Protocols On The Social And Personal English Literature Essay

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I choose the novel Pride and prejudice by Jane Austen as the focus of the cultural and social investigation and analysis of Englands regency era from nineteenth century because it portrays very accurately all the social processes that involve the personal relations on England. It also portrays some important breaking of those protocols by the main characters and how this means the innovation that this novel brought given the time in which was written. Elizabeth Bennet is a heroine of the novel and of her time. She pursues love and freedom over economic security, she is vivacious, funny, and intrepid and over the novel she develops a strong confidence and security of her own self making everyone around her take notice on her.

The topics that were discuss in this paper, were the context of Jane Austen, the rules of etiquette on the nineteenth century, the protocols on the acquaintances, the perspective and importance of marriage and last the breaking of social protocols in the novel. These topics together, give an answer to the investigation question.

The reason why I choose this topic was because I always liked the regency era society and its relations. They were extremely complex and full of protocols that in case of not being followed could result on bad or no social relations, which were very important, because they marked the destiny of someone.

The sources used in this investigations were mostly the Jane Austen book Pride and prejudice, history analysis of the regency era and biographical information from Jane Austen. On conclusion, characters of the novel widely portrayed the social protocols of nineteenth century in England and the main character Elizabeth portrays the change of the society and mostly the roll of women overtime.

Words: 291


Introduction 4

Development 5

Jane Austen's context 5

Etiquette in nineteenth century 6

Social relations and classes on the novel 6

Acquaintance of characters at the balls 7

Perspective of marriage 9

The importance of the family in acquaintances 10

The breaking of social protocols in the novel 12

The love as a principal factor for rule breaking 13

Conclusion 15

Bibliography 16

The protocols on the social and personal relations in the beginning of nineteen century portrayed on Jane Austen's novel Pride and prejudice and how the main characters break them


The novel Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen was published for the first time in January 1813. The analysis of this work will be focusing mostly on Elizabeth Bennet a very vivacious, funny, and intrepid 20 year old woman who shows no interest on getting married differing from her sisters and the majority of the women of her time by not following social protocols.

Elizabeth is a woman whom education, income and sense of the society that surrounds her, won't stop her on doing what she wants in terms of love, this is something that goes beyond her time. She seems to be a modern woman trapped in the past. In 1814 Jane Austen wrote a letter to her niece, Fanny Knight, telling her that "anything is to be preferred or endured rather than marrying without affection" [1] this shows the point of view of the author and explains what Elizabeth's feelings are about love.

The reason for choosing this novel as the target for analysis is because it portrays an accurate image for regency era society and I personally got an special interest in this time for it's cultural richness. Also analyzing the characters that surround her and the situations on which she breaks the social rules. The characters that will be part of the analysis are Fitzwilliam Darcy, who is a proud, rich and handsome man who's rudeness takes Elizabeth attention from the very first time she sees him, which also make her develop a certain hate towards him that later on turns into love and Jane, who is Elizabeth's older sister and biggest confidant, others characters will be mentioned along the work for the improvement of background analysis.

The approach of this novel analysis means to portray the social protocols of acquaintances in England at the early nineteenth century and how the main characters, of Pride and prejudice, Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy have to break them in order to be happy.

Jane Austen's context

Jane Austen was born on 16 December 1775 at Steventon rectory; she was an English novelist whose realism, biting social commentary and masterful use of free indirect speech"that can be defined as words that typify the character's thoughts, or the way the character would think or speak" [2] and also the use of burlesque, and irony have earned her a place as one of the most widely read writers in English literature.

Her parents, "George Austen (1731-1805), and Cassandra (1739-1827), were members of substantial gentry families." [3] On 1783, she and her sister, "Cassandra were sent to Oxford to de educated by Mrs. Ann Cawley. Author Le Faye says that on their stay on Oxford, Jane caught typhus and nearly died so she was subsequently educated at home were it had an open, amused, easy intellectual atmosphere, this helped Jane to have the freedom of writing." [4] 

Jane Austen was extremely attached to her elder sister Cassandra. Despite some letters that Austen and her sister held make comments about a marriage proposal to Jane by Harris Bigg-Wither, neither of them got ever married. Jane wrote six novels, two of them were published posthumously. She died of Addison's disease in Winchester on 18 July 1817, at the age of 41. But the main things that can be highlighted from her life are her education and career that weren't common for women of her time, and all her thoughts and ideas about society and love are completely reflected on her novels plots and characters which can be seen as a window to her time.

Etiquette in nineteenth century

The basic etiquette rules held through nineteenth century was to always seek your companion whether is new or old acquaintance comfort before yours; always remembering that a social bound was equal to those of the relatives. Introductions were a very important part of any acquaintance and there are several rules to this matter.

