How Does Etiquette Affect in “Pride and Prejudice”?
Even though, Austen cannot be considered to be entirely a critic of marriage, she seems to be critical of the way females are obsessed with the institution as shown by proprietary attitudes on the onset of the novel. At the onset of the novel Austen points out “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife” (Austen 1). In her novel, Austen points out that a wealthy man who is not married is undoubtedly looking for a wife; hence, Mrs. Bennett’s preoccupation in ensuring that her daughters have a chance of being members of the rich community through marriage. Austen points out “Mr. Bingley was good looking and gentleman like; he had a pleasant countenance, and easy, unaffected manners” (Austen 6). In the novel, great wealth and elegant manners are the most essential qualities in a man while profundity and wisdom are considered to be unfashionable. Etiquette or the way an individual interacted with others was essential in Austen’s time because even when individuals where excited, they had to sustain dignity every time. Mrs. Bennett’s etiquette and her desire for her unmarried daughters to get close to the rich neighbors made her ask her husband to go and great the new members of the community. Mrs. Bennet together with her friends spent most of their time evaluating out new comers within the vicinity; however, Mrs. Luca and Mrs. Bennet are keen on searching husbands for their daughters.
In the novel, Austen manages to show that many women desire to attend parties, attract admiration, clad in fine clothes and with time-married women who act as chaperones enjoy social triumphs of their daughters. The novel depicts a society where young women are taken to social gatherings by their mothers or even chaperones; moreover, etiquette at the time never allowed young men and women to be together with decorum without the consent of parents in courtship. Nevertheless, Austen shows etiquette to be flexible compared to what is often believed; for instance, Elizabeth in never oppressed and even her father allow her to choose the individual she wants to marry. Austen indicates the underlying etiquette in courtship at the time was obeying the customs in order to be accepted in as a potential participant in high society’s marriage. The underlying principle that informed the code was for an individual to display his or her availability and attraction to the appropriate member of the opposite sex without deception or exploitation. Austen shows interest in complicating the courtship game because she seems intrigued by the idea that a young lady may not attract a suitable match by being successful in playing by the rules. In the novel, she shows attraction in characters between those who know how to dance gracefully and speak courteously and those who take the risk of breaking the rules in revealing genuine intensity of response within social interactions. For instance, Darcy criticizes Jane Bennet for perfectly playing the game of courtship (Austen 15), while Elizabeth’s stark opposition to Darcy win grudging admiration because she deviates from the rules and commands his respect in doing so. Austen indicates that even when an individual has grounds like Darcy for assuming to be superior; the perception fails even for people who have the mind-set and lack grounds for it. Austen shows that social etiquette determined by rules regarding the way an individual acted in order to be considered socially adept were essential in finding a desirable match for marriage. Within the novel it is clear that Austen considers both men and women to have certain ways of behaving; for instance, she shows that women are expected to show conversational skills, elegance and ability to take part in men’s interests. Austen points out that men could not ask women for a dance if the men were not introduced she shows by pointing out “So he inquired who she was, and got introduced and asked for her for the two next” (Austen 8).
Austen in the novel shows Mr. Bingley as a victim since the people around him enhanced by their superficial motives tend to inflict harm on Mr. Bingley. For instance, his sister seems to cause several people to evade him owing to her snobbishness; moreover, although Mr. Darcy has good motives, he almost ruins Bingley’s promising marriage (Austen 91). Through their action, Austen points out that although some characters were wealthy and well entertained, they often were victim of the ethics within their social class; hence, with increased wealth came difficult etiquette rules.
Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. New York: Dover, 1995. Print.