1.0 INTRODUCTIONBeforeembarking on answering the question “Towhat extent does the social status and mentality of both genders, influencetheir perception and decisions in a male dominated society in Jane Austen’s’Pride and Prejudice’ and ‘A Doll’s House,’ by Henrik Ibsen?”, it isimportant to understand the meaning of certain key words used.
These words are “socialstatus”, “Mentality”, “Perception”, “Gender” and “life decision”.SocialstatusWhenwe talk of social status we are referring to a person’s standing or importancein relation to other people within a society.MentalityThisrefers to the characteristic way of thinking of a person or a group. It is thecapacity for intelligent thought.PerceptionPerceptionrefers to the ability to see, hear, or become aware of something through thesenses. It is also the way in which something is regarded, understood, orinterpreted; intuitive understanding and insight.GenderThisterm has been used by many to mean various thing.
It can mean either of the twosexes (male or female) especially when considered with reference to social andcultural differences rather than biological ones; it is also used more broadlyto denote a range of identities that do not correspond to established ideas ofmale and female. It can also be used by members of a particular gender to beconsidered as a group; the fact or condition of belonging to or identifyingwith a particular group.Life decisionThis can be said to be a conclusion or resolution reached after considerationof existence of an individual human being. Basing it on everyday life, it isreaching a resolution in one’s life, for example, choosing to live or what kindof job one will pursue in his or her future or whether deciding to get marriedor not.Inmy perspective the gender ideologies and separate spheres in the 19thCentury, in Britain, can be perceived in two ways; An overarching patriarchalmodel which reserves power and privilege for men or as a consistent sequence offemale discrimination, or rather gradual female challenge to their exclusion.Eventually paradigm shifts come about and influence the ideas respecting genderrelations at levels of mentality, which are influenced by social class, as seenbetween the 19th to present 21st Century, away from the traditionalidea of ‘natural’ male supremacy towards a ‘modern’ notion of gender equity,which was vigorously contested. In comparison, both Jane Austen’s and HenrikIbsen’s literary works are known not only for being particularly engaging, butto also uniquely capture, not only the characteristic of British society in the19th Century but also that of different numerous societies such as fromthe Islamic society towards the present 21st Century.
Both authorsunveil an entertaining and enthusiastic but yet firm view on the sociological,psychological and historical issues of both genders captured into interestingplots, full of ironical events, absurdities and versatile characters such asthat from Jane Austen’s novel, Pride andprejudice and Henrik Ibsen’s play, ADoll’s House, which perfectly serves as a model of social distinctions inthe 19th Century. That is why, I am surely convinced that the worksof Jane Austen and Henrik Ibsen, would perfectly illustrate the topic that Iwill explore in my extended essay, which is the woman’s world vs the men’s world. My work will be focused onanswering the research question: To whatextent does the social status and mentality of both genders influence theirperception and decisions in a male dominated society in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and A Doll’s House, by Henrik Ibsen?I’mconfident that my chosen topic is worth pursuing, as my work will not onlyentail the social rank and role of both genders, especially women, in the 19thCentury but also outline and contain universal knowledge on mental differencesbetween genders but also interpersonal relationships.
My essay will also becomplimented by insights into the 19th Century life of an Englishfamily, portray both in the play and novel, as both works are outlined in the19th Century English society, in a world where wealth,respectability and social class were more important than personal happiness.Such is seen from A Doll’s House, onthe case of Mrs.Linde, where it was apparent that she once had romanticrelations with Krogstad but broke them off in order to marry Mr. Linde,who had more wealth. She felt the marriage was necessary for the sake of herbrothers and mother but regrets having ignored her heart, which told her tostay with Krogstad.
The specificity of both gender’s worlds in those times ofmen’s powerful dominance and women’s limitations and efforts made for their family’ssake, is also particularly the case in Prideand Prejudice where the Bennetts, a family of five daughters, whosefather’s estate is entailed to a distant relative, for upon Mr. Bennett’s deaththey will lose the home, land and income. The arrival of two wealthy andhighly-placed gentlemen give the Bennet daughters an opportunity not only to increasetheir social status but also financial security through marriage.Beforeembarking onto the main subject of my essay, I shall add some context about thestereotypical view on the men and women’s role in the British society in the 19thCentury. In the 19th Century there was only one acceptable andunjustifiable family model, where the father was the head of the family, hiswife and children respected and obeyed him without rebelling. The husband ownedeverything that belonged to his wife previously and the rights to herpersonally and women had no independent means of subsistence. This, in myperspective shows that women were seen as passive and only served to add uponthe material fortune that a man already acquired. A woman who remained singlewould attract social disapproval and pity.