In my opinion, the acquaintance that most neatly portrays social rules in the novel may verse after Mr. Bingley. He came to Netherfield and became neighbor with the Bennet family. The high social rules established that a family could not introduce themselves as a whole, the father of the house should introduce himself, and then the family should wait for the return of the visit, and then determine when they should ask the new acquaintance to dinner with them. In the story, Mr. Bingley is addressed really quickly because he is a very agreeable option to marry one of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet daughters given his charm and amount of fortune.

Social relations and status on the novel

"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife" [5] This is the first line that appears on the book. It's a very strong hint of what the rest of the novel has to offer and a window towards the early nineteenth century society, and how all the characters of the novel perceived it.

There are two main social ranks portrayed in the novel, the first, to which Elizabeth belongs, is the landed gentry consisting of land owners who could live entirely off rental income. Her father is a gentleman of modest income. And the second is the aristocracy that is mostly portrayed by Mr. Darcy, who is a 28 year old unmarried man, owner of the family estate of Pemberley in Derbyshire, his fortune is rumored to be worth at least ten thousand pounds a year (which, nowadays, amounts to about one million dollars a year). Even though Darcy is "not technically a member of the aristocracy, because he does not have a title, he doesbelong to an ancient family and possesses property and investments that yield the enormous income necessary to participate in aristocratic life." [6] The huge difference on Elizabeth's and Darcy ranks on society does not prevents them from getting married at the end of the novel, this and the fact that he is friend of Mr. Bingley, whose father made a fortune on business, shows that despite his ancient lineage, Darcy is not very allied with the upper aristocracy.

There is also another type of class shown, the clergy, that is exemplified by Mr. Collins, who is Mr. Bennet's cousin and heir to his state and who is protected by Lady Catherine de Bourgh a woman that possess wealth and social standing.

Acquaintance of characters at the balls

Balls were the main events, on which families made new acquaintances, they were the perfect occasion for casual meeting.Although their casual nature, balls were taken very seriously, as it were the perfect circumstance for the single ladies to make acquaintances that could end up in marriage and on social and economic security. On the novel, on several occasions, Mrs. Bennet would extremely cherish the fact that Mr. Bingley danced with her eldest daughter Jane, as it can be seen in the next quotation on which Mrs. Bennet it's telling her husband the news of the ball, "Oh! My dear Mr. Bennet we have had a most delightful evening, a most excellent ball. (…) Jane was so admired, nothing could be like it. Everybody said how well she looked; and Mr. Bingley thought her beautiful, and danced with her twice! (…) he actually danced with her twice!" [7] this shows the complete excitement on Jane's ball accomplishments. Making reference to this quote, it can be said that the partner that the man chooses for dancing at a ball has deeper meanings than just an ephemeral dance; Mrs. Bennet emphasizes the fact that Mr. Bingley danced twice with Jane, because this showed especial interest on her. All the family was excited by this occurrence having to know that there was a possibility of a marriage proposal from Mr. Bingley to Jane. As much as this may sound irrational considering that Mr. Bingley and Jane had just seen once, it has to be understood that asking a woman to dance twice at a public ball meant a statement of at least liking her that was held in front of all Netherfield society.

Another social phenomenon portrayed in the novel, happened during a ball, the acquaintance of the two main characters and their reactions to each other. The characters to which are making reference, are Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy. The first impression of Elizabeth towards Darcy can be explained by this simple sentence, "He was the proudest, most disagreeable man in the world" [8] along the whole ball where they met, Darcy just danced with they ladies on his party, and what making even more hideous, was the fact that Elizabeth was sit down for two dances; and during a part of that time, Mr. Darcy was close enough to have asked her for a piece. Elizabeth promptly developed a very awful opinion about him. But Mr. Darcy's presence at the little country ball in Meryton is equivalent to a Rockefeller attending a small town country club dinner. We must think according to such comparisons to understand the mixture of pride, insult, and curiosity that Darcy's presence excited on Elizabeth. On the other hand, Mr. Darcy though that at the ball he "had seen a collection of people in whom there was little beauty and no fashion" [9] and this opinion, undoubtedly included Elizabeth. But even though the first impressions of the main characters were indeed very disagreeable and the people present that night would say that they hated each other, it will be the good acquaintance that Jane and Mr. Bingley have made, the one that would force them to see each other often enough to realize that proudness is a characteristic that can often be lost by love.

Perspective of marriage

Women at the beginning of the nineteenth century had no choices, their only quest in life was to get married, and there was no such thing as liberty unless they came from a wealthy or middles class family and as that wasn't the status of the Bennet's, their daughters must be married before they grew too old.

