1.0 are “social status”, “Mentality”, “Perception”, “Gender” and “life

1.0 INTRODUCTION

Before
embarking on answering the question “To
what extent does the social status and mentality of both genders, influence
their perception and decisions in a male dominated society in Jane Austen’s
‘Pride and Prejudice’ and ‘A Doll’s House,’ by Henrik Ibsen?”, it is
important to understand the meaning of certain key words used. These words are “social
status”, “Mentality”, “Perception”, “Gender” and “life decision”.

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Social
status

When
we talk of social status we are referring to a person’s standing or importance
in relation to other people within a society.

Mentality

This
refers to the characteristic way of thinking of a person or a group. It is the
capacity for intelligent thought.

Perception

Perception
refers to the ability to see, hear, or become aware of something through the
senses. It is also the way in which something is regarded, understood, or
interpreted; intuitive understanding and insight.

Gender

This
term has been used by many to mean various thing. It can mean either of the two
sexes (male or female) especially when considered with reference to social and
cultural differences rather than biological ones; it is also used more broadly
to denote a range of identities that do not correspond to established ideas of
male and female. It can also be used by members of a particular gender to be
considered as a group; the fact or condition of belonging to or identifying
with a particular group.

Life decision

This can be said to be a conclusion or resolution reached after consideration
of existence of an individual human being. Basing it on everyday life, it is
reaching a resolution in one’s life, for example, choosing to live or what kind
of job one will pursue in his or her future or whether deciding to get married
or not.

In
my perspective the gender ideologies and separate spheres in the 19th
Century, in Britain, can be perceived in two ways; An overarching patriarchal
model which reserves power and privilege for men or as a consistent sequence of
female discrimination, or rather gradual female challenge to their exclusion.
Eventually paradigm shifts come about and influence the ideas respecting gender
relations at levels of mentality, which are influenced by social class, as seen
between the 19th to present 21st Century, away from the traditional
idea of ‘natural’ male supremacy towards a ‘modern’ notion of gender equity,
which was vigorously contested. In comparison, both Jane Austen’s and Henrik
Ibsen’s literary works are known not only for being particularly engaging, but
to also uniquely capture, not only the characteristic of British society in the
19th Century but also that of different numerous societies such as from
the Islamic society towards the present 21st Century. Both authors
unveil an entertaining and enthusiastic but yet firm view on the sociological,
psychological and historical issues of both genders captured into interesting
plots, full of ironical events, absurdities and versatile characters such as
that from Jane Austen’s novel, Pride and
prejudice and Henrik Ibsen’s play, A
Doll’s House, which perfectly serves as a model of social distinctions in
the 19th Century. That is why, I am surely convinced that the works
of Jane Austen and Henrik Ibsen, would perfectly illustrate the topic that I
will explore in my extended essay, which is the woman’s world vs the men’s world. My work will be focused on
answering the research question: To what
extent does the social status and mentality of both genders influence their
perception and decisions in a male dominated society in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and A Doll’s House, by Henrik Ibsen?

I’m
confident that my chosen topic is worth pursuing, as my work will not only
entail the social rank and role of both genders, especially women, in the 19th
Century but also outline and contain universal knowledge on mental differences
between genders but also interpersonal relationships. My essay will also be
complimented by insights into the 19th Century life of an English
family, portray both in the play and novel, as both works are outlined in the
19th 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, on
the case of Mrs.Linde, where it was apparent that she once had romantic
relations 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 her
brothers and mother but regrets having ignored her heart, which told her to
stay with Krogstad. The specificity of both gender’s worlds in those times of
men’s powerful dominance and women’s limitations and efforts made for their family’s
sake, is also particularly the case in Pride
and Prejudice where the Bennetts, a family of five daughters, whose
father’s estate is entailed to a distant relative, for upon Mr. Bennett’s death
they will lose the home, land and income. The arrival of two wealthy and
highly-placed gentlemen give the Bennet daughters an opportunity not only to increase
their social status but also financial security through marriage.

