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Symposium: Marriage in Pride and Prejudice
Marriage in Pride and Prejudice

During the early 19th century, most of Europe experienced a dramatic transformation. Accompanying the greater emphasis on reason during the Enlightenment, was a zealous exploration of human nature. Several Europeans, such as Rousseau, Montesquieu, and Voltaire, inspired by these novel ideas, questioned tradition and began to suggest restructuring society in accordance with these principles. They advocated reform of the previously conservative and unchanging institutions of government, religion and society to mirror individual values such as equality. Although Austen failed to embrace the revolutionary ideas espoused by her radical contemporaries, she nonetheless saw value in reevaluating the antiquated premises that English society was based upon. Through her portrayal of marriage in Pride and Prejudice, the author takes an evolutionary perspective which synthesizes individual and community values. Austen breaks from the conservative tradition of maintaining a hierarchy founded on wealth and social status in order to advocate a new structure based on individual merit.

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