Pride and Prejudice Reader Response ? ?To me personally I found this book to be beneficial in understanding the ways of society throughout time. Within Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice, Bingley and Jane’s relationship proves that social pressures essentially inhibit people from fulfilling their true identities, and their true desires. Whether it manifests itself in the pressure to marry for security and convenience, or the pressure to attain affluence and culture, the social norm erases individual identity and the joy of independent choice.
One example of this stems from Jane’s relationship with Bingley. Her mother pushes her to marry him because of his wealth, but his sister, Caroline, urges him to marry a woman of higher status. This is a key example of how marriage becomes a matter of money– and not just of financial security, but of status. For this reason, Jane and Bingley almost do not end up together, a result of unhappiness for the two. ?In response to Bingley’s distance from Jane, Mrs. Bennet constantly nags and questions her daughter about Bingley.
In fact, the reader is told that “an hour seldom passed in which she did not talk of Bingley, express her impatience for his arrival, or even require Jane to confess that if he did not come back, she should think herself very ill used. It needed all Jane’s steady mildness to bear these attacks with tolerable tranquility” (96). Mrs. Bennet’s motivation for this constant nagging is, of course, her longing to see Jane in a good marriage and to be with someone of wealth and status. This social pressure to marry gainfully consumes Mrs. Bennet to the point where she not only has her “nervous attacks,” but she makes her daughters miserable as well!
Basically, the root of Jane and Bingley’s unhappiness stems from the Bennet sisters’ pressure to marry beneficially and the pressure put on Bingley by his sister to marry favorably, an urging which keeps him from proposing to Jane for quite some time. ?As far as people’s true identities, Mr. Darcy’s high social status seems to keep others from understanding his true character. When he does not introduce himself at the ball or dance with any partner-less women his intimidating wealth and status make him appear prideful and rude, when in reality he is shy and awkward (… nd, yes, a little bit prideful as well); but the crowd in the ballroom is hasty and sweeping– “He was the proudest; most disagreeable man in the world, and everybody hoped that he would never come there again” (7). Thus, it can be argued that the social system of classes causes a roadblock in people’s attempt to be themselves– to understand and be understood. ?The ideal reader should acknowledge how characters of each social class, both male and female, are bound by social norms, and notice the effects of the social mold on their interactions with others, sense of self and personal happiness.
To the ideal reader, Elizabeth’s decision to walk in the mud for three miles in order to arrive at Netherfield (when a carriage was more than available) becomes not just a personal preference of walking, but a defiance of social decorum to prove a point. To the ideal reader, Caroline Bingley, though more sophisticated and cultured, is just as silly as Mrs. Bennet, who often shows little to no class, because they both are consumed by the pressure to marry beneficially. Caroline flirts with Mr. Darcy to the point of annoyance, and Mrs.
Bennet keeps up-to-date on gossip that may favor her daughters’ potential to take advantage of single men in the area. The reader must see their silliness as a way in which society has put people under a spell of pettiness and taking away their personal identities. A prime example of someone whose social standing took away her identity is Lady Catherine De Bourg, who is a stock character of the aristocracy– a wealthy land owner, who takes pride in her family’s social standing, yet has no other depth to her character. ?Society will always tell people they need to be something they are not or something they can never be.
Whether it’s the rap videos that tell little boys that true masculinity lies in unrealistically sculpted muscles and meaningless objectification of women, or the women’s magazine that creates unrealistic perceptions of beauty and hypnotizes women into propelling that cycle of objectification in hopes of being loved, the lies surround us. Society is lying to us about what love is, what normal is, what we are… We’re lying to ourselves. Humans put together make a lie factory. We can’t help it. But the trick is to crack a window, air it out, and learn to find, produce, and share truth.