Before
embarking onto the main subject of my essay, I shall add some context about the
stereotypical view on the men and women’s role in the British society in the 19th
Century. In the 19th Century there was only one acceptable and
unjustifiable family model, where the father was the head of the family, his
wife and children respected and obeyed him without rebelling. The husband owned
everything that belonged to his wife previously and the rights to her
personally and women had no independent means of subsistence. This, in my
perspective shows that women were seen as passive and only served to add upon
the material fortune that a man already acquired. A woman who remained single
would attract social disapproval and pity. What is more, looking after the
household and the family was an only way of life, because very few professions not
available for women in the Century. In my essay I will try to prove that the
social status and mentality of both genders influence their lives, determine
their perception which both limits their potential life decisions as well leads
to evolution towards independency. In my opinion the best way I would achieve
this is through a comparative analysis in which I will focus on similarities
and differences between both genders in fields such as their role in the
society, their typical mentality in the 19th Century, their influenced
perception and reasons for their life decisions.

2.0 GENDER ROLE IN THE SOCIETY

Jane
Austen wrote Pride and Prejudice in
late 18th Century, much earlier than any feministic movements were
created and women started demanding their rights, privileges and equality
towards men but created controversy towards the 19th Century, which
was the Victorian Era. Essentially, A
Doll’s House, was also written in this Era, as well as also created
controversy, as it questioned society’s basic rules and norms through its
characters, namely Nora Helmer and Christina Linden, before and after marriage,
where Women were expected to be submissive to their husbands; husbands were
expected to dominate. Women bore and raised the children. Having little to no independence
than the modern women of the 21st Century enjoy, they often had to
resort to marriage in order to advance themselves socially or even just to
survive. The lead off lines of the novel, Pride
and Prejudice, “It is a truth
universally 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 the
Victorian society was an important key aspect to the book and that the author
anchors the significant view of the generalized society. It also shows that the
plot is presented from the perspective of people with ordinary mentality, who
are the members of rural middle class at that time, such as Mrs. Bennet. This
quotation may also serve as an example of a proper male figure, in other words
a husband in the 19th Century according to which, should have an
independent income sufficient enough to provide for a potential family with
descent household and living standards. In those times it is entirely the men’s
duty to take care of household finances, with which the wife would have no
information of and how the financial standings of the family were without the
consent of the husband many times women didn’t even know what state their
financial affairs were in. It was often times only when something drastic
happened that a woman would become aware of these things. Such is particularly
the 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 the
financial position they were in when Torvald fell ill. When Torvald gets a new
job position as a bank manager, Nora is keen to spend more money, believing
that her husband’s new job will mean that the family no longer has to be
careful with money. Even if she was aware of the new position, she did not know
how much the salary payment of the husband was.

Naturally,
the next step to fully satisfy a man’s achievements and success, is to get
himself a decent wife. This rule also involves and applies to women, who are
supposed 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 compulsion
and social obligation so happiness or love are in fact of little importance, as
seen with Mrs.Linde, in A Doll’s House,
where she sacrifices her love for Krogstad and instead, goes ahead to marry
Mr.Linde due to his higher financial standing. This also perfectly manifests
the quotation from Pride and Prejudice, “Happiness
in marriage is entirely a matter of chance. If the dispositions of the parties
are ever so well known to each other or ever so similar beforehand, it does not
advance their felicity in the least. They always continue to grow sufficiently
unlike afterwards to have their share of vexation; and it is better to know as
little as possible of the defects of the person with whom you are to pass your
life.”

