An Essay for Essays

“How do Elizabeth’s forthrightness and independence represent an attack on the conservation of characters like Lady Catherine de Bourgh?”

The women of nineteenth century Britain had a primarily passive role within their society, which was still predominantly patriarchal. The only women who appear to be exempt from this are women of the upper class who held an important role of authority such as Lady Catherine de Bourgh. In Austen’s era it was not tolerated that a women, whose opinions were disregarded and irrelevant, should speak her mind in an obstinate way, as Elizabeth does. It is undeniable that Elizabeth’s independent character was controversial for that time, but in what ways could it be threatening to characters such as Lady Catherine?
Elizabeth’s character is undoubtedly the most intriguing in the novel. She is one of the only female characters who expresses their ideas openly, despite being controversial for the time. It is therefore unsurprising that a character such as Lady Catherine de Bourgh should react so negatively to Elizabeth’s words, notably when the latter refused to yield to Lady Catherine’s plea on the subject of Darcy’s potential proposal. What would have appeared as honesty today, would have been seen as insolence and disrespect in Austen’s era. This is evident when she declares herself “shocked and astonished” at Elizabeth’s forthrightness. Furthermore, being a woman of the aristocracy Lady Catherine would expect a certain distinction between the classes. Elizabeth, who judges people not on their wealth or status but or their amiability would see herself as morally superior faced with this confrontation. Indeed from an aristocrat’s point of view, a commoner who sees themselves as an equal to the gentry poses a threat to society and its hierarchy; without which the distinction of classes would not exist and her birth rights would be disregarded. This is undoubtedly the reason Lady Catherine appears to be threatened by Elizabeth’s...