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Betel Ali Multimedia Writing and Rhetoric Mr.

Jeff Bain-Conkin February 25 2012

Rhetorical Analysis of Pride and Prejudice


There are few people whom I really love, and still fewer of whom I think well. The more I see of

the world, the more am I dissatisfied with it; and every day confirms my belief of the inconsistency of all human characters, and of the little dependence that can be placed on the appearance of merit or sense. Elizabeth Bennet (Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen)

People throughout times have formulated ways to differentiate themselves from one another through gender, wealth and social class. In the classic novel Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen uses characterization, irony, and juxtaposition to portray the skewed morals and values of the materialistic British society of her time. Austen skillfully captures the emphasis society puts on social class and highlights the obstacles that women faced on the issues of manners, education marriage, and love. In the quote above, taken from the novel, Elizabeth claims that she meets and interacts with numerous people and gains a lot of knowledge from her experiences but the more she learns the more [she] is dissatisfied with the her world. Her desire to be acknowledged for her intellectual merit and sense of self puts her head to head with those she usually interacts with. The quote generally summarizes Austens intentions in creating characters like Elizabeth; she wanted her society to realize that there is more depth to a woman than proper manners and motherhood. She challenged her society to look further into a womans abilities to reason and contribute. Jane Austen uses unique characterization to show her disapproval of the unrefined roles men and women played in this society. Elizabeth Bennet, a protagonist, is shown to be

stubbornly intelligent and independent as she turns down a marriage proposal from the ignorant and charmless suitor, Mr. Collins. Despite the constant pressure from those closest to her on the importance of her finding a husband in order to be financially stable, Elizabeth hastily rejects the idea of marrying without the foundation of love. It is shown that Elizabeth finds the idea of romance and courtship more compelling than marrying for the utter reason of having a financial provider. She finds the regular skills and talents women are encouraged to have such as, being able to play the piano and learning valueless history as a binding chain keeping her from reaching her full intellectual potential. As Mr. Collins continues to suggest how her refusal is only a mere sign of her interest in him and how her decision is just a temporary act of playful teasing, Elizabeth is enraged by how her thoughts hold no value in the face of men. This scene generally summarizes the very narrow and belittling view men had of women in this society. As the reader gains further understanding of these cultural barriers, he/she feels contempt towards those who are blindly simple minded and sympathy for those who are oppressed by these social laws. The interaction between Elizabeth and Mr. Collins shows how those who unquestioningly obey the moral standards set by society mold their values and relationships with out the input of passion. On the other hand, Mrs. Bennet, a flat static character, is shown to be desperate and shallow as she goes out of her way to convince her five young daughters that their sole purpose in life is to find a man to take care of them. Mrs. Bennet serves as a prime object of juxtaposition throughput the novel as her views and beliefs directly oppose those of Elizabeths. Mrs. Bennet is shown to go around from one event to the next displaying and advertising her daughters to the men of her town, bragging about their qualities and abilities. To those observing, she seems like a mother looking out for the best interest of her children. But as she is tested thorough time and

key moments in the novel, she fails to show any redeemable qualities, for her morals are tainted by her hunger for wealth and a higher social status. Mrs. Bennet represents all the flaws in the views of the society and ironically juxtaposes everything Elizabeth, her daughter, stands for. Jane Austen uses Mrs. Bennet as a representation of how one can easily be pulled into conforming to social pressures. The portrayal of the character is almost unfair but necessary as she is shown to have no boundaries or reservations as were many of the female characters throughout the novel. Mrs. Bennets character also shows how women of that time stood in their own way by willfully accepting the level of oppression cast upon them. Austen also employs irony to highlight the hypocritical views of different characters. At their first sighting, Mr. Darcy, a round character, and love interest of Elizabeth, exclaims that Elizabeth was tolerable but not handsome enough to tempt [him]. This statement becomes ironic when Mr. Darcy proposes marriage to this tolerable yet not handsome character. This scene shows that the value put upon a womans physical appearance is relatively high when in consideration for courtship as opposed to sense and merit, which are completely disregarded. Pride and Prejudice tells a compelling story of a very intelligent young woman transitioning from a young girl to an adult under the constant scrutiny of a wealth obsessed society. When those around her conform to the limiting standards of society, she insists on understanding the world through a very rational perspective. She is fascinated by the idea of a woman not defined by her physical beauty or her obedience. And she is more so fascinated by the idea of true love and a man open to her beliefs and opinions. The limitations set on women in this 19th century British society, are vividly depicted through her day to day experiences. She

shamelessly opposes those with ignorant beliefs and stands as a symbol of the self dependent and passionate future women to come The novel encompasses a range of gender relation and societal issues. Jane Austen assimilates all these themes in a complex love story that highlights the importance of mutual respect and individuality. The development of complex characters that each serve a purpose in exposing the flaws in societal values serve as an anchor in delivering Austens message to the people of her time. She highlights the dull and passion lacking ways of men and women all over Britain and the unappealing consequences of greed. She uses an intelligent character to appeal to young girls though a voice and perspective that is unique and thought provoking. To her intended audience Austens representation of society was probably shocking and offensive. She uses ironic relationships and views to effectively mock those who cannot see beyond luxury and public admiration. . The usage of characterization, irony and juxtaposition throughout the novel depict and highlight the different societal issues Jane Austen wanted to erase from being social norms. The use of these elements portrays not only what it means to be a woman in a 19th century British society but also that at times, one that chooses to go against the gradient is more likely to result in greater change for his/herself.