“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” (Pride and Prejudice p.1) “A woman must have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, dancing, and the
modern languages to deserve the word.” (Pride and Prejudice p.3) The definitions of masculinity and femininity, the roles of males and females and the relevance to todays culture all need to be considered, in relation to the text, Pride and Prejudice.
Jane Austen defines males and females very differently from how they are defined today in 2007. Males are considered to be wealthy, self-sufficient and the providers of women. Women are defined as being dependent on men. This is the case with Mrs Bennet, whose goal was to marry off all five of her daughters. Mr Bennet was the sole provider for Mrs Bennet and their daughters. If Mr Bennet was to die, his fortune would then be passed on to his nearest male relative, not to his wife.
Women were considered to be ‘protagonists.’ They were mostly dependent on their fathers and husbands to provide them with economic livelihood. Their life was much the same after marriage, except for the extra household duties. Their happiness was based on a fortunate marriage. Women were often forced to partake in semi-arranged matrimony to be promised a home and social status as somebody’s wife. A woman’s knowledge of attributes such as music, singing, dancing would show how accomplished she was. Music was an accomplishment that was greatly prized, as not may women were gifted with it.
Men were considered to have a great deal of time on their hands. Some did riding and driving. These men were rather proud of their achievements, as they appealed to the feminine eye. A mans wealth was dependent on what class the pertained to. A man, who was part of the gentry, could earn his fortune through inheritance, rent from lands, investments in stocks and the government. Mr Bennet was one such example. A man who was part of the trading class could earn his fortune being anything from a banker to a merchant. Mr Gardiner was in this class, as he was a banker.
The representations of masculinity and femininity in Pride and Prejudice, in relation to today’s culture in 2007, could be considered as contradictory. The idea of women like Mrs Bennet, being totally dependent on men, is rarely seen in today’s society. Many women who are mothers have a job, whether it is full or part time, which earns them money to help support them and their family financially. Most modern young single women are not out looking for a husband they are either attending university, or have a career of some kind, they are independent. Men gaining their fortune from hereditary means, and not having to work hard are yet another example of the change in modern culture. Most men are a part of the working class, consisting of physical labour. Men hardly have any spare time on their hands, as the men do in Pride and Prejudice. Most jobs consist of 10 to 12 hours of work a day. Then there is also work that needs to be done at home. Men and women today don’t get married out of convenience, they get married out of mutual love and respect of one another.