Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen and Middlemarch by George Eliot exhibits life of English society in the Victorian era. The social class system controls every aspect of life. To maintain social standing, women must marry into respectable, wealthy families. In Middlemarch and Pride and Prejudice, however, two women manage to break away from the conventional ideals of love and marriage.
The role of women appears subordinate to the males in Pride and Prejudice and Middlemarch. Society considers women of respectable heritage delicate entities. The ideal woman should act reserved and friendly at all times, never showing disgust or emotion. Upon Elizabeth's show of emotion Darcy states, "Good God! what is the matter?.you are not well enough; you cannot go yourself.” (Austen 233). The slightest complement from a male could cause a fair lady to blush. "Lydgate, looking at her with an involuntary emphasis of admiration.made Rosamond blush with pleasure.” (Eliot 160). The only way to secure a comfortable life is to marry a wealthy man. The news of a rich bachelor in town elates Mrs. Bennet, the mother of five girls. "A single man of large fortune; four or five thousand a year. What a fine thing for our girls!” (Austen 1). .
Most characters of Pride and Prejudice and Middlemarch select spouses based on superficial aspects, but Elizabeth and Dorothea defy the conventional ideals. Often parents will decide who their offspring will marry. Lady Catherine de Bourgh and Charles Darcy's mother engaged their children at birth. "Their engagement.was the favorite wish of his mother as well as hers.” (Austen 302). A well-matched marriage elevates social status in the eyes of the public. Elizabeth's betrothal to Darcy dramatically increases her reputation. Elizabeth's younger sister, Kitty, bases her likes and dislikes on appearance. Kitty runs away with officer Wickham because she thinks he is handsome and the notion of marriage excites her.