The Nineteenth Century England was a tumultuous age in history. During this time, England was transformed by the industrial revolution, and urbanization changed the way that society lived. In this environment, women's role in society was distinguished for their exclusion of all authority, including domestic and others. Women had to deal with different problems, such as the pressure put on them by society just to get married, their dependency on men, and lack of individualism. Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, a love story set in the old nineteenth Century English Countryside, provides an image of a woman whose only ambition in life is to get married with a man who offers a wealthy life and a high status. This woman of the Nineteenth Century England used to be taught to be a dutiful household who would never question a decision took whether by their parents or husband. She would not even question his arranged marriage either and would live according to her parent's expectations. But this model of women was molded by the economic pressure of the society. This society was not the best for a woman who was aiming for an independent life. However, Jane Austen created in her work a character who demonstrates that women could live according to her desires: Elizabeth Bennet. In this essay, based on Jane Austin's work, I would highlight the main characteristics that define the image of the woman of the Nineteenth Century England, compared with Elizabeth Bennet character, in order to answer if she, Elizabeth Bennet, represents the image of the Nineteenth Century women.
One of the main concerns for English women of the Nineteenth Century and their most recognized characteristic was the necessity to get married with a man who would offer "financial support", a high social class and stability for their future. Nineteenth Century English laws imposed several restrictions for women, including the inheritance law in which to choose a male heir is an obligation. These laws added a financial pressure for them and made women look to marriage as a means of stability and made women even more dependent on men. A viable option to marriage for that time was to become a governess. However, even if a woman decides to take the option of independent life, it did not  offer her economic stability due to the fact that unemployment was common in that time. Considering this, the less risky option was to become a self-sacrifice housewife. A clear example is Charlotte Lucas, Elizabeth's best friend. She was a twenty seven-year-old woman, unmarried, poor, and plain. Therefore, when Mr. Collins, a man she neither loved nor respected, proposed to her, Charlotte accepted, saying that "considering Mr. Collins's character, connections, and situation in life, I am convinced that my chance of happiness with him is as fair as most people can boast on entering the marriage state".
In this milieu in which it seems that marriage became a market, society encouraged young women to exercise in winning the heart of man and acquiring good wife attributes instead of accomplish their own fulfillment, this is a market in which men were the buyers and women were the sellers of themselves. This is the reason why during this time, good marriages were uncommon and the main purpose for engagement was the economic stability that the bachelor would offer. Mrs. Bennet, Elizabeth's mother, whose greatest aspiration is to have her five daughters married off, is a character that represented the concernment of women about this situation and his consciousness about the meaning of marriage for women. She was worried about engaging her daughter at the point of being obsessed with it. Mrs. Bennet says that "It is a truth universally acknowledged that a young man in possession of a fortune must be in want of a wife." As a real seller, Mrs. Bennet used to assist with her daughters to different parties in which she could initiate any relationship between a rich bachelor and one of her female offspring. This situation represents not only her thought as a mother about marriage, but also a big true about the belief of the English woman of the Nineteenth Century.
One of the problems with these arranged marriages is that women prefer money over love and real happiness. This blinded lust for riches may lead to disastrous outcomes, making a sacred union into a fight for personal ambitions that ended with an unequal marriage. According to Jane Austen's view, the essential components of a happy marriage are fairness, respectfulness for each other, and love. This kind of engagement requires equality and compromise without overlooking identity and esteem. However, marriage for convenience, as Mr. and Mrs. Bennet relationship, is the clear example of what happens when two persons are engaged nothing in common. This thought is illustrated in the way in which Mr. Bennet spent his life without taking Mrs. Bennet seriously and handing over his responsibilities of bringing up her daughters up with Elizabeth being the sole exception, since she was closer to him.