What is more, looking after thehousehold and the family was an only way of life, because very few professions notavailable for women in the Century. In my essay I will try to prove that thesocial status and mentality of both genders influence their lives, determinetheir perception which both limits their potential life decisions as well leadsto evolution towards independency. In my opinion the best way I would achievethis is through a comparative analysis in which I will focus on similaritiesand differences between both genders in fields such as their role in thesociety, their typical mentality in the 19th Century, their influencedperception and reasons for their life decisions.2.0 GENDER ROLE IN THE SOCIETYJaneAusten wrote Pride and Prejudice inlate 18th Century, much earlier than any feministic movements werecreated and women started demanding their rights, privileges and equalitytowards men but created controversy towards the 19th Century, whichwas the Victorian Era.
Essentially, ADoll’s House, was also written in this Era, as well as also createdcontroversy, as it questioned society’s basic rules and norms through itscharacters, namely Nora Helmer and Christina Linden, before and after marriage,where Women were expected to be submissive to their husbands; husbands wereexpected to dominate. Women bore and raised the children. Having little to no independencethan the modern women of the 21st Century enjoy, they often had toresort to marriage in order to advance themselves socially or even just tosurvive. The lead off lines of the novel, Prideand Prejudice, “It is a truthuniversally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune,must be in want of a wife,” which promptly suggests that gender role in theVictorian society was an important key aspect to the book and that the authoranchors the significant view of the generalized society. It also shows that theplot is presented from the perspective of people with ordinary mentality, whoare the members of rural middle class at that time, such as Mrs. Bennet. Thisquotation may also serve as an example of a proper male figure, in other wordsa husband in the 19th Century according to which, should have anindependent income sufficient enough to provide for a potential family withdescent household and living standards. In those times it is entirely the men’sduty to take care of household finances, with which the wife would have noinformation of and how the financial standings of the family were without theconsent of the husband many times women didn’t even know what state theirfinancial affairs were in.
It was often times only when something drastichappened that a woman would become aware of these things. Such is particularlythe case of Nora, in A Doll’s House,where she’s given partial closure on the financial standings by the husband,Torvald, when they were completely struggling. She was also reminded about thefinancial position they were in when Torvald fell ill. When Torvald gets a newjob position as a bank manager, Nora is keen to spend more money, believingthat her husband’s new job will mean that the family no longer has to becareful with money. Even if she was aware of the new position, she did not knowhow much the salary payment of the husband was.Naturally,the next step to fully satisfy a man’s achievements and success, is to gethimself a decent wife. This rule also involves and applies to women, who aresupposed to get married as soon as possible after reaching the age of maturity.
Being married is not so much a matter of choice or inner need, but more of compulsionand social obligation so happiness or love are in fact of little importance, asseen with Mrs.Linde, in A Doll’s House,where she sacrifices her love for Krogstad and instead, goes ahead to marryMr.Linde due to his higher financial standing. This also perfectly manifeststhe quotation from Pride and Prejudice, “Happinessin marriage is entirely a matter of chance. If the dispositions of the partiesare ever so well known to each other or ever so similar beforehand, it does notadvance their felicity in the least. They always continue to grow sufficientlyunlike afterwards to have their share of vexation; and it is better to know aslittle as possible of the defects of the person with whom you are to pass yourlife.” InPride and Prejudice women use marriageto get what they want by raising their status in the society, but they alsooften have to sacrifice their feelings and desires.
Men’s situation in thisaspect is no better. Social pressure of creating families results in a hugenumber of young gentlemen deciding to marry any well-behaved women of a similarsocial rank even not having feelings for her. Such a man is represented in thenovel by Mr. Collins in Pride andPrejudice, who comes to Loughbourn with the intention of getting married toone of the Bennet daughters. The reason for this decision is clearly natural,since he is supposed to inherit all Bennet’s possessions.
Considering his quitehigh social status, influential connections, descent profession as a clergyman,his own property and sufficient income he is thought to be a convenient futurehusband for one of Bennet’s daughter, so he is completely sure about receivinga positive response when he proposes to Elizabeth. However, Elizabeth rejectshim, which leaves him completely shocked but a while later, he finds a womannamed Charlotte who has a similarly practical attitude toward marriage and alsobelieves that love or respect is not necessary for it. In addition, Charlotteis twenty-seven years old and still unmarried so she is determined to use anyopportunity to get a husband, due to the fact that she could be in danger ofsocial humiliation. For a woman who is over 30 years of age,it would be extremely shameful to be unmarried, nevertheless being in arelationship without marriage is a way greater dishonor to the whole family andbe expelled from the social life, marked with the shame of living in sin. Theissue of marriage not as an act of love but as a social obligation is shown in Pride and Prejudice by Lydia’s act, byrunning away with Mr. Wickham.
