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Pride And Prejudice Essay

402 words - 2 pages

In Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen’s depiction of womanhood is both varied and expansive. A woman can be gentle in spirit, incapable of finding ill in others. Daughters can be impossibly “silly” in their romantic endeavors. Wives are sometimes obnoxious, meddling fools with easily disturbed nerves. Even women linked by their intelligence, such as Charlotte and Elizabeth, differ in terms of practicality and adherence to social norms. There is, however, a factor that distinguishes intelligent females in the novel from the unintelligent: their insistence on maintaining privacy from male influence. From a feminist perspective, Jane ...view middle of the document...

The issue of female privacy is perhaps most associated with feminist works published long after Pride and Prejudice, but Austen’s depiction of the matter can be seen as a precursor to these later arguments. Both Charlotte Perkins Gilman and Virginia Woolf published works pertaining to the physical and mental privacy needed for women. A Room of One’s Own, for instance, clearly establishes a link between female creativity and physical privacy. In fact, Woolf directly states that without a private room, a woman cannot effectively engage in the mental task of writing (Woolf 52). Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” presents a similar argument about mental privacy by depicting a protagonist whose mental functioning is handicapped by an abrasive, belittling male character, to the point that she loses sanity. Even as recently as the late twentieth century, feminist authors such as Adrienne Rich have depicted patriarchal beliefs as invasions of the female mind and a means of hampering female creativity (Rich 208). While Austen’s subtle linking of privacy with female intellect is not nearly as straightforward as Virginia Woolf’s demands for a room of her own, and even though Austen’s proposed consequences for a lack of mental privacy pale in comparison to Gilman’s depiction of insanity, her view of personal space should not be overlooked, but should be considered part of an early stage in the feminist examination of female privacy

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