Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Women as "rational creatures" in Austen and Wollstonecraft

When Elizabeth Bennet rejects Mr. Collins's proposal in Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice", she urges him to believe what she says: "Do not consider me now as an elegant female [...], but as a rational creature [...]." That same phrase also appears in "Persuasion" when Mrs. Croft chides her brother, Captain Wentworth: "[...] I hate to hear you talking so like a fine gentleman, and as if women were all fine ladies, instead of rational creatures." This marks Austen's women – and Austen herself – as readers of Mary Wollstonecraft's "Vindication of the Rights of Women", who calls for society to educate women and allow them to be "rational creatures, and free citizens". (Andrew Shields, #111words, 15 July)

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