After gathering these facts, we can say that the image of the Nineteenth Century Women is characterized by his necessity of getting married in order to prevail in a society in which her role is under the rule of men and unsupported by the English laws. Their opportunity of own fulfillment is almost null and parents encourage their daughters to accept an arranged marriage which not always would be with somebody they feel attracted to. So, they know their option from their early childhood. They are taught to be good at household chores and child breeding instead of knowledge and development of an identity. Hereby, women shaped their personality in order to be easy to fall in love with men. This attitude is developed during the balls held in their cities where women are shown as an acquirable object by rich bachelors who are looking for a good woman. In short, women are usually concerned about marriage and economic stability instead of love when talking about marriage. And principally, they do no question her condition of weaker voiceless sex. Women were usually not included in men's discussions, which were held over port after the ladies had retired. It was part of the "paradise" created for women to live in that they should be ignorant of politics and such important worldly matters and only being worried about children, marriage and house holding issues.
Right after describing the main characteristic of the image of the Nineteenth Century Women, I could conclude that the character who best matches this image is Mrs. Bennet. Despite the fact that Mrs. Bennet character was used for most of the previous examples, she is the best character who could symbolize the distinctiveness of the woman of that milieu, not only for all the things she did during the story, but also what does her actions represent and in which way she became into that person so obsessed with her daughters' engagement.
Mrs. Bennet is an incredibly annoying, snobbish, ignorant, pushy person who seems to have as an only purpose on her life to see her daughters married. She uses to highlight the necessity of marriage for young women and assert her position every time she tries to attract candidates to marry her daughter, however, her lack of social skills to interact with other usually hind her intentions. This character, her characteristics and attitude, acquired her shape by her previous experience during life. According to history, women where no focused on intellectual development but good interest. Its attitude towards marriage is just the heritage of her mother, who definitely passed through the same situation and so on. Mrs. Bennet is just the image of a woman marked by the society schema. Even though her act where all focused on marriage her daughters, the main motivation is the concerning of leaving them without heritage due to the laws set by the time. Mrs. Bennet was conscious about women's condition in that time, and she tries to ensure a good future for her girls. So, she tries to marry all of her daughters as soon as possible, despite that they may not feel attracted to the candidates. Mrs. Bennet, as well as the common women of that time, prefers in economic stability over love, Therefore, she would make her girls engage with any bachelor she finds appropriate whether her daughters like it or not. That is what happened with Elizabeth and her suitor Mr. Collins, Mrs. Bennet fixed the engagement of Mr. Collins with Elizabeth right after he talked about his situation and the goods he possessed. Normally, a mother would often look for bachelor with characteristics similar to Mr. Collins (except for his foolishness, but I am talking about his belongings); a young, wealthy man from a higher class level. However, Elizabeth did not felt interested in Mr. Collins although he could give her economic stability in future. Elizabeth's decision provoked Mrs. Bennett's anger, because she could not stand to see how a women rejected an opportunity to safe their future just because she sees marriage in an opposite way.
During the story, Mrs. Bennet get evolved in a set of different situations in which her acts were just an image of a girl worried about her daughters survival in the unfairness society of the England of the Nineteenth Century, everything, under the same point of view of the world around that women had in that time, and inherited from generations.
In contrast with the image of the classic Women of that time who used to be passive about her life, Elizabeth Bennet demonstrates that she has an identity, a voice, and a complete different point of view referring to love and economic interests. Her person represented the early changes in women's ideals, which were the same ideals that would be the beginning for women who initially challenged the laws that denied them the right to their property once they married, and later, the creation of the women's rights.
Elizabeth Bennet, the second daughter in the Bennett family, is an honest, clever, humble but sometimes snobbish and stubborn person. She is the most intelligent and strong of the five daughters in the Bennet family, she is a woman who is distinguished for her particular attributes and that makes her a character who stands out of the rest. "She is lovely, clever, and she converses as brilliantly as anyone. Her honesty, virtue, and lively wit enable her to rise above the nonsense and bad behavior that pervade her class-bound and often spiteful society. Nevertheless, her sharp tongue and tendency to make hasty judgments often lead her astray". We can say that Elizabeth is a woman who is distinguished for being an insightful person, with a big inner value that is uncommon for the time. But is this same attitude, however, which makes her to have problems with the rest of his family, specially his mother.
