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What is Love?

Celebrated as a forerunner of the feminist movement and one of the finest


works of English literature, Jane Austens novel Pride and Prejudice has garnered
approval from students and academics alike. Despite its critical acclaim, its critics
have attacked numerous issues regarding the stereotypical portrayal of women
within the novel. In reality, however, Austens seemingly stereotypical portrayal of
women in her romantic fiction serves to accentuate Elizabeth Bennet as the ideal
female role model, effectively conveying Austens feminist views through the novel.
While critics may attack the stereotypes that Austen uses throughout the novel, her
use of common character types actually reflects her attempt to satirize the
uniformity of 19th century England.

The stereotypical nature of the character descriptions is almost inevitable if


examined from this perspective; when the focus is not on the character but on the
community, it is natural for not every character to have their burst of individuality.
Deresiewiezs point is enhanced by the rather slow pacing of the story in its first few
chapters. Austen takes time in organizing the setting in order to lay the groundwork
for underlying themes such as love and wealth, and as a result, only the most
important characters receive significant development. It is also important to realize
that the typical portrayal of the minor characters was intentional. Lydia and Kitty,
for example, are similar enough to almost be described together as frivolous and
silly, with minds more vacant than their sister (24). Such similarities are

inevitable as these characters are designed to be typical 19th century girls looking
for prospective husbands. The underlying intent, however, was not to encourage
uniformity, but to satirize the inherently uniform nature that the 19th century
English culture. The stereotyping that many critics attack is simply a device that
Austen uses to commentate on the state of Regency England.
By using Elizabeth as the protagonist of the novel, Austen successfully creates a
character who exemplifies the qualities that the ideal woman strives to attain.
Elizabeth, one of the best-known figures of English literature, is almost universally
acclaimed to be a brilliant character. She embodies the characteristics that today
define a modern independent woman. Part of her appeal, ironically, comes from her
imperfections; her tendency to be headstrong and stubborn are not only qualities
that Darcy but also the reader typically finds endearing. In fact, Elizabeth seems to
depict for us all that is flawed and irresistible about real people." (Morgan, 6). Early
on, the reader learns.