How are the social interactions of the early 19th century different from today’s? Why is such importance placed on rank and wealth?
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Everything about British society depended on rank and wealth in the early 19th century. Some argue that British society has not changed all that much, Certainly women's roles in society are at the heart of Pride and Prejudice. Austen is critical of the gender injustices present in 19th century English society. The novel demonstrates how money such as Charlotte need to marry men they are not in love with simply in order to gain financial security. The entailment of the Longbourn estate is an extreme hardship on the Bennet family, and is quite obviously unjust. The entailment of Mr. Bennet's estate leaves his daughters in a poor financial situation which both requires them to marry and makes it more difficult to marry well. Clearly, Austen believes that woman are at least as intelligent and capable as men, and considers their inferior status in society to be unjust. She herself went against convention by remaining single and earning a living through her novels. In her personal letters Austen advises friends only to marry for love. Through the plot of the novel it is clear that Austen wants to show how Elizabeth is able to be happy by refusing to marry for financial purposes and only marrying a man whom she truly loves and esteems. I think women would have more of a say in their destinies today though social class still seems to factor in British society today.