July 10, 2012 by Vicki
Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice has always been one of my favourite classic novels. Reading Pride and Prejudice from a feminist perspective, I find a remarkable conversation on the importance of equality between the sexes. I must specify that I am not talking about financial equality, but the equality of intelligence. Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice argues that either sex must regard the other as of equal intelligence or any real relationship is impossible.
Elizabeth Bennet is identified in the story as being remarkably intelligent and wise. Even her father, Mr. Bennet, states that she has more intelligence then most women of her age. Yet, throughout the course of the story, most of the men dismiss any input that she might make to a conversation. The worst, of course, is Mr Collins who refuses to believe her rejection of his wedding proposal. In the end, Elizabeth Bennet has to leave the room and gain the support of her father in order to end the discussion.
Her father, however, is not innocent of ignoring her well-educated advice. Upon hearing of the plan for her sisterLydiato go toBrighton, she immediately pleads with her father not to letLydiago. She points out to him thatLydiais not mature or wise enough to handle the temptations ofBrighton. She, also, points out that ifLydiashames herself, she will also shame the entire family. Mr. Bennet dismisses her concern with the fact that he will not have any peace if he does not letLydiago. He consults his own comfort before the information given to him by a “silly” female. He disregards her knowledge and believes she only acts becauseLydia’s actions have frightened off one her suitors. AlthoughElizabethloves her father; they cannot have a real understanding because he will not acknowledge her true level of intelligence.
The only male in Pride and Prejudice who does not dismissElizabeth’s opinion and ideas is Mr. Darcy. Her rebuttal against his proposal affects him deeply. It leads him to re-evaluate his beliefs and behaviours. He realizes he has acted against the very code of conduct that he had, wrongly, believed himself to be upholding. He changes his behaviours and strives to right the wrongs he had, inadvertently, accomplished.
I believe that one of the reasons that I love Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is that it shows how important communication between the sexes truly is. Communication requires both sexes to be regarded as equally intelligent and sensible. If that equality is not present: true communication can never occur. Even when they did not like each other, both Mr Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet consider the other their equal.