Monday, November 16, 2009
Pride and Prejudice today?
For the past two weeks I’ve indulged myself with the BBC production of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. I enjoyed every minute of it but it got me thinking how limited a woman’s life was two hundred years ago.
Women could refuse an offer of marriage, but could not marry the man she loved without her father’s consent. Eloping was considered scandalous and shacking up with a man was enough to have you permanently shunned from society. Women referred to their husband’s formally: i.e. Mr. Bennet. They had to have permission to do anything even within the household or with their children. It was the law that she must fork over any monies and property to her husband upon marriage. Often times, her father paid her husband a hefty sum to marry her – ala the dowry. They also could not inherit their husband’s property so if they did not produce a son, they could be cast out of their own house penniless to make way for the new master upon their husband’s death. Even if they had a son, he could toss his own mother and sisters out of the house if he so chose.
But the allure for that time and the romance of it still grabs me (and it’s not pregnancy hormones). The beautiful language, lush settings, as well as the pomp and circumstance is fascinating. The subtlety and boldness of Elizabeth Bennett’s actions toward Mr. Darcy and his slow realization that he was in love with her is captivating.
But Elizabeth’s acceptance of Wickham in the end made me think of how women often defer to men – even now. Is it in our blood? Is it a certain pride or prejudice that keeps women stuck in a circle of timeless behavior toward men? I certainly hope not.
During my dating years my thoughts for a first date were not, “I hope he likes me” they were more along the lines of “I hope I like him.”
I applaud a woman speaking her mind. All women should. My husband wouldn’t have been interested in me if it weren’t for our lively debates – ongoing to this day. And if he hadn’t, he wouldn’t be my husband, for certain.
We’ve come a long way in 200 years and I’m sure we’re still evolving. Women will rule the world soon enough – as long as we speak up. Not to be preachy or rah-rah ladies - but we've earned the right to speak our minds, haven't we?