In the book

In the book, the women are focused on finding the right man to spend the rest of their lives with, although marriage at this time was rarely based off of affection. Marriage to a woman was very important because they could not provide for themselves, so through marriage, women are able to be supported by the man. For most of the cases in Pride and Prejudice, at first it is exciting that the men they are interested in have money, but soon to fall in love. There are multiple times in Pride and Prejudice where the gender roles of the time are changed and sometimes reversed.
Throughout the 1800’s there were specific roles that women and men played. The traditional Englishman is masculine and charming. Gender criticism “analyzes literature through the lens of socially-constructed gender roles”(Sparks), which is evident throughout Pride and Prejudice. In Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth is the second eldest daughter and Mrs. Bennet pushes her daughters to marry well. It is up to the daughters to marry a man who has money and land.
Pride and Prejudice written by Jane Austen takes the normal Englishman and makes their known strengths the main weakness. Normally the man is seen as strong and has elegance, but Fitzwilliam Darcy does not have these in a social setting. Rather he is crude towards relationships. In the book, during the party, Mr. Darcy has no interest in any of the women and believes none of them to be good enough for a man like him. Mr. Darcy says, ” your sister’s are engaged, and there is not another woman in the room, whom it would not be a punishment to me to stand up with.”, which shows how juvenile Fitzwilliam Darcy really is, unlike how men are supposed to be in this era (page 7).
Not only does Fitzwilliam Darcy not always fit the gender role, but neither does the youngest Bennet sister, Lydia. Typically young women in this time period are to be modest and never hold her own opinion. In Pride and Prejudice, this is definitely not the case. Lydia throughout the book is obsessed with going into town to find a man. Although this changes when Mr. Wickham is in the picture. The two run off together, leaving the Bennet family ashamed and ruining their reputation. Lydia does not take the families and the public’s opinion into mind when she runs off to get married. She then shows her true colors when she comes back and demands Jane to step down because now Lydia is married and belongs on the first step. Lydia says, “Ah! Jane, I take your place now, and you must go lower because I am a married woman” (page 212), shows how Lydia now thinks she is the more important daughter since she is the first one to be married. This also goes against how women are perceived to be polite at all times.
Mr. Collins tries to propose to Elizabeth, which gets shut down rather quickly. In this case, the roles are reversed and Mr. Collins needs to marry a woman that has more money than he does, which can explain why he wants to marry one of the Bennet sisters. Mr. Collins is also not the typical English gentleman. There are multiple times where Mr. Collins is socially awkward and not seen as masculine or elegant. Not only is he socially awkward, he is conceited and arrogant. In Pride and Prejudice, Mr. Collins asks Elizabeth to marry him not only one time but multiple. Mr. Collins says, ” it does not appear to me that my hand is unworthy of your acceptance,” shows how he sees himself and believes he is the best option for Elizabeth. He then goes on to say, ” My situation in life, my connections with the family of de Bough” is another example where Mr. Collins holds himself at a high pedestal because he is acquainted with the de Bough family. He also does not stop there, he also says, “it is by no means certain that another offer of marriage may ever be made you” again shows how self-concerned and argot he is (page 75). When Mr. Collins says this he is talking down, insulting Elizabeth and being the opposite of how men would go about asking a woman to marry him.
Mr. Bennet is the head of the house yet goes into his study and is uninterested in his daughter’s marriage talks. When Mr. Collins proposes to Elizabeth, her parents have two different reactions. Mrs. Bennet says, “Your mother insists upon your accepting it.Is not it so, Mrs. Bennet? Yes, or I will ever see her again (Page 72) and Mr. Bennet says, “from this day you must be a stranger to one of your parents.- Your mother will never see you again if you do not marry Mr. Collins, and I will never see you again if you do”, are both examples of society’s expectations of women to marry not for love but for wealth (page 77).
A main topic and focus for the characters in Pride and Prejudice is marriage. In the 1800’s the best way for a family to “gain capital” is through marriage (Historical Context for Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen). In the book, this happens when Mrs. Bennet is pushing Jane and Mr. Bingley relationship because Mrs. Bennet knows that Mr. Bingley is capable of taking care of her daughter. Since this may mean the Bennet family will gain capital and stay in the high class. In this era, courtship is the main focus for women, but not as much for the protagonist Elizabeth and is shown when Elizabeth says she did not come over to Mr. Darcy looking for a dance partner.
“My dear Miss Eliza, why are you not dancing? Mr. Darcy, you must allow me to present this young lady to you as a very desirable partner. You cannot refuse to dance, I am sure when so much beauty is before you.” And, taking her hand, he would have given it to Mr. Darcy who, though extremely surprised, was not unwilling to receive it, when she instantly drew back and said with some discomposure to Sir William:
“Indeed, sir, I have not the least intention of dancing. I entreat you not to suppose that I moved this way in order to beg for a partner.”
This is an example of how Elizabeth tells Mr. Darcy that she does not need to dance with him, even though it could lead to a relationship and eventually to marriage. Elizabeth does not care about Mr. Darcy even though he comes from money. This could not be typical of the time period because women needed to focus on who they are going to marry, to make sure they are well off once they leave their family.
Most of the gender depiction is towards Elizabeth. In this era women are to be beautiful on the outside to be able to get a man to marry her. Although Elizabeth is beautiful Mr. Darcy at first does not see her inner beauty as well. Elizabeth is also not like the other women of her time, she is not afraid to speak her mind. For example, when Lady Catherine tells Elizabeth not to marry Darcy, she tells her no. This shows that Elizabeth is not afraid to speak up even when someone of a higher class is talking to her.
It is evident that gender roles were a major part of Pride and Prejudice. Jane Austen used a female narrator which allowed her to also put a different view on what women have to offer. Elizabeth is a prime example of this because she is not afraid to speak her mind and does not need the man’s approval.