Explore Austen's portrayal of the women in the novel. In what ways does she sympathize with their plight, and in what ways is she unsympathetic?
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Austen's attitude towards women is quite complicated. Generally, Austen is critical of the gender injustices present in 19th century English society, particularly in the context of marriage. She is able to voice this criticism through characters like Charlotte Lucas (who marries Collins because she needs security) and even Mrs. Bennet (who, though ridiculous, is the only one to speak out against the entailment of Longbourn). Furthermore, Austen's caricatured portrayal of the younger Bennet daughters is evidence of her disdain for frivolous women. Her opinion was perhaps more in line with Mr. Bennet, Elizabeth, or even the dour Mary. While Austen seems to accept the limitations of her gender, she criticizes a society that forces women to emphasize their least flattering characteristics.