The whole family is agitated and intimidated bythe dishonor she could bring. Mr. Bennet and Mr. Gardiner, and at all costs tryto get out of this situation, keeping the good name of the family by forcingWickham to marry Lydia. In correlation to ADoll’s House, love andmarriage, is explored on whether there can be love in marriage. At thebeginning of the play, Nora and Torvald appear to be very happily married, evento themselves. Nora talks joyfully about her love for Torvald, and Torvaldrefers to Nora using affectionate pet names.
Their loving marriage standscompletely opposite from the lives of other characters: the marriages of Krogstad and Mrs. Linde, which were based on necessity rather than love,and were unhappy. Yet although Nora and Torvald’s marriage is based on love, asopposed to necessity, as was the case with Krogstad and Mrs. Linde, it isnonetheless still governed by the strict rules of society that dictates theroles of husband and wife. It is clear that Nora is expected to obey Torvaldand allow him to make decisions for her; meanwhile, it is important forTorvald’s career that he is able to show off a successful marriage to a dutifulwoman. In other words, shows that women only add upon the material fortune ofwhich the man has already acquired, thus, completing his achievements.
The mostsignificant inequality between genders in the 19th century, is to dowith education, which influences gender roles. Middle class boys usually go to grammarschool where they gain basic knowledge and get comprehensive education. On theother hand, girls would go to private schools where they are taught music andsewing, which why they are regarded as less intelligent, as they usually do notpossess any knowledge from crucial fields such as science and grammar. Suchskills such as sewing and music are taught to the girls which will guaranteethem on gaining a husband in the future. To be considered attractive by men, inPride and Prejudice, “A woman must have a thoroughknowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing, and the modern languages, todeserve the word; and besides all this, she must possess a certain something inher air and manner of walking, the tone of her voice, her address andexpressions, or the word will be but half-deserved.” Thisshows how women are deprived of many life opportunities and forced to live inthe framework created in distant times which only exclusively, benefits a man. 3.
0 THE TYPICAL MENTALITY OF BOTHGENDERSFromthe context of both workings; Pride andPrejudice and A Doll’s House,both plots exhibits the mentality of people between the mid to high classfamilies in the 19th Century. In both A Doll’s House and Pride andprejudice, one can recognize two types of characters in relation to thementality of both genders. The first kind are simple minded and traditional menand women who tend to think stereotypically such as Mrs. Bennet or Mr. Collinsin Pride and prejudice and Krogstador Mrs.Linde in A Doll’s House. Thesecond kind are represented by people who think in an original, rebellious andindependent way such as Mr. Bennet or Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice and by Nora and Lydia in A Doll’s House.
Mrs.Bennetis a simple, uneducated woman whose entire life is limited to domesticity andraising children. She is the type of a woman who uncritically acceptsready-life patterns of attitudes and values, adheres to universally acceptableprinciples and tradition. She is not self-aware and is not used to havingdeeper reflections, which are not even her own views like Nora’s in A Doll’s House. She cares about herchildren but nonetheless she is simply obsessed with getting her daughtersmarried beneficially for the family regardless of their feelings or futurelife. Her main entertainment is to gossip with her neighbors. This characterrepresents a general figure of a middle-class woman in the 19thCentury, who remains within the private domestic sphere of the home concerningherself with trifling matters while a man occupies the public sphere ofpolitics, business, and law.
Pride and Prejudice frequently deals with women’sjealousy. For example, one of Mr. Bingley’s sister who feels affection for Mr.Darcy envies his attention towards Elizabeth so she tries to humiliate her.
Asimilar occurrence is seen from A Doll’sHouse, where Dr.Rank confesses his long time love for Nora and somewhat,portrays envy towards Torvald, however feels humiliated and embarrassed whenNora does not have the same views as he does however still informs him that shereally enjoys his company. In my perspective, it seems like she’s continuouslyleading him on.
This reveals that women fancy admiration and in general, arethought to be presuming, vain and constantly asking for attention. What is also emphasized in the both the novel andplay is that women are usually volatile and driven by emotions, especially whenit comes to love. Asregarding to the mentality of men, men’s decisions, on the other hand areusually based on generalized reasoning due to society but at times well thoughtout and conclusive decisions. Austen however does not devote more attention onthis as much as Ibsen does, but in similarities, men are seen to be lesstalkative, rather reserved, detached. It would be inappropriate for men to talkabout their feelings, the most common topics of conversations are business andpolitics, as well as books. As it was mentioned before men usually makerational, well-thought out decisions, so most of them chose a future wife and gotmarried only for practical reasons. This is seen from Mr.
