A Society’s Conventions – Polished Critical

Prompt: Discuss the idea(s) developed by the text creator in your chosen text about the conflict between pursuing a personal desire and choosing to conform – Pride and Prejudice

Society’s conventions act as the moral standards that an individual is expected to pertain. Any individual driven by personal desires rather than these conventions will be affected by the conformity of those around them. In Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice, women only played the role to breed and raise children, as well as to please their husbands. The only method a woman could use to raise her status was marriage. In this era, it was not strange for women to marry at younger ages and to not be educated, regardless of personal desire. It is shown throughout the novel that the conflict between pursuing a personal desire and choosing to conform may cause the individual to face hardships, as shown through the issues in the relationships between Elizabeth and those around her.

The hardships an individual must face may be between family relations. Elizabeth’s mother, Mrs. Bennett, was one such person with whom there were issues with. Mrs. Bennet has the dream of all five of her daughters being married to successful men, men who were wealthy and gentlemanlike. Elizabeth, however, has the desire to marry for love rather than status. She is expected to conform to the same values held by her mother and society, which is clear in the quote, “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a man in possession of good fortune must be in want of a wife.” (1) This quote highlights the values of the time. Women are expected to marry these men who were in want of “accomplished” wives, accomplished only in the sense of behavior, entertainment skills, hostess ability, etc. Elizabeth defies these conventions when she rejects Mr. Collin’s request for marriage. Her mother has told her that if she is to decline Mr. Collins’s offer for marriage, she will never speak with Elizabeth again. Her final rejection to his offer proved her intention of following her personal desires, regardless of whether her chosen path would lead to trouble.

As an individual continues on their journey towards personal success, their troubles may seem less conquerable. Mr. Darcy was one such “major trouble” Elizabeth had to face. Although highly successful, he has many quarrels with Elizabeth, due to his excessive pride. Elizabeth clearly detests him for his pride, which is evident when she says,” I could easily forgive his pride, if he had not mortified mine.” This quote clearly states that Elizabeth isn’t repulsed by the pride held by Mr. Darcy, but rather by the fact of her pride being suppressed under his. Elizabeth has initially taken a negative perspective of Mr. Darcy, when he announced that she wasn’t handsome enough to tempt him. On some occasions, Elizabeth would openly reprimand Mr. Darcy in attempt to free her own pride. At other times, Elizabeth would succumb and not say anything to his comments. The conflict between succumbing to society’s conventions and pursuing personal desires within Elizabeth results in her being influenced by both at different times. Elizabeth also had to choose between conforming and pursuing her ambition when Mr. Darcy asks for her hand in marriage the first time. She chose to pursue her ambition of finding true love, which she found in Mr. Wickham.

To truly escape the bind of society’s conventions, an individual must be able to overcome any kind of hardship. In the novel, Elizabeth is confronted by Lady Catherine, who forbids Elizabeth to wed with Mr. Darcy. Although she herself did not like Mr. Darcy at that point, she acts very defiantly, acting as though no one could stop her. Instead of being interested in Mr. Darcy, Elizabeth has been interested in Mr. Wickham due to his conflict with Mr. Darcy, which, of course, fuels her own dislike of Mr. Darcy. As she continues to follow her personal desires, she is eventually confronted by Mr. Darcy, who reveals the truth about Mr. Wickham. When Mr. Wickham elopes with Lydia, Elizabeth believes Mr. Darcy’s recollection about his issue with Mr. Wickham. When Mr. Darcy also helps out Lydia and Mr. Wickham, Elizabeth’s hatred towards him began to soften. She found her desires being fulfilled in Mr. Darcy. So when he asks for her hand in marriage the second time, she accepts. Rather than choosing to conform, Elizabeth achieves her personal desires through perseverance, dedication, and resilience. She had not conformed, but had achieved her personal desires by coping with the hardships which followed.

As shown in the novel, hardships may be faced by individuals who have conflicts between choosing to pursue personal desires and conforming. In Elizabeth’s time, women were expected to marry, and to marry wealthiest man they could. This was the only way a woman could maintain or increase her social status. They would only breed and raise the children, as well as exemplify their “accomplishments”. These actions were affected by the conventions that society had placed on them, in order to suffocate their personal desires. Everyone except Elizabeth had their ambitions taken away from them, replaced by the morals of society. Elizabeth opted to follow her personal desires, which led to arguments with Mr. Darcy, among other hardships. This novel reminds us that, regardless of which society one may reside in, conflicts between personal desires and choosing to conform will always exist, due to society’s conventions.

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