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Why ‘Pride and Prejudice’ is the Holy Bible for feminism

As a 21-year-old feminist, it’s odd to believe that Pride and Prejudice would be my favourite novel. It’s considerably outdated and is, at first glance, a long-winded tale about another poor young woman ripped away in the peak of life to become a slave to matrimony.

Yes, although slathered in swoon-worthy ‘You must tell me how ardently I admire and love you’ and ‘I must assure you in the most animated language of the violence of my affection’s the novel features many feminist notions that are still idealised today.

Multiple editions of Pride and Prejudice bound in a string with flowers wedged between the books. They sit on wooden slats.
A budding collection close to my heart

Stick with me, dear reader, as I lay down the foundations of the novel for your convenience.

The Bennet family: Mr Bennet, Mrs Bennet and their five daughters – not a son in sight (perhaps you see the issue?). Keep in mind that Jane Austen, the novel’s most esteemed author, wrote Pride and Prejudice in 1813, a time where women were expected to do two things. Marry and make babies – preferably males. But I digress.

The second eldest Miss Bennet, Elizabeth, is the prejudiced heroine of the novel. Navigating manipulative men, snobby dudes and more than a few dicks, it’s easy to see how our little feminist hearts are cheering for her as she turns down not one, but two marriage proposals *cue applause*.

Enter Mr Darcy – dashing, tall and filthy rich *swoon*.

Now, I’m all for a girl making her own money, as our dear author did in her lifetime, but you can see the appeal for our Bennet sisters after discovering that upon the death of their father, they will be turned out of the house. How’s that for some healthy misogyny?

With lots of clashing arguments, pining glances, emphatic letters, and dances, our two characters end up falling in love.

A dried rose on top of a book on top of wooden slats. String and flowers poke out of the pages.
Mr Darcy was fixed in astonishment…

However, here’s a fun backstory for you, Jane Austen – author of six novels – did not marry. Ironically enough, each of her novels often ends in the protagonist marrying. So how has this novel become the holy bible for feminism?

“You could not have made the offer of your hand in any possible way that would have tempted me to accept it.”

Elizabeth Bennet (Pg. 158)

Lizzie, described as a headstrong girl, makes educated decisions for herself based on her observations. Now, don’t get me wrong, she makes mistakes – namely one called Mr Wickham – but her intelligence pushes her through a male oriented world. This intelligence is what attracts our male heartthrob, Mr Darcy. That and her particularly fine eyes.

Now it’s no giant leap in breaching the gender gap, but this intelligence was incredibly uncommon and dare I say uncouth, for women of her time and age.

A blue edition of the novel 'Pride and Prejudice' atop a green book. Two pins sit on the book. One says 'Femisist' in a heart and another says 'obstinate headstrong girl'. The books sit atop wooden slats.
Proudly combining my beliefs and bookish obsession!

Lizzie is a ‘take no shit from anyone’ kinda girl. She walks three miles alone in mud (the horror) to visit her sister, rejects marriage proposals seemingly left, right and centre and appears to have little care of her ‘duties’ as a women. Woohoo right?

“Upon my word,” said her ladyship, “you give your opinion very decidedly for so young a person.”

Lady Catherine De Bourgh (Pg. 136

Our first glimpse at our girl in action is when she overhears Darcy slighting her at a dance.

“She is tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me; I am in no humour at present to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men.”

Mr Darcy (Pg.9)

Hard to believe that this smooth talker ends up falling head over heels, right?

Instead of running off in tears, Lizzie decides that he is the last man in the world she would ever marry.

This confidence is carried throughout the novel, up until she decides that Darcy is the man for her after previously rejecting him.

Now I know this novel isn’t for everyone, but I wouldn’t be the person I am today without it.

Not only do we share the same name, but I like to think that I’ve adopted some of that Bennet fierceness, and perhaps disregard, in my everyday life.

A bunch of dried flowers sit in front of a stack of books. The books have string draped on them. In front of the flowers sits a heart pin that says 'feminist'.
The amount of editions I own is akin to the amount of times I’ve read it.

If you haven’t already read this novel, I would highly recommend it for any would-be feminist! It’s a good reminder that you shouldn’t settle for a Mr Wickham or Mr Collins but to fight for yourself, your beliefs and your dreams.

Photos by Elizabeth Kovacs