Bennet, “he hadmarried a woman whose weak understanding and illiberal mind, had very early intheir marriage put an end to all real affection for her.” So he soon losesrespect for Mrs. Bennet and starts to regret his decision. Mr. Bennetnonetheless is an amiable character in spite of his satirical, cynical sense ofhumour. He is an intelligent, reasonable man who always thinks thoughtfully beforespeaking and acting.
JaneAusten also expresses an eccentric view of gender role in the 19thCentury English families, which have particular structure; The father is thehead of the family and makes all the paramount decisions, whereas the wife andchildren have to respect him and adhere to his rules. Pride and Prejudicehowever, portrays quite a different situation. Seemingly the person managingthe Bennet family is Mr. Bennet, his wife consults her decisions with him andasks his permission in significant matters such as their daughters’ trips.
Women didn’t have a voice in society and had to pass word through theirhusbands. However, it is Mrs. Bennet who makes a decision and persuades herhusband or rather, manipulates him so as to everything going as she wished itto. Similarly, in A Doll’s House, Noraconvinces her husband to employ Mrs.Linde at the bank. Later on, Nora feelsthat she has influence over her husband based on his banking business, whenKrogstad demands why he got fired and asks Nora to make her husband reconsider.This would be one of the signs of independence of the women in both workingsand also depicted in the 19th Century, as women became much moreintelligent, on smartly influencing their husband’s decisions through theirpride on getting what they wanted.
4.0 GENDER PERCEPTION OF THE WORLD The target of this chapter will mostly focuson the second type of characters represented by people who think in anoriginal, rebellious and independent way 5.0 CONCLUSIONSInboth works it outlines a world where wealth, respectability and social classwere more important than personal happiness. The women tended to get married torich men or powerful men to be able to give a better life t their remainingsiblings that is, financial security through marriage or increase their socialstatus. The women were expected to be submissive to their husbands who wereexpected to dominate them.
The role ofthe woman was to bear and raise children having little to no independence thanthe modern woman of the 21st Century. Because of the role they played in thesociety, they were forced by circumstances to get married in order to advancethemselves socially or even just to survive.Duringthe 19th Century, a stereotype behaviour existed where by the fatherwas the head of the family, his wife and children respected and obeyed himwithout rebelling. The husband automatically took custody of everything thatwas previously owned by the wife. Women had no independent means ofsubsistence. They were seen as passive and only served to add upon the materialfortune that a man already acquired.
A husband had an independent incomesufficient enough to provide for a potential family with a descent house andliving standards. In those times it was entirely the men’s duty to take care ofhousehold finances, with which the wife would have no information of and howthe financial standings of the family were without the consent of the husband.It was only when something drastic took place that a woman would become awareof their financial status.Asseen with Mrs. Linde, in A Doll’s House,it was natural as a next step to fully satisfy a man’s achievement and success,to get himself a decent wife. This rule also involved and applied to women, whowere supposed to get married as soon as possible after reaching the age of maturity.
Being married was not so much a matter of choice or inner need, but more of acompulsion and social obligation so happiness or love was of little importance.Those women who remained single attracted social disapproval and pity. For awoman who is over 30 years of age, it was considered extremely shameful to beunmarried, nevertheless being in a relationship without marriage was a greaterdishonor to the whole family and expelled from the social life, marked with theshame of living in sin.Socialpressure of creating families resulted in a huge number of young gentlemendeciding to marry well-behaved women of a similar social rank even when theydid not have any feelings for them.Themost significant inequality between gender in the 19th Century, isto do with education, which influences gender roles. Middle class boys usuallywent to grammar school where they gain basic knowledge and get comprehensiveeducation. On the other hand, girls would go to private schools where they weretaught music and sewing, they were regarded as less intelligent, as theyusually did not possess any knowledge from crucial fields such as science andgrammer.
This deprived women of many life opportunities and forced them to livein the framework created which only exclusively benefited the men.Bothbooks exhibit the mentality of people between the mid to high class families inthe 19th Century. There are two types of characters that can bedistinctly recognized. The first kind are simple minded and traditional men andwomen who tend to think stereotypically and the second kind are represented bypeople who think in an original rebellious and independent manner. Thestereotype women fancy admiration and in general, are thought to be presuming,vain and constantly asking for attention, they are volatile and driven byemotions, especially when it come to love. The men are the decision makers andare usually seen to be less talkertive, rather reserved and detached.
It wasconsidered inappropriate for men to talk about their feelings, the most commontopics of conversations are business and politics, as well as books.