“Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austin is, no doubt, one of the most illustrative books to reveal the truth about the society of the time, which is described in the book. And one of the most important features, which allow achieving the goal, is, certainly, the great manner of the author to use detached manner of transmitting the dialogues. It is indirect speech, which hints the reader at the thought, that the characters do not take it all too personal. For them it is just a game and responsibility, well, the responsibility is not what they taker will accept, once suggested by others. This is one of the main themes of the book, as responsibility is what is heavily discussed in the book, but hardly any of the characters is ready to take it (Todd, 2005). And this is what explains the situation in which women are seemingly oppressed by men. At least it seems to us, modern readers, that this is an oppression of one gender by the other, which is so brilliantly depicted by Austin (Chung, 2013). But no, there is much more than oppression to this entire situation. The world they all live in is actually a mutually beneficial world, a world, which serves both parties, though one of the parties seems to suffer and sacrifice, but it is hard to tell, whether this very party would be very willing to give up her sacrifice or leave her sufferings behind.
In general, this is a system, in which both women and men play roles which are beneficial for them. At least so it is for the people of middle and upper class (Chung, 2013). Here husbands do not need their wives to cook food, and the wives basically play the role of a decoration of a man. They are rather a tradition and also, a means of satisfying sexual needs and giving birth to the children. This is pretty much it. Meanwhile, without a husband a woman is socially insecure. She is constantly facing risks of various kinds. Thus, avoiding all these risks and obtaining steady income and access to goods and services for a few reasonably simple duties may not have sounded as insulting for the women of that age. Besides, there was a tradition, and overcoming the barriers, developed by the prejudice and the tradition was not the easiest task. By far not every woman would wish to face this struggle. And at the time described in the novel there were very few who actually took offense, felt them insulted or oppressed. On the contrary, they enjoyed their benefits. Meanwhile, men enjoyed their benefits. When suggested to overtake the responsibility and becoming independent from the men, many women may have protested and refused. And it is hard to judge them, really. In modern times, thus traditions appear to be abnormal, abusive and oppressive. But who are we to judge? These people lived in that time, and they were to judge, not us. And for the majority of women of the time the scheme was quite acceptable. They enjoyed the beauties of life and did not have to pay for them, or, rather, to earn them. On the other hand they did not have responsibilities, which is certainly another benefit of the oppressed position.
All this may sound somewhat mean and intolerable in modern time, but generally speaking there is nothing to oppose to this view. There is another bright example. There are other creatures, which are even more severely oppressed. Domestic animals are severely oppressed and do not possess much rights or liberties. But in the course of evolution they gave up their rights and liberties, their freedom and wildness for the sake of being secured by men. The example is very rough and should not be taken seriously, but in the very same manner women, to a large degree voluntarily, gave up their rights and liberties, their freedom for the sake of stability. When the desires changed, when technical progressed allowed women to achieve more while being independent, they began feminist movement. Thus they were able to stand up for their rights when needed. At the times, described in the novel there simply was no such need.
- Chung, Ching-Yi. “Gender and class oppression in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice”. IRWLE 9 (2). July 2013.
- Todd, Janet M… «Jane Austen in Context”. Cambridge University Press. 2005.