Jane Austen

Jane Austen was a child of the Enlightenment, an age when reason was valued while many romantic traditions still lingered on in society. [* By the way the romantic period follows the Enlightenment (a reaction)] As one of the educated and intelligent women emerging from this era, Austen has used the character of Elizabeth Bennet to epitomise the harmonious balance between reason and emotion in a woman, making her a truly <Picture: tick!>admirable and attractive character.

Elizabeth\'s strength of character is emphasised by its contrast with the weak, naäve <Picture: tick!>acceptance of Jane\'s, the instability and excess of Mrs Bennet\'s and the blind, weak-willed following of Kitty\'s. Her strength is also shown in her rejections of the proposals of Mr <Picture: tick!>Collins and Darcy. Unlike her mother, she does not base her choice of lovers on the financial <Picture: tick!>security they will give her, and has the strength to reject them. This is especially evident in her rejection of Darcy\'s initial proposal, when she displays a passionate strength in her anger due to her belief that he has wilfully prevented Jane and Bingley\'s marriage and wronged Wickham <Picture: tick!>by refusing to grant him the property that the old Mr Darcy bequeathed him. In both cases, the suitor is self-assured that his suit will be accepted, and as a result Elizabeth\'s rejections are amplified by the size of the blows that their egos receive. In Rosings, she does not let Lady Catherine tyrannise her as "the mere satellites of money and rank, she thought she could witness without trepidation." The Lucases and Collinses are submissive to Lady Catherine, with Maria being "frightened almost out of her senses", and it is probable that society as a <Picture: tick!>whole behaves likewise, as Elizabeth suspects she is "the first creature who had ever dared to <Picture: tick!>trifle with such dignified impertinence". She is again presented as a rebel against ideas of class when Lady Catherine pays a visit to her to ensure that she does not marry Darcy and Elizabeth refuses to accept the idea that Pemberley will be "polluted" by her presence. Elizabeth also expresses her rebellion against society by taking little trouble to become accomplished, as young ladies were expected to then. She devotes little time to becoming skilled at playing the <Picture: tick!>piano, and has not learnt drawing at all.

Elizabeth\'s intelligence reveals her to be one of the few reasoning characters of the <Picture: tick!>novel, a sensible individual in a society largely composed of fools. In this way, this attribute was less a product of the civilisation of her immediate society than of the civilisation of the Enlightenment which emphasised the importance of reason in life and served to educate Elizabeth. As the daughter of Mr Bennet, her view of society is a cynical, ironic one, heightened by the presence of brainless family members and neighbours. It is her sense of irony which enables her to survive in such a society, as she enjoys the humour of the ridiculous pomposity of Mr Collins as her father does. [I disagree with the introduction here. A sense of irony gives Mr Bennet the ability to survive a disastrous marriage, but Elizabeth does not share such emotional detachment -- she is "engagé".] However, she does not employ as insulting a tone as her father does, but chooses to define it as "impertinence". After Darcy\'s proposal is accepted, Darcy tells her that one of the reasons why he fell in love with her was "the liveliness of your mind", showing that her intelligence adds to her charms as she uses it in the form of <Picture: tick!> [gd.] wit rather than cold cynicism.

She enjoys studying characters, and is able to tell Bingley, "I understand you perfectly." The relative objectiveness of her views of characters is emphasised when <Picture: tick!>compared with people like Jane, who assumes that all people are good-hearted, and Mr Collins, who is automatically swayed to the favour of people of noble birth. Elizabeth\'s <Picture: tick!>subjective first impressions of Darcy and Wickham show that she is human <Picture: tick!>and can make mistakes in this field; but the fact that she can apply reason after her initial outrage on reading <Picture: tick!>Darcy\'s letter demonstrates her ability to face truths and change