The Impact of the Feminist Heroine: Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice

Hui-Chun CHANG

Abstract


This paper critically examines the feminist significance of Elizabeth Bennet, heroine of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. The feminist view found in Pride and Prejudice is well-supported in literary criticism yet little discussion has focused on Elizabeth’s feminism as seen in the prominent contrast to her female foils within the novel, namely Caroline, Jane, and Charlotte. Each of these women conforms to the socially imposed gender norms of Regency England, while Elizabeth artfully challenges gender inequality. As other women adapt their views to increase their chances of marriage, Elizabeth persistently refuses to capitulate. Defying traditional gender norms, Elizabeth affirms her feminist perspective by helping to shape Mr. Darcy’s moral character to match her own. Elizabeth inspires Mr. Darcy to set aside the pride he has in his high station in society in order to win her affections and take her hand in marriage. I argue that Elizabeth’s character is not feminist in isolation, but is understood only in contrast to Caroline, Jane, and Charlotte. This claim is supported by an in-depth comparison of Elizabeth and each of the female foils.

Keywords: feminism, Elizabeth Bennet, moral character, gender inequality, foil contrast


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References


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