Elizabeth Bennett is a character that is willful, daring, and outspoken; she directly opposes society’s representation of the “patient/familial” woman for she immediately acts on what she is feeling. However, she is not impulsive or rash, because she can contain her emotions and recognizes the need for independence to reflect on what she is feeling. Elizabeth is masterful at securing a sense of independence for herself and yet is still graceful enough so that her need to certify her beliefs does not taint her reputation through being labeled as heedless.
This is exactly why I believe she immediately refused Mr. Collins proposal to her, because he was an individual that would confine her nature. Through his insistence with his proposal, it is obvious that he is demanding in nature and believes in the control and dominance associated with being a male. It is almost as if through his repetition of this proposal he is unable to accept Elizabeth’s rejection, which proves his contrast between Elizabeth’s character. He does not allow Elizabeth a moment to speak which forces her to interrupt his lengthy proposition, and when she mentions her refusal he assumes it to be “usual with young ladies to reject the addresses of the man whom they secretly mean to accept,” (89) representing how her rejection is a fruitless opinion that is of no concern to him. He does not believe in giving women time to reflect or pause over an offer but rather requires an immediate reply which he preconceived and mandated to be a “yes,” which is proven through his promise of how “no ungenerous reproach shall ever pass my lips when we are married.” (89) In this sense, Mr. Collins is a wholly arrogant individual, because he believes the direct value of his persona is associated through being a male and the inevitable security his sex provides contributes to his vanity. Therefore, his simple aspect of being a man should allow him the pleasure of attaining Elizabeth, but his ignorance towards the equality that Elizabeth’s personality depicts, causes him to be repulsive in nature to Elizabeth because he does not and will never understand her as she states, “you could not make me happy.” (89) Elizabeth is a free-spirited woman who does believe in love and marrying based on societal necessity to secure a fortune is simply against her values; consequently, she chooses to distance herself/refute from such things. Living with Mr. Collins would ultimately restrict her independence for Mr. Collins is an egocentric man, who was inconsiderate of Elizabeth’s response and through proposing he was doing it based on selfish reasoning; his proposal was in fact a hidden request. Mr. Collin’s indecency to give Elizabeth space through the repetition of his request proved his incapability to recognize the equality that should be given to a woman, and how he perceived her opinion or her desire within marriage as unnecessary for he directly states, “your refusal of my addresses is merely words of course,” (90) (which is why he was taken aback at her rejection).
However, Charlotte Lucas, Elizabeth’s best friend chooses to marry Mr. Collins, because of the security he provides within her independence. I do not believe Charlotte is someone who wants to conform to society and the need for a woman to marry a man to attain security for herself, but because of her poorly societal status- because of the inevitable circumstance she is placed within, she has to; it is the “only provision for well-educated young women of small fortune.” (102) Charlotte is a sensible individual, for she recognizes how she is unable to live as vivaciously as Elizabeth does, for she does not have the freedom to do so. And if she were to, it would be indecent and unnecessary because it would only serve to showcase a sense of immaturity within her situation. This childish behavior and irresponsibility would stem from her reluctance to face the adversity that her circumstance offers. Her perspective on her forthcoming marriage allows her to believe that her “chance of happiness with [Collins] is as fair as most people can boast on entering the marriage state.” (104) Through marrying Mr. Collins, Charlotte can obtain a sense of security that society guarantees through marrying a man although she perceived Mr. Collins to be “neither sensible nor agreeable; his society was irksome” (104), because it will actually allow her to obtain her independence. It is as if she hurriedly marries Mr. Collins and accepts his offer not because she believes she needs to conform and bend to his will, but because this is an offer that will guarantee her an independence, which is proven through how in her new home she has secured a room solely for her contentment. Rooms are represented as places where individuals can reflect upon their innermost thoughts and are usually male-dominated spaces or an area that a man can willfully intrude upon if a woman is seeking a sanctuary within it. This right that a man has for intruding a space a woman is residing within and not being considered disrespectful is proven when Mr. Collins intrudes the Bennet sisters in the library of their home and requests he be read to. Therefore, there is a significance placed in the act of Charlotte securing a room for herself; she has attained her independence through marrying Mr. Collins, with him being ignorant to the freedom the room actually provides for her. Mr. Collins was an opportunity for Charlotte to diverge from the conformity her previous societal status provided; it limited her in the sense she was restlessly awaiting for a proposal and was bombarded by the constant fear of not securing a higher fortune. Through marrying Mr. Collins, Charlotte’s status was increased and therefore, provided her with the independence she had craved. Notably, it is ones status within this novel that begins to determine the level of independence a woman can attain, which I believe is fearsome, and sadly remains true presently in some countries or even local societies.
