Pride and Prejudice Crash Course - Part 1: Historical and Social Context

July 24, 2020
SAC Tutoring

Pride and Prejudice was set in the 1700s to the 1800s. In this blog post, we will explore what the social norms were during this time as well as what was happening in the world in this era.

It is important to understand these concepts as it impacts how the characters act and some of the events that transpired in this novel.

Social Context

  • For women in this time, like the Bennet sisters, there were very limited opportunities, as women in this time were restricted to minimal education and housework
  • These ‘womanly’ duties will continue on through marriage, in which their fathers will bargain with other families with the highest bidding price for marriage.
  • Marriage was a big deal in the 1700s-1800s, and women were expected to marry in their early teens, or they would be viewed as outcasts.
  • We see this idea explored through Charlotte, Elizabeth’s best friend, who enters into a loveless engagement with Mr Collins, just because he is rich.
  • Communication in this century was also restricted, especially between men and women, as men would have to ask a woman’s parent’s permission to marry their daughter, and would have to ‘court’ the woman and spend time with the family prior to the actual engagement.
  • The characters’ way of speaking would be much more dense than the way we speak now, as the characters are of an upper-middle-class to upper-class upbringing, and are therefore educated to speak eloquent and rounded English.

Historical Context

  • Pride and Prejudice is set in English approximately around the late 1700s to early 1800s.
  • The specific dates are not specified in the text, but we can assume that it takes place around the time of the Napoleonic Wars (1797-1815).
  • The Napoleonic Wars were going on at the time Austen wrote the novel, so we can see many war references, such as characters who are soldiers, like George Wickham.
  • Because of these references, we can assume that Austen has set the novel at the present of her time.
  • The plot references a few real locations in England, such as: Brighton, London, and the continues of Hertfordshire, Derbyshire, and Kent.

For those who prefer watching the film or listening to audio books, here is a link to a read through of the play by a celebrity cast [TIMESTAMP 12:30]: "Pride and Prejudice" Feat. Jacob Elordi, Melissa Barrera, Madelaine Petsch Dir. by Brando Crawford

Stay tuned for Part 2 where we discuss the characters in Pride and prejudice!

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