Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

In this novel, through the different treatment of Bennett’s five daughters to life events, Austen shows the different attitudes of the girls from bourgeois families in the villages to marriage and love, thus reflecting the author’s own views on marriage. It is wrong to marry for property, money and status. It would also be foolish to marry without considering these factors. Therefore, she was against marrying for money and against treating marriage as a joke. She emphasized the importance of the ideal marriage, and made the feelings of both the man and the woman the cornerstone of the ideal marriage. Elizabeth, the heroine of the book, was born in a family of small landowners and loved by Darcy, the son of a rich man. Darcy, regardless of family and wealth gap, proposed to her, but was rejected. Elizabeth hated his arrogance.

Darcy’s hubris is actually a reflection of status differences. As long as such pride existed, he and Elizabeth could not have the same thoughts and feelings, and the ideal marriage. Later, Elizabeth observed Darcy’s behavior and a series of actions with her own eyes, especially saw that he had changed his proud and conceited manner in the past, eliminated his misunderstanding and prejudice, and thus concluded a happy marriage with him. Elizabeth’s different attitudes towards Darcy’s two marriage proposals actually reflect women’s pursuit of personality independence and equal rights. This is the progressive significance of the figure of Elizabeth.

From the novel, Elizabeth is intelligent, resourceful, courageous, visionary, has a strong self-esteem, and is good at thinking. Just because of this quality, she has an independent mind on the issue of love, making her and Darcy constitute a happy family. In Pride and Prejudice, Austen also writes about the marriages of Elizabeth’s sisters and girlfriends, which serve as a foil to the heroine’s ideal marriage. For example, although Charlotte and Collins live a comfortable material life after marriage, but there is no love between them. This kind of marriage is actually a social tragedy under the cloak of finery.

A Death in the Family by James Agee

Image result for a death in the family james agee

Personally, I would say that this is definitely a book that I didn’t hate about the reading list I have to go through for school. It captures the authentic emotions of the main character, Rufus, who had to confront his father’s death. But as a very little kid, Rufus doesn’t really know much about what it means to die and how feels like to have someone intimate to you die. Therefore, the author does an amazing job at portraying the internal thinking processes of the characters.

Moreover, what I really loved about this book was the focus of religion. Unlike some of the other novels, delineating Christianity and God as deities that cannot be offended or questioned, this novel, on the other hand, exemplifies characters who don’t believe, or even curse the reality of religion and hold a suspicious attitude toward the existence of Jesus.

Lastly, the detailed expression of the characters’, especially Mary, Rufus’ mother. She was generally seen as a feminine character who takes very good care of Jay, her husband, and the two children. However, when the breadwinner of the family dies, she was forced to confront the harshness of reality and be both the father and the mother to her children. Similarly, this reflects an aspect of our modern society where women can be psychologically strong and support their children even without the help of men in cases of divorce, death, and others where the male influence is missing.

-Coreen C. 

A Death in the Family by James Agee is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

The Awakening by Kate Chopin

Written in 1898, The Awakening follows the main protagonist Edna Pontellier. Edna begins to feel somewhat out of place and out of touch with the morals and customs typically followed by the other women in her community. Her view on femininity and her roles as a mother begin to deviate from the norm, making her feel even more out of place from the other women. The novel follows her journey into discovering herself and her attempts to break free from society as she slowly becomes “Awakened”.

Under the surface of this novel, however, is a discussion of women’s roles in society during the late 1800s / early 1900s. Kate Chopin uses various characters– Edna herself included– throughout this novel to help reflect some of the social norms and attitudes to women’s place in society during the time she wrote the novel. Oftentimes hailed as one of the earliest works and novels on feminism, this book clearly highlighted to anyone that read it that women were being subjugated and that there were plenty of women who were unhappy with the traditional motherly role expected of them. Because of Chopin’s controversial portrayal of this fact, the novel would often be censored. Over time, however, this novel would grow to become recognized for its brilliance and its importance in discussing femininity and women’s roles in society.

-Kobe L.

The Awakening by Kate Chopin is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library