.
In Persuasion, these pressures come disguised as Lady Rusell and Sir Elliot. These two characters are the ones who compel Anne to break her engagement with Wentworth. Anne at the age of nineteen is very much influenced by them and suffers considerably. This shows Anne s weakness of personality and character. It is clearly evident in the novel that it is again the older generation that pressurizes younger generation. Lady Russell in Persuasion even later on tries to persuade Anne to marry Elliot but this time she does not get persuaded. However in the end she marries her one true love. Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice and Anne in Persuasion can be compared. In Pride and Prejudice Elizabeth and Darcy face all kind of pressures which could have compelled them not to marry each other but both of them play a role of rather strong, daring and sensible people and as such are not influenced by society. Anne on the other hand is easily persuaded by society in her tender age. It is after overcoming these pressures that the hero and the heroine of both novels follow their heart and marry the person that they loved. Another factor, which creates problems for lovers of both novels, is pride. It is basically pride that is responsible for the delay of admittance of love by the two sets of lovers in both novels. In Pride and Prejudice it s basically due to pride of Darcy that Elizabeth gets the wrong impression of him. This is particularly revealed when he very easily and quite rudely tells Mr. Bingley that Jane though good looking, smiles a lot and that Elizabeth is not attractive enough for him. If pride weren t present in Darcy s character, Elizabeth wouldn t have thought badly of him in the first place. On one occasion Darcy s pride is justified when Charlotte say s a man of Darcy s status has a right to be proud (Austen1996, 86). Class distinction is clearly evident in this comment. This pride of Darcy is also evident in his proposal to Elizabeth. When he proposes to Elizabeth a certain surety of approval due to high status is found in his approach. He very easily though indirectly states that Elizabeth is of lower status and though he tries not to love her, he still loves her and is ready to accept her even if she is not of his standard. His approach is such, that it seems that he is unwilling to accept her and is doing so, due to his foolish love for her. On this occasion Elizabeth refuses, due to other reasons, but his harsh words play a considerable part. As for Elizabeth it s her hurt pride, that does not let her face her love for Darcy. His insulting remarks are the main cause of it. In Persuasion, Wentworth s pride can be compared to that of Elizabeth. It is his pride that takes time for him to accept his everlasting love for Anne. This is evident when He says She (Anne) was so altered, I should not have known her again (Austen 1993,43). Here again a rudeness of expression is used as a tool to hide unconscious love and emotions. This is also responsible for his cold politeness towards Louisa. It is basically after suppressing or after getting rid of this pride that both sets of lovers get to know each other-past the persona basis and fall deeply in love with each other. By the end of both novels, Pride & Prejudice and Persuasion, it is very clear, that only after getting rid of pride and class distinction, do the characters approach their true love. The hero and the heroine overcome the competition and societal pressures and it is after suppressing these that they get to know their lovers deeply.