Charlotte and Elizabeth: Guardians of the Female Mind in Pride and Prejudice
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In Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen's depiction of womanhood is both varied and expansive. A woman can be gentle in spirit, incapable of finding ill in others. Daughters can be impossibly “silly” in their romantic endeavors. Wives are sometimes obnoxious, meddling fools with easily disturbed nerves. Even women linked by their intelligence, such as Charlotte and Elizabeth, differ in terms of practicality and adherence to social norms. There is, however, a factor that distinguishes intelligent females in the novel from the unintelligent: their insistence on maintaining privacy from male influence. From a feminist perspective, Jane Austen's emphasis on female personal space implies that intelligent women must secure privacy in order to remain independent, freethinking individuals within a patriarchal society. By linking privacy with mental growth, Austen takes part in a larger network of feminist literature in which private space is equated with female creativity and freedom from domestic duties. Therefore, Austen's examination of privacy serves as a critique of limitations on female intellectual growth.
Artifacts, 6 (2012)