However, it is also true that the beginning of nineteenth century marked a change on English society and therefore marriage. Although is barely portrayed in the novel, the early signs of Elizabeth independent personality are shown in some occasions, like when she walks three miles in the mud to visit her sick sister, the Bingley sisters behave as if she had committed an unpardonable vulgarity. Among high society woman, too do something else other than playing cards, reading, go to balls or dinner was despicable. None of them had work to make a living. But in the Bennet family, this wasn't the case, because they had enough money to make a living without working but didn't have a lot of fancy comforts. As the descendants of the Mr. and Mrs. Bennet were all women, they wouldn't heritage any of the properties or money that Mr. Bennet had, that meant that they would be on the street as soon as Mr. Bennet died, none of them could possibly make a living by working as that wasn't their education. So the only think that they, and a lot of middle class women could do, was to find themselves a good husband who could maintain their lives as they were used to or better.

A very good example of security marriage portrayed in the novel is the union of Charlotte Lucas, a very close friend to Elizabeth with Mr. Collins, mentioned before. Mr. Collins proposed marriage to Charlotte just days after Elizabeth rejected him. Elizabeth was astonished at the new, but she could not judge her friend, because Charlotte was at her late 20's and was afraid of never getting another marriage proposal. For her economic and social sake, she had to marry Mr. Collins although this was no love union.

Marriage means little importance to the main character Elizabeth. She seems to not being in seek of social and economic security for her future, she actually seems more worried for her sister sake in love terms than on her own. All the misfortunate events that took place in her sister's heart after Mr. Bingley went away had her occupied on the matter of consoling her.

The importance of the family in acquaintances

Family and heritage were very important at the regency era. From the moment you were born, you already had a specific social status; it was very hard to change it, because in order to do it you would have to earn a lot of moneyor marrying someone of higher fortune and therefore higher rank. The first beginning of a relationship portrayed in the novel is the one of Charles Bingley and Jane Bennet. This was a pretty acquaintance and a fast developing relationship, both Jane and Charles, fell in love quickly. Unfortunately, by the hand of Bingley's loyal friend, Mr. Darcy, came what can be called as a non malicious advice about the rapidly attachment that he was making to Jane. He said that her family was of no true value. This opinion of Mr. Darcy about Jane's family had much to do with her mother, who as soon as realize of the interest of Charles in Jane, started pushing them on being together and spreading statements all over Netherfield about hoe Bingley was very rich and how he would soon or later propose to Jane. This was a very disgraceful manner of spreading news, Jane`s mother was rapidly seen as a disagreeable woman by all the members of the high society involving Charles and Mr. Darcy.

Mr. Darcy wasn`t the only one addressing Mr. Bingley in this matter but also his sister Caroline who very profoundly despiseJane's mother, she said that such a union could not be beneficial to Bingley, considering Jane's low connections. By this precise example on the novel, it can be seen that there is social pressure on the side of the wealthy as well as in the middle class to find a partner who is suitable economically, even though Mr. Bingley was very fond of Jane, her family represented a very profound whole on her image, making him go away from Netherfield.

Even though sometimes family could signify the lost of some opportunities like the case of Jane, it can also be the door to new ones, like in the subject of Elizabeth. Mr. Collins, who is Mr. Bennet's cousin and heir to his state, came to Netherfield to visit Bennet's family for a month or so. The purpose of his visit was merely to find a good wife and to get married to received the approval of Lady Catherine de Bourgh. His cousins, daughters of Mr. Bennet were among his first option. A marriage from one of the Bennet's to Mr. Collins could be very helpful considering that the house of the Bennet's would remain in their family. Mr. Collins was an arrogant, imprudent, and disgraceful man. Unfortunately he was the heir of Mr. Bennet's state. In early nineteenth century, only male descendants could inherit fortunes or properties. Although the majority of the Bennet's despise him, he proposes marriage to Elizabeth Bennet who against her mother will, absolutely denied his kind proposal. Here is one of the most outrageous things that Elizabeth did because any woman in her status would probably accept Mr. Collins proposal, but Elizabeth was determined to marry for greater reasons than money and safety, and this is what makes Elizabeth a different woman from her era. Her father, in other hand, approved her approach to the matter. He did not care about Collins inheriting his state, he was confident that he will be living a long lasting life and that his daughters will not suffer from the loss of the house. In this terms, Jane Austen`s father is portrayed on Elizabeth`s father, given that Mr. Austen always gave total freedom to his daughter making her aware of certain things like education and differing from other woman of her time.

