The Sociopolitical, Cultural, Economic, Spiritual Issues in the Family
Elizabeth, the main character of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and the index person of this research paper, is a part of the Bennet Family. The family consists of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet and their five daughters, Jane, Mary, Catherine, Lydia, and Elizabeth. It is important to note that due to the fact that they lived during the regency period, they fell into a particular social class which was known as landed gentry. This social status referred to individuals and families that owned land and made a living only off of the rent that the land provided.
The society and time during which the Bennets lived dedicated that outside marriage, young women should have few aspirations and goals. This made the relationships of the Bennets with their society, as well as among themselves, complex. Due to both inner and exterior conflicts, Mr. Bennet himself has decided to withdraw from being the pater familias, also known as the head of the family (Austen 135). This is a traditionally male position that Mr. Bennet rejects, thereby going against socio political convention. Similarly, when Elizabeth rejects a marriage proposal unlike her conservative and concerned mother, her father trusts her judgment.
Culturally, the Bennets are upper-class and traditionally English. The family engages in activities that are expected of landed gentries. Women of the family are expected to participate in housework in order to become desirable wives. Elizabeth frequently breaks this convention and also by displaying attributes that may seem male-exclusive to an old-fashioned society such as wittiness, intelligence, and judgment (Glover & Al-Tekreeti, 2018). The family does have economic shortcomings despite their status as the upper-class. This is largely due to the fact that Mr. Bennet, supported by his wife, chose to spend his annual budget without regard for the future. Despite this, he was able to make sure that his family does not face debt.
The Index Person Within the Context of the Multigenerational Family
The index person, Elizabeth Bennet, has incredibly varied relationships with all that is presented within her family tree. First, the late Mr. Bennet and late Mr. Gardiner, the father of Mrs. Bennet, are not present in Elizabeth’s life. Despite this, the influence of their social classes has had an effect on both Mr. and Mrs. Bennet and their children as well. The Bennet family comes from a background of land ownership and what is referred to as comfortable income. On the other hand, the maternal branch, the Gardiner family, and prevalent as attorneys, is considered a lower class profession (Hashemipour, 2019). As a result, the marriage of the Bennets has resulted in a relationship in which the father does not adhere to societal roles and ignores what is considered the inadequate behavior of his wife. Due to this, Elizabeth is an individual that is also resistant to the expectations of society. This makes her father’s favorite daughter, but her mother’s least favorite.
Aspects of the Understanding of the Index Person
Both the attitudes presented by Elizabeth and those around her are heavily dictated by the norms of the time period. The early 1800s in England were defined by strict beliefs concerning class, gender, and societal roles. As such, both Elizabeth and her father are interesting cases of individuals that opposed one or more of these constraints. Elizabeth upholds a number of behavioral features which are frowned upon by those even inside her family, such as her mother. These include being opinionated, independent, and otherwise considered unfit as the assumed paragon of a wife and mother that was promoted during the era. Jane, Elizabeth’s older sister, is also characterized by being intelligent but more gentle and shy. They have a close relationship, which likely influenced Elizabeth’s assuredness in her own character due to her sister’s approval. Similarly, they are both loved by their father due to their personalities but Jane is only loved by her mother due to her beauty and ability to conform to societal expectations as a wife.
The Family Lifecycle-Related Issues
The ways in which the late Mr. Bennet and Mr. Gardiner’s death is not mentioned within the novel but was likely due to old age. There are no prevalent causes that could interfere with an average cycle within any of the members of the Bennet family. In fact, the only character with repeated claims of an illness is Mrs. Bennet. She is frequently cited as a hypochondriac. Though often physically well, she uses her state of ‘nervous disease’ to either garner attention, affection, or influence from others. This causes a conflict not only with Elizabeth but also with Jane and her husband. Her husband’s negligent and mostly unconcerned attitude towards Mrs. Bennet’s nervous state has likely influenced the way Jane and Elizabeth perceive their mother. It could also likely influence their approach to ‘nervous disease’, especially in the case in which they exhibit symptoms of it. Overall, no lifecycle-altering factors exist within the Bennet family but existing diseases within the family have caused disruptions in relationships.