Early in the story, Elizabeth demonstrates that she differs in thought with the rest. She has to struggle with Mr. Collins's marriage proposal and the insistence of his mother to accept him. Despite all benefits she could get by becoming Mrs. Collins, Elizabeth does not show any interest for Mr. Collins. This very first situation reflects Elizabeth's belief about romanticism and marriage. She believes that love is more important than class and it is in this situation where she demonstrates that her feelings go over economic interests. In other words, Elizabeth believes that love has more value than class and reputation.
Elizabeth also has to struggle with the social ostracism represented in Lady Catherine de Bourgh character, a wealthy, bossy, pushy woman who insists in separate her from her nephew Fitzwilliam Darcy because of Elizabeth doesn't have the breeding for married Mr. Darcy. Lady Catherine represents the way in which higher class people see marriage; an economic trade which is focused on linking wealthy families and their richness. But Elizabeth, even if she was not sure about her feeling for Mr. Darcy, did not accepted the fact that she was being forbidden for getting married with him, a well-bred man.
Elizabeth's main conflict during the story is developed with Mr. Darcy and their original misunderstanding provoked by the attitude of both. In one hand, Darcy's sense of social superiority difficult him to admit his love for Elizabeth In the other hand, is Elizabeth's rudeness, pride and scorn for higher class man what made her take a mistaken impression of Darcy. By the end, she gradually comes to recognize the nobility of Darcy's character and she realizes the error of her initial prejudice against him.
By the end, the reason for Elizabeth's prejudice and Darcy being drive apart from her was the very same social division made by wealthy classes I that time, however, both Elizabeth and Darcy where able to go above these thoughts and finally admit what their felt each other.
Thereby, we can say that Elizabeth does not represent the image of the English women of the Nineteenth century in terms of being a submissive woman, but the crucial difference between her and the common women is that she got married based on real love, not economic interests or arranged marriages. We could see that Elizabeth reached his freedom to chose the man who she would live according to common feelings they shared. By this simple fact, she also represented the thought of the woman who raises her thought against her parent's desires and, somehow, what society expects a woman to be like. Elizabeth represents the woman who fights for his identity and his desires. She is like the example that a woman is able to choose a man following her heart and not her ambitious.
As a manner of conclusion, the Nineteenth century was a time in which women's role in society was distinguished for their exclusion of all authority, including domestic and others. Women had to deal with different problems, such as the pressure put on them by society just to get married, their dependency on men, and lack of individualism. Pressure of the society to women to get married was base on English Laws that said only male heir can heritage. Therefore, there was a big concerning for families with only-female child. Under this context, women were forced to see marriage as the only and safer way to ensure their future. Their image as Women was characterized for their necessity of getting married. As consequence, women were not focused on own intellectual development, but become an attractive women (sellers) for young wealthy bachelors (buyers) for the marriage market. These arranged marriages not always ended very well, because they fail in being a fairness arrangement. According to Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice book, the character who represents this concerning the best is Mrs. Bennet. She is a selfless mother consumed by the desire to see her daughters married and seems to care for nothing else in the world, as well as any other mother of that time who has five unmarried daughters. She used to argue with her second Daughter, Elizabeth, who represents a complete opposite point of view for what a woman wants in life. Elizabeth has a strong personality that makes her stand out the rest. His ideals collide with the social schema that women has for that time, not because she is rebel but she aims to be engaged with somebody who she really felt in love. At the end, she succeeds in her aspiration in life. As well a woman in that time, she was expecting to get married, however she was not aiming to economic interest but real love; as evidence that women of that time should fight for his freedom to fall in love.