Elizabeth Bennet Individuality

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In 19th century England, marriages were simply business deals, where financial security and social comfort were held above love. Without men, women were unable to own property or enter the working field. Thus, in order to raise or maintain her social status, a woman had to marry a financially stable man. Women were completely dependent on men, and any “proper” woman was expected to conform to these social graces in order to live comfortably. In Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice, Austen emphasizes the concept of a “proper” woman through Charlotte. However, Austen challenges this notion through Elizabeth. Austen’s protagonist, Elizabeth Bennet, seeks love and compatibility in marriage—an idea that is revolutionary compared to the social conforms of her community. In this way, Austen paints her protagonist as a representation of individuality. Austen calls upon John Stuart Mill’s explanation of individuality in On Liberty in order to justify Elizabeth’s actions. …show more content…

Austen writes Elizabeth in the frame of Mill’s central idea: “Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign” (Mill, p. 14). Here Mill demonstrates that external influences should not alter one’s independence. Elizabeth is frequently shown asserting her independence. For instance, Elizabeth says, “I am only resolved to act in that matter which will, in my own opinion, constitute my happiness, without reference to you, or to any person so wholly unconnected with me” (Austen, p. 341). Through this, both Mill and Austen reject the notion of conformity and instead praise the idea that people should venture toward

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