Reading of Pride & Prejudice as an Indian Female Reader
‘Pride and Prejudice’ by Jane Austen has taken our hearts ever since we read it. It has been an all-time favorite for ages, mainly, because it gives us an insight into Victorian society — the status of women, the superiority of aristocracies, how a woman who followed her heart is condemned by society (Ya, I am talking about Lydia), and how marriage is the only means for women’s survival.
It is a representation of a 200 hundred-year-old society and yet I, as an Indian reader, can resonate with it in our so-called modern society.
The very first sentence of the novel:
‘It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.’
it up for the readers: Marriage is the crux (of women’s existence).
In the entire novel, we spot Mrs. Bennet scheming around to get her daughters married. The prime marital age of Mrs. Bennet’s elder daughters is perishing which troubles her deeply. In the patriarchal Victorian society, marriage translated to social acceptance. Thus, it ranks among the top priorities in women’s lives. And, it is only through marriage Mrs. Bennet’s daughters can live happy lives.
First dependent on their fathers and then on their husbands, women had no financial security or independence of their own in the male-centric society.
Unfortunately, many Indian families still face the same challenges even in the 21st century. They still consider their daughters as liabilities! Even today parents believe that the only means to a happy and financially secured life for their precious daughters is marriage.
Though the status of women has undergone a huge change from ancient times with women having access to education and decent opportunities, the societal expectations from women have not undergone many changes. It is still women who sacrifice their goals and jobs for family care and child care. And, this was clear during the pandemic. It has hit the working women of our society harder than men compelling many to quit their jobs.
In the novel,
Elizabeth Bennet or Lizzy is the only character who marries out of love and not for financial security.
She discards marriage as an economic arrangement. She is the representation of just a handful of Indian females who have transcended societal norms.
We boast about making progress. We see women working in senior managerial positions and as entrepreneurs, but we never talk about the ratio? How many successful women do we actually have from a population of 662.90 million?
You can check out Wikipedia’s page — less than a fraction of the page is enough to cover up the achievements of Indian women for over a century.
It is disheartening to see that our progressive Indian society — our developing country — is so far behind.
I only see a long journey to the road where women actually get the freedom and status they deserve and are not shunned by society for making their own decisions.
The real question is how far have we actually come?
Have we really progressed?
When we will normalize the equal treatment of men and women — when we stop glorifying men doing the domestic chores, when neighbors won’t gossip about a house-husband and a working wife, and when women equally contribute to the country’s economy, then we can say that we have progressed.