In
Pride and Prejudice women use marriage
to get what they want by raising their status in the society, but they also
often have to sacrifice their feelings and desires. Men’s situation in this
aspect is no better. Social pressure of creating families results in a huge
number of young gentlemen deciding to marry any well-behaved women of a similar
social rank even not having feelings for her. Such a man is represented in the
novel by Mr. Collins in Pride and
Prejudice, who comes to Loughbourn with the intention of getting married to
one of the Bennet daughters. The reason for this decision is clearly natural,
since he is supposed to inherit all Bennet’s possessions. Considering his quite
high social status, influential connections, descent profession as a clergyman,
his own property and sufficient income he is thought to be a convenient future
husband for one of Bennet’s daughter, so he is completely sure about receiving
a positive response when he proposes to Elizabeth. However, Elizabeth rejects
him, which leaves him completely shocked but a while later, he finds a woman
named Charlotte who has a similarly practical attitude toward marriage and also
believes that love or respect is not necessary for it. In addition, Charlotte
is twenty-seven years old and still unmarried so she is determined to use any
opportunity to get a husband, due to the fact that she could be in danger of
social humiliation. For a woman who is over 30 years of age,
it would be extremely shameful to be unmarried, nevertheless being in a
relationship without marriage is a way greater dishonor to the whole family and
be expelled from the social life, marked with the shame of living in sin. The
issue of marriage not as an act of love but as a social obligation is shown in Pride and Prejudice by Lydia’s act, by
running away with Mr. Wickham. The whole family is agitated and intimidated by
the dishonor she could bring. Mr. Bennet and Mr. Gardiner, and at all costs try
to get out of this situation, keeping the good name of the family by forcing
Wickham to marry Lydia. In correlation to A
Doll’s House, love and
marriage, is explored on whether there can be love in marriage. At the
beginning of the play, Nora and Torvald appear to be very happily married, even
to themselves. Nora talks joyfully about her love for Torvald, and Torvald
refers to Nora using affectionate pet names. Their loving marriage stands
completely 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, as
opposed to necessity, as was the case with Krogstad and Mrs. Linde, it is
nonetheless still governed by the strict rules of society that dictates the
roles of husband and wife. It is clear that Nora is expected to obey Torvald
and allow him to make decisions for her; meanwhile, it is important for
Torvald’s career that he is able to show off a successful marriage to a dutiful
woman. In other words, shows that women only add upon the material fortune of
which the man has already acquired, thus, completing his achievements. The most
significant inequality between genders in the 19th century, is to do
with education, which influences gender roles. Middle class boys usually go to grammar
school where they gain basic knowledge and get comprehensive education. On the
other hand, girls would go to private schools where they are taught music and
sewing, which why they are regarded as less intelligent, as they usually do not
possess any knowledge from crucial fields such as science and grammar. Such
skills such as sewing and music are taught to the girls which will guarantee
them on gaining a husband in the future. To be considered attractive by men, in
Pride and Prejudice, “A woman must have a thorough
knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing, and the modern languages, to
deserve the word; and besides all this, she must possess a certain something in
her air and manner of walking, the tone of her voice, her address and
expressions, or the word will be but half-deserved.” This
shows how women are deprived of many life opportunities and forced to live in
the framework created in distant times which only exclusively, benefits a man.

 

3.0 THE TYPICAL MENTALITY OF BOTH
GENDERS

From
the context of both workings; Pride and
Prejudice and A Doll’s House,
both plots exhibits the mentality of people between the mid to high class
families in the 19th Century. In both A Doll’s House and Pride and
prejudice, one can recognize two types of characters in relation to the
mentality of both genders. The first kind are simple minded and traditional men
and women who tend to think stereotypically such as Mrs. Bennet or Mr. Collins
in Pride and prejudice and Krogstad
or Mrs.Linde in A Doll’s House. The
second kind are represented by people who think in an original, rebellious and
independent way such as Mr. Bennet or Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice and by Nora and Lydia in A Doll’s House.

Mrs.Bennet
is a simple, uneducated woman whose entire life is limited to domesticity and
raising children. She is the type of a woman who uncritically accepts
ready-life patterns of attitudes and values, adheres to universally acceptable
principles and tradition. She is not self-aware and is not used to having
deeper reflections, which are not even her own views like Nora’s in A Doll’s House. She cares about her
children but nonetheless she is simply obsessed with getting her daughters
married beneficially for the family regardless of their feelings or future
life. Her main entertainment is to gossip with her neighbors. This character
represents a general figure of a middle-class woman in the 19th
Century, who remains within the private domestic sphere of the home concerning
herself with trifling matters while a man occupies the public sphere of
politics, business, and law. Pride and Prejudice frequently deals with women’s
jealousy. 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. A
similar occurrence is seen from A Doll’s
House, where Dr.Rank confesses his long time love for Nora and somewhat,
portrays envy towards Torvald, however feels humiliated and embarrassed when
Nora does not have the same views as he does however still informs him that she
really enjoys his company. In my perspective, it seems like she’s continuously
leading him on. This reveals that women fancy admiration and in general, are
thought to be presuming, vain and constantly asking for attention.  What is also emphasized in the both the novel and
play is that women are usually volatile and driven by emotions, especially when
it comes to love.

