Pride and Prejudice, a Feminist Novel?

I finally finished the novel Pride and Prejudice a few days ago. The edition I read looked a little bit like this:

pride-and-prejudice

If you read my last blog post, in which I talk about the first half of the book and how I liked it, you’ll know that I really, really enjoyed it. I must say that now that I’ve finished it completely, I like it even more.

Unlike a lot of other readers out there, I really liked the fact that Elizabeth ended up marrying Mr. Darcy at the end of the novel. Many readers who wrote book reviews that I ended up reading said that they thought that the fact that Elizabeth marries the man that she used to hate was very anti-feminist. I cannot disagree more, because I believe that the fact that Elizabeth actually made Mr. Darcy change for the better, until she saw a different man in front of her, modernizes the story that we cannot forget was written in the early nineteenth century.

I compared the story of this book to the plot of many of today’s romantic comedies and I must say that the way that Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth fall in love and end up marrying each other is more feminist than many modern Hollywood films.

I’ll give a few examples: the movie Devil Wears Prada. Many themes are explored in it, but the just of it is that a woman gets a high-powered job as a magazine editor’s assistant and must, in the end, choose between this life as a powerful career woman or her boyfriend and her old life. She ultimately chooses the old life with her boyfriend. My point is, is Pride and Prejudice really less feminist than our romantic comedies today? No, it isn’t. The novel is about a woman, Elizabeth, who firstly turns down a proposal from a man she really doesn’t like despite the immense pressure that her mother and the rest of society puts on her to accept any marriage proposal for the sake of simply getting married. She then proceeds to turn down a second proposal from Mr. Darcy, and tells him in the process that the fact that he assumes that she’ll take him as her husband because of his money and social status is absolutely disgusting. She disapproves of his haughtiness and seemingly deeply rooted narcissism. In the months after this proposal, she sees him in a new light and gets closer to him. He seems to make a real effort, and to even change his ways and becomes more vulnerable. He interacts with members of her family and demonstrates real regret for the way that he has treated Elizabeth, who made him wait when all the other women in the novel are used to be the ones always waiting. Elizabeth was, in the novel, a true feminist pioneer: while women in her surroundings were made to wait around for marriage, for their daughters’ marriage and for men to come and ask them to dance, she actually made a man wait for her approval of him. And it worked. Considering the times in which Elizabeth lived, the early nineteen-hundreds, isn’t that quite revolutionary?

In the novel, unlike many modern movies and books like Devil Wears Prada, the woman is not made to change everything about herself to appeal to a man. How many times have you seen this situation reversed in Hollywood movies or romantic novels? How many times have we read about or watched these stories about women who change themselves for the man they want? Think films like Grease, She’s All That, Jerry Maguire or The Breakfast Club. All of these films, filmed in the last century and more than a hundred years after Pride and Prejudice was published, center around this girl who drops everything, changes her personality and appearance to appeal to a guy she likes. To top it off, this guy tends to be a total jerk to her. (Danny in Grease, anyone?)

Considering the fact that Pride and Prejudice was written more than two hundred years ago, we should appreciate the traces of feminism it contains. Because it contains more feminism than many of the popular movies, TV shows and novels of our time.

Needless to say, Pride and Prejudice has become one of my favorite novels of all time. Yay for feminism in the nineteenth century!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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2 thoughts on “Pride and Prejudice, a Feminist Novel?

  1. I definitely agree that Pride and Prejudice supports feminism much more than a lot of popular movies and books today. Women are being told to change their personalities and who they are today, whereas in Austen’s novel, Darcy had to change his prejudice on her family to truly love her. But I also think that an important part of the novel is that Elizabeth had to also let go of her pride to love Mr. Darcy. I think she took pride in the fact that she was determined that her marriage with anyone would be on the foundation of love, and she was so sure she could find that with Mr. Wickham. And she judged Darcy for his hatred of him before knowing the whole story. And then once she found that out, and of his efforts to show his affection for her, she had to let go of her pride to say that she was wrong about Wickham and about the fact that he was no longer the last man on earth she could ever want to marry. Austen does a wonderful job at showing the faults in both lovers and giving redemption to them both, as well. They both had to change, but not who they were, just their “pride and prejudice.” They had to become better people before they could be together.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well said! Very deep, complex themes are incorporated in the novel that are interesting to explore. The love story between Darcy and Elizabeth has many layers, just like the latter’s personality. I think that Elizabeth’s faults make her more personable and relatable – she’s not just defined by whether or not she has feminist traits!

      Liked by 1 person

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