Although Elizabeth had a mother that rightfully worried for the wellbeing of her family due to no male heir to secure their familial fortune, she was raised by a father that accepted and encouraged her intelligent and outspoken attributes, which allowed her to recognize her own self worth. Mr. Bennet encouraged Elizabeth’s judgment/confidence in her decisions for he jested, “[he would] never see [Elizabeth] again if [she did]” (93) accept Mr. Collins proposal, and when she wanted to marry Mr. Darcy he stated how “we all know him to be a proud, unpleasant sort of man; but this would be nothing if you really liked him.” (306) I feel this almost made Elizabeth blind to the privilege her societal status granted her in contrast to Charlotte who was poorer by comparison. Elizabeth’s upbringing and the circumstance of her status is what grants her the freedom to pursue her independence within her womanly youth and secure a marriage with Mr. Darcy whom accepts and recognizes the importance of womanly needs and desires (equality). Elizabeth does in fact marry for love and attains someone who respects her, for when Darcy’s proposal is rejected, he does not immediately pester Elizabeth, but rather writes a letter in which Elizabeth is given and guaranteed private moments of reflection. Within her contemplation, Elizabeth was able to reflect on her character, which Mr. Collins was incapable of doing, and inevitably Elizabeth demoted her excessive pride and accepted the truth Mr. Darcy offered instead of conforming to her vanity and continuing certainty in her judgment. Charlotte recognizes that she cannot secure a future with a man that respects and challenges her in the same way Darcy does to Elizabeth, but her astuteness is beyond Mr. Collins dense mind, which allows her to secure her independence (which is ultimately of greater importance than finding love). Charlotte recognizes her reality, accepts it, and uses it secure a contentment that only a few women can suppose to be attainable in a restrictive society.
This is why I believe Charlotte was more admirable in this aspect, because her childhood did not cause her to develop self worth; rather, she valued herself and chose to act on this desire (of worth) in a circumstance in which it would be easy to succumb to conformity. Essentially, Elizabeth prided herself on being different from the society she was raised within, above it, yet she continued to abide within the sanctuary of status and an uplifting reputation. Although she was admirable, she was not that far from what she believed to be different from. It is as if she still abided within her safety net and is unable to look beyond herself, whereas Charlotte is.
Charlotte Lucas Collins”. The Jane Austen Wiki. N.p., 2017. Web. 2 Jan. 2017.
Period Piece Showdown: Mr. Collins V. Mr. Collins”. The Toast. N.p., 2017. Web. 2 Jan. 2017.
The Faces Of Elizabeth Bennet”. In Love With England. N.p., 2017. Web. 2 Jan. 2017.
Rizza, Novels and Mary Rizza. “Hats Off To Fictional Best Friends: Charlotte And Elizabeth In Pride And Prejudice – Mary Rizza”. Mary Rizza. N.p., 2017. Web. 2 Jan. 2017.
2 thoughts on “Two Women and Their Need for Independence”
I love reading and writing your amazing insights into the pieces we study. Eek! I hope I will someday be able to articulate myself as well as you do. It truly is a gift to be able to draw inspiration from your words. Thank you for being an amazing writer to look up to!
You have beautifully captured the essences of each of these characters in a specific light. I especially loved your analysis of Charlotte; as a character so often overlooked in the grand scheme of things, it truly was enlightening to read your thoughts about the importance of her character in contrast to the others. I especially loved when you said that Charlotte was “…more admirable in this aspect, because her childhood did not cause her to develop self worth … she valued herself and chose to act on this desire…” I think that Charlotte is often criticized as being a “push-over”, but she was only securing her own future – which takes courage in itself.
Personally, I would have loved to see your thoughts on Caroline Bingley. perhaps this may have made it a little long, but I love reading what you have to say.
Thank you for such an amazing read!
THANK YOU so much for your kind comments on my blog; I appreciate it and am honoured that my piece provided such an articulate individual such as yourself to develop more of an understanding on Pride and Prejudice. And I truly to do agree with you on how Charlotte was a courageous individual through what she chose to see within Mr. Collins: an opportunity. And yes, I would have loved to analyze Caroline Bingley because she does provide a lovely contrast to both of these women for she is entrenched in what both Charlotte and Elizabeth seek to be different from, I will now look into analyzing her furthermore.