What do we learn about woman’s status in English society from Austen’s treatment of marriage in this novel?
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Austen is certainly critical of the gender injustices present in 19th century English society, particularly as perpetrated by the institution of marriage. In Pride and Prejudice, many women (such as Charlotte) must marry solely for the sake of financial security. However, in her portrayal of Elizabeth, Austen shows that women are just as intelligent and capable as their male counterparts. Jane Austen herself went against convention by remaining single and earning a living through her novels. In her personal letters, Austen advised friends only to marry for love. In the novel, Elizabeth's happy ending reveals Austen's beliefs that woman has the right to remain independent until she meets the right man (if she meets him).
On the other hand, most contemporary readers will find the Longbourn entailment to be unjust. And yet the heroines - Jane and Elizabeth - refrain from speaking out against it. Instead, the only two characters who openly criticize the entailment - Mrs. Bennet and Lady Catherine - are ridiculous caricatures. Furthermore, the fact that Elizabeth seems to share her father's distrust frivolous women suggests Austen's uneasy relationship with her own gender.