Intergenerational Dynamics, Patterns and Themes in the Family
The genogram is able to present a number of issues that are prevalent within the family. The most prominent include the conflict-fueled relationships between Mrs. Bennet and Mr. Bennet and her two oldest daughters. While the Bennet parents are not estranged, they do not have a harmonious or supportive relationship as Mrs. Bennet encourages excessive spending while Mr. Bennet does not take her considerations or concerns seriously. Similarly, Mrs. Bennet openly dislikes and disapproves of her two eldest daughters due to their defiant and socially deviant nature. Her disapproval and favoritism are obvious as she shows excessive pride in regard to her other children such as Lydia. The themes of conflict and resistance are prevalent within the genogram, with multiple members of the family being unwilling to abide by social norms while others prioritize them. Additionally, Mrs. Bennet is said to have been unable to teach her daughters the process of home economics which impacted their lives and made them unsuitable for the traditional marriage of the time.
Areas That the Person Need to Work On
As mentioned in the name of the work, prejudice is Elizabeth’s main flaw, especially in regards to interacting with others. It is unclear if her sense of strong and unwavering judgment originates from her mother’s unwillingness to defy social expectations or her father’s behavior towards what he considers ‘mediocre intelligence’. While her ability to be proficient in home economics at the time, largely goes against her rebellious nature and is also the product of an outdated set of expectations. However, the conflict that is prevalent within the family dynamic is largely the result of the harsh judgments and unwillingness to compromise that are likely an influence of both her parents. In order to foster healthier and beneficial relationships, like the one she has with Jane, she could resort to being more observant of her prejudices. Within the scope of the work, Elizabeth is successful with overcoming this flaw, at least in regards to her love interest, Mr. Darcy.
The Family Roles Demonstrated
The family’s roles are very distinct, likely due to the time period’s strict outlines of what certain individuals were allowed to perform as. Mr. Bennet is a classic patriarchal figure whose role it is to provide for his wife and children. He is primarily an economic support as he largely neglects his other fatherly roles, perhaps with the exception of his relationship with Jane and Elizabeth. Mrs. Bennet is the mother figure in the family, and while she is authoritative towards her daughters, she is less submissive to her husband than the time period’s norms would suggest. She also does not provide her children with an education in home economics or affection in the case of Jane and Elizabeth (Arniati et al., 2019). Elizabeth and Jane comply with most of their roles as daughters during the early 1800s with both being married at the end of the story. However, all family members exhibit some form of rebellion against the expected familial roles common to the time period.
The Picture of the Family and Areas of Growth for the Family
The Bennet family is quite large with a number of complex issues. The primary conflict arises between Mrs. Bennet and her two eldest daughters, Jane and Elizabeth. Both parties have different expectations of each other and this causes disagreement when these standards are not met. As such, the three areas of growth in which the family can improve are accepting responsibility for self, increasing the flexibility of family boundaries, and committing to a new family dynamic (Nichols & Davis 201). Currently, both Mrs. Bennet and her daughters are unhappy with having to comply with each other’s beliefs, however, Elizabeth is more forgiving of her mother’s dissatisfaction with her. As such, Mrs. Bennet would benefit from accepting her daughter as she is. This would allow family boundaries to expand and allow more freedom of self-expression. The only way to sustain this new approach is to commit to these changes in the long term.
Arniati, F., Darwis, M., Rahman, N., & Rahman, F. (2019). Mother Behavior to Their Daughters As Seen in ”Pride and Prejudice” and “Little Women”. ELS Journal on Interdisciplinary Studies in Humanities, 2(4), 620-625. Web.
Austen, J. (1995). Pride and prejudice. Modern Library.
Badinjki, T. (2019). Stereotypical Gender Roles and New Construct of Marriage in Pride and Prejudice. International Journal on Studies in English Language and Literature, 7(1), 43-47. Web.
Glover, P., & Al-Tekreeti, A. S. (2018). Form and Meaning in Literature: Deixis and the Portrayal of Personal, Social and Financial Relations in Pride and Prejudice. Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences, 12(1), 1-16. Web.
Hashemipour, S. (2019). Two Lovers in an Austenian Novel of Manners: The Impact of Social Status in Pride and Prejudice. International Journal of Multidisciplinary Research and Publications, 1(9), 1-6. Web.
Nichols, M., P., & Davis, S. D. (2020). The Essentials of Family Therapy (7th ed.). Pearson Education.
Pride and Prejudice Genogram
- Elizabeth Bennet – Wit, intelligence
- Jane Bennet – Kindness, calmness
- Lydia Bennet – Social
- Kitty Bennet – Self-motivated
- Mary Bennet – Observant
- Mrs. Bennet – Worry for her children
- Mr. Bennet – Worldly wisdom
- Mr. Darcy – Honorable, self-esteem
- Charles Bingley – Modest
- George Wickham – Ambitious