When people hear Jane Austen they’re thinking, love and romance. In her novel Pride and Prejudice, Austen tells a story of a wealthy man, Mr. Darcy, holding a high status, falling in love with Elizabeth who is born into a family that is less fortunate, and less educated. A lot like Jane Austen herself, Elizabeth does not behave the way ladies in that time period were expected to. Her character is an outspoken, well-read, confident and challenging woman. Elizabeth is always testing the status quo. Today, Austen is considered a rockstar for empowered women.
The most attractive aspect of this love story is that although Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth disliked each other at first, then fell in love after getting to know each other. It was no love at first sight of her in that hot dress. Their love was less superficial than that.
Pride and Prejudice is anything but a Cinderella-type fairytale. Firstly, Mr. Darcy does not fall for Elizabeth because she’s helpless, beautiful, and in need of a man to save her. He falls in love with her strong mind that was able to challenge his own. How romantic?! Secondly, a rich man could have helped Elizabeth and her family financially, but she is in no way desperate to settle for a fool with deep pockets. She fell in love with Mr. Darcy for the same reason he fell in love with her; his brain.
The novel depicts an ideal love in which materialistic factors hold no value. However, it is important to realize a tiny but telling detail. In Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen describes one of Elizabeth’s sisters as beautiful, soft-spoken, and plane in nature. This sister fits all the criterion of a man’s “perfect woman.” She is not as controversial and intelligent as Elizabeth for sure. The best part is that her name in the book is JANE. Jane Austen named the one character who holds characteristics opposite to hers in real life, after herself.
Today, women read these books and are inspired by Elizabeth’s independence, strength, and intelligence. Elizabeth and Darcy’s love is exemplary in modern days. It empowers, complements, and emphasizes the beauty of a strong-minded woman. Who wouldn’t want to be Elizabeth?
The fact that Jane Austen gave the picture-perfect woman in her novel the same name as her hints to the disappointing truth about smart, empowered woman.It is totally worth it to fight for women’s rights, challenge gender roles, and redirect the obsessive focus on a woman’s physical appearance towards inner beauties. However, truth be told, it is always easier to be the “Plain Jane” than it is to be the Elizabeth.
Today, powerful and smart women are disliked and shamed. Societies gender roles are still making the simple-minded woman ideal.
Jane’s search for love was much easier than Elizabeth’s. In the novel, Elizabeth’s happy ending did come, but in real life Jane Austen’s happy ending never did. She never got married! Perhaps Austen gave the simple-minded and beautiful sister the name Jane because she would have preferred to be the plain and beautiful one whose happiness more easily found.
It is upsetting and dreadfully true that hundreds of years later smart woman are wishing they were just a “plain Jane.” It seems as if a smart woman could have it easier being and half as interesting as she is.
Readers praise Austen for her strength as an intelligent woman who criticized society. However, she was well aware of the consequences her intelligence came with.
Some argue that Austen never had a purpose to empower women, but that her criticisms of society made her an accidental feminist.