As
regarding to the mentality of men, men’s decisions, on the other hand are
usually based on generalized reasoning due to society but at times well thought
out and conclusive decisions. Austen however does not devote more attention on
this as much as Ibsen does, but in similarities, men are seen to be less
talkative, rather reserved, detached. It would be inappropriate for men to talk
about their feelings, the most common topics of conversations are business and
politics, as well as books. As it was mentioned before men usually make
rational, well-thought out decisions, so most of them chose a future wife and got
married only for practical reasons. This is seen from Mr. Bennet, “he had
married a woman whose weak understanding and illiberal mind, had very early in
their marriage put an end to all real affection for her.” So he soon loses
respect for Mrs. Bennet and starts to regret his decision. Mr. Bennet
nonetheless is an amiable character in spite of his satirical, cynical sense of
humour. He is an intelligent, reasonable man who always thinks thoughtfully before
speaking and acting.

Jane
Austen also expresses an eccentric view of gender role in the 19th
Century English families, which have particular structure; The father is the
head of the family and makes all the paramount decisions, whereas the wife and
children have to respect him and adhere to his rules. Pride and Prejudice
however, portrays quite a different situation. Seemingly the person managing
the Bennet family is Mr. Bennet, his wife consults her decisions with him and
asks his permission in significant matters such as their daughters’ trips.
Women didn’t have a voice in society and had to pass word through their
husbands. However, it is Mrs. Bennet who makes a decision and persuades her
husband or rather, manipulates him so as to everything going as she wished it
to. Similarly, in A Doll’s House, Nora
convinces her husband to employ Mrs.Linde at the bank. Later on, Nora feels
that she has influence over her husband based on his banking business, when
Krogstad 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 workings
and also depicted in the 19th Century, as women became much more
intelligent, on smartly influencing their husband’s decisions through their
pride on getting what they wanted.

4.0 GENDER PERCEPTION OF THE WORLD

 The target of this chapter will mostly focus
on the second type of characters represented by people who think in an
original, rebellious and independent way

 

 

 

5.0 CONCLUSIONS

In
both works it outlines a world where wealth, respectability and social class
were more important than personal happiness. The women tended to get married to
rich men or powerful men to be able to give a better life t their remaining
siblings that is, financial security through marriage or increase their social
status. The women were expected to be submissive to their husbands who were
expected to dominate them.  The role of
the woman was to bear and raise children having little to no independence than
the modern woman of the 21st Century.  Because of the role they played in the
society, they were forced by circumstances to get married in order to advance
themselves socially or even just to survive.

During
the 19th Century, a stereotype behaviour existed where by the father
was the head of the family, his wife and children respected and obeyed him
without rebelling. The husband automatically took custody of everything that
was previously owned by the wife. Women had no independent means of
subsistence. They were seen as passive and only served to add upon the material
fortune that a man already acquired. A husband had an independent income
sufficient enough to provide for a potential family with a descent house and
living standards. In those times it was entirely the men’s duty to take care of
household finances, with which the wife would have no information of and how
the 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 aware
of their financial status.

As
seen 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, who
were 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 a
compulsion and social obligation so happiness or love was of little importance.
Those women who remained single attracted social disapproval and pity. For a
woman who is over 30 years of age, it was considered extremely shameful to be
unmarried, nevertheless being in a relationship without marriage was a greater
dishonor to the whole family and expelled from the social life, marked with the
shame of living in sin.

Social
pressure of creating families resulted in a huge number of young gentlemen
deciding to marry well-behaved women of a similar social rank even when they
did not have any feelings for them.

The
most significant inequality between gender in the 19th Century, is
to do with education, which influences gender roles. Middle class boys usually
went to grammar school where they gain basic knowledge and get comprehensive
education. On the other hand, girls would go to private schools where they were
taught music and sewing, they were regarded as less intelligent, as they
usually did not possess any knowledge from crucial fields such as science and
grammer. This deprived women of many life opportunities and forced them to live
in the framework created which only exclusively benefited the men.

Both
books exhibit the mentality of people between the mid to high class families in
the 19th Century. There are two types of characters that can be
distinctly recognized. The first kind are simple minded and traditional men and
women who tend to think stereotypically and the second kind are represented by
people who think in an original rebellious and independent manner. The
stereotype women fancy admiration and in general, are thought to be presuming,
vain and constantly asking for attention, they are volatile and driven by
emotions, especially when it come to love. The men are the decision makers and
are usually seen to be less talkertive, rather reserved and detached. It was
considered inappropriate for men to talk about their feelings, the most common
topics of conversations are business and politics, as well as books.