Jane Austen and the Model Woman: Elizabeth and Emma's Feminism

Marriage is a central theme in all of Jane Austen's novels. In her novels, it is presumed that her heroine will live happily ever after with the right man. However, her work is much more than a stereotypical love story. Through the marriage of her heroines, Austen presents what would eventually be considered feminist traits. She does this by presenting readers with strong and independent women who display choice in their marriages. The heroines in her novel exhibit admirable traits that allow them to enter into a happy and equal union. Both Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice and Emma Woodhouse from Emma embody characteristics that are admired by other women. They both represent Austen's model woman, which Austen perhaps used as a tool to show other contemporary women that even though they have little choice in life, one area that they do have some say is in their marriage partner. Through the marriage of her heroines, Austen is showing readers that they can choose a husband who respects and admires them, one that considers them as equals. Through heroines like Elizabeth and Emma, Austen is creating a model woman for other contemporary women to look up to. These woman posses both a rational mind and the ability to challenge their society's expectations, it is these independent, clever, and strong-willed traits, that show readers that women can choose a husband who treats them as equals in a society that didn't.