The breaking of social protocols in the novel

Pride and prejudice main theme is marriage. Elizabeth Bennet, who is the main character on the story, does not give much attention to marriage as the woman around her. This pure fact makes this woman very different from all the others and lets her behave in a natural and relaxed manner among men. One of the firsts rules that Elizabeth breaks, is being mostly independent on her actions and decisions, she is mostly criticized for recognize herself as a sufficient woman, there is a part of the story on which Jane is sick and is three miles away from home, Elizabeth wants to go and check on her but no horse or carriage were available to make the trip, so she decided to go by walking. Although this may sound perfectly normal these days, at that time, it was consider rude arriving to someone house without announcement or invitation. Elizabeth didn't take importance on this rule and appeared at the Bingley's house with her shoes covered in mud and her hair unkempt by the exercise. Opposed of what many gentleman would think, Mr. Darcy was impressed by this action, and Mr. Bingley though of it as a very kind and loving consideration to Jane. But she was extremely criticized by the two Bingley sisters' who saw it as an almost wild act.

Elizabeth's free spirit prevent her of marrying a man whose proposal was ephemeral and based on the wish of a wife and nothing else. Mr. Collins marriage proposal, make her blush of embarrassment; she knew that for her family that union would be good but thinking of herself living with him was almost absurd. Elizabeth was almost always seeking for liberty. If she had married Mr. Collins that liberty will be ripped from her. So once again defying what the social and family rules had to say, she denied the proposal with elegance.

Elizabeth had a brave heart, and liked to say what she thought in all moments, even though she wasn't impertinent, there was one occasion, that she defiance Lady Catherine de Bourgh, the aunt of Darcy an a high class woman who was accustomed to people being condescending to her all the time, Elizabeth was the first one on defiance her opinion. This was seen as a terrible boldness. The situations in which Elizabeth is often involved are views of how the society was slowly transforming into something more similar nowadays.

Mr. Darcy was a very agreeable choice for husband; any society lady would be delighted and very honored if she received a marriage proposal from him, his large fortune and handsomest were enough to convince anyone, except from Elizabeth. After seeing each other on several balls, dinners and visits, Mr. Darcy finally recognize how much he admired and love Elizabeth, he said that he fought with his ideas of her being inferior in class, in family and in economy, but overcoming his pride finally acknowledge the fact that he was in love with her and proposed to marry him. Elizabeth thanked his feeling towards her and told him that she could not marry him because he had torn her sister and Mr. Bingley apart. And that had caused a lot of pain on her beloved sister. Elizabeth placed her own sentiments and her sister before the love of Mr. Darcy, not giving importance to his fortune and well-established social connections, her position of independence and knowing what she wanted make her took this hard decision. At this point Elizabeth becomes the heroine of her time. She refused the handsome but proud villain of the story. Mr. Darcy gets really astonished by her response and doesn't try to teach her out of her decision he just walks away.

The love as a principal factor for rule breaking

Throughout this paper it is already clear that neither Elizabeth nor Jane were a good match when it comes to marriage, by themselves were very good and agreeable woman, but their family and connections weren't good enough to be taken seriously. Although this, they both get the rich and handsome gentleman. And this was because those gentleman felled in love with them, at this point it may be clarified that Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley are the ones set in this paragraph.

Mr. Bingley by his part, although he give up on Jane taking the advice of Mr. Darcy, the twist of events that make Darcy fall in love with Elizabeth, make Bingley reconsider his love and admiration for Jane. He proposed marriage to Jane although Bingley`s sisters weren't happy about it, such a union between so different social classes was very odd, fortune holders took a lot of care of their fortune, and so a marriage with a woman with no money or connections, like Jane, won't give Mr. Bingley anything but happiness. And it seems that was what he was looking for.

And as for Elizabeth and Darcy, they broke the same rule as Jane and Bingley but this was more notorious given that Mr. Darcy had a much wider fortune and already was promised to Lady Catherine de Bourgh's daughter, so he marrying a lower class woman as Elizabeth was seen dishonorable by the eyes of the high class. Elizabeth Bennet fell more in love of Darcy because of his good heart, he saved one of her younger sisters of a terrible disgrace, and that leaves Elizabeth forever grateful with him, she was chastened in the realization that her judgment was erroneous and her insights weakened by human frailty, and had to accept the second marriage proposal by Mr. Darcy.


This novel completely portrays the beginning of the Regency era, from social to economical issues. The heroine, Elizabeth, defends her will and displays both good sense and wit as a way of returning an "immoderate" society to normal behavior. She didn't got married for convenience or mercenary purposes and prevailed on the love of her family although they weren't seen in a agreeable manner in front of the high society. Regency Era was a hypocrite time, as nowadays people used strategies to get what they wanted from other people, in this context, Elizabeth was an heroine, she showed her greedy mother that there's no need of tricks to get love or fortune. The novel is based entirely in social relations of nineteen century and how those develop through the novel time and between the characters. At last it can be said that Jane Austen succeeded in making a mirror in society through her book and not only society, but the feelings of the people within it.

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