Social Guidelines in Pride and Prejudice

 

In the 1800s, in England, manners were seen as a way of reinforcing stability in society and maintaining social class rank. If you were to show bad manners in public, it would give you a bad reputation.

Social Guidelines :

  • Introducing and acknowledging people: People of a lower social hierarchy were to wait to be introduced to those of a higher social hierarchy — unless the higher-class person were to introduce himself to the lower-class person first. However, if not properly introduced, people were to remain silent.
      • The Lady: Young women were expected to effectively display their availability and attractions to appropriate members of the opposite sex without deception or exploitation. It was not appropriate for a girl to be “out” (being socially active out of the house) before the age of 16.
      • The Gentleman: A gentleman was always introduced to a lady first. A gentleman needed to establish that he was paying attention to the appropriate daughter of a family, which would be the eldest. A gentleman was to help the ladies out of the carriage due to the women’s long flowing dresses.  If there were no available chairs left in the room, a gentleman was to give up hisseat to any woman left standing. 
  • Speaking appropriately: When talking in large groups, you were not to make jokes about young couples’ love interests, a woman’s pregnancy, or a child being born out of wedlock. “Also, rude or suggestive comments were not tolerated, as was boasting, interrupting, and pushy or loud conversation” (Ray).
  • Courting: “Prior to their engagement, couples met at dances and dinner parties, where friends and family were also present and observing (chaperoning) them. Society forbid unengaged couples to take long walks alone; ride in carriages (open or closed) alone; go for a horseback ride alone; or even write letters to each other” (Ray). A nobleman’s daughter would not be allowed to marry a merchant or any man of a lower hierarchy. A woman was not allowed to marry without her parent’s permission before the age of 21.
  • Dancing the night away: “Dancing was not close-body dancing: Dancers held hands with their arms extended” (Ray). A couple could only dance together twice during a social event, unless they were engaged or very serious about one other. It was considered improper otherwise. Each dance consisted of two 15-minute dances. However, a couple would have a longer amount of time together.
  • The piano: A place where a male and female are able to be alone together in public. If a female were to be playing the piano, someone would usually come up to turn the pages; a friend or a male. If a male were to come turn the pages of the music for the female it usually showed interest because he would also socialize and talk to her, it was a form of flirting in the 1800s.

 

Works Cited:

Ray, Joan Elizabeth Klingel. “Social Etiquette in Jane Austen’s World.” – For Dummies. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Feb. 2016.

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