Saturday, 24 March 2012

PRIDE, PREJUDICE & THE PROVERBS 31 WOMAN - GUEST POST BY SARA DAWKINS



A wife of noble character who can find? 
   She is worth far more than rubies. 
11 Her husband has full confidence in her 
   and lacks nothing of value. 
12 She brings him good, not harm, 
   all the days of her life. 
13 She selects wool and flax 
   and works with eager hands. 
14 She is like the merchant ships, 
   bringing her food from afar. 
15 She gets up while it is still night; 
   she provides food for her family 
   and portions for her female servants. 
16 She considers a field and buys it; 
   out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. 
17 She sets about her work vigorously; 
   her arms are strong for her tasks. 
18 She sees that her trading is profitable, 
   and her lamp does not go out at night. 
19 In her hand she holds the distaff 
   and grasps the spindle with her fingers. 
20 She opens her arms to the poor 
   and extends her hands to the needy. 
21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household; 
   for all of them are clothed in scarlet. 
22 She makes coverings for her bed; 
   she is clothed in fine linen and purple. 
23 Her husband is respected at the city gate, 
   where he takes his seat among the elders of the land. 
24 She makes linen garments and sells them, 
   and supplies the merchants with sashes. 
25 She is clothed with strength and dignity; 
   she can laugh at the days to come. 
26 She speaks with wisdom, 
   and faithful instruction is on her tongue. 
27 She watches over the affairs of her household 
   and does not eat the bread of idleness. 
28 Her children arise and call her blessed; 
   her husband also, and he praises her: 
29 “Many women do noble things, 
   but you surpass them all.” 
30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; 
   but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. 
31 Honor her for all that her hands have done, 
   and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

Proverbs 31 is the Bible’s most famous work on the ‘Virtuous Wife’. The list of attributes it goes on to describe can be found in Jane Austen’s most famous work, Pride and Prejudice, but in many different ways. No one character had all the traits of the virtuous woman, though Elizabeth came close.
Jane Austen’s famous work, Pride and Prejudice, was published in 1813. During that time, like in Proverbs 31, marriage was the only honorable provision for women in the class of society to which the Bennet and the Lucas families belonged. The number and kind of jobs available, especially for women, were far more limited at that time than they are today. The only respectable paid work open to a gentlewoman, the class to which the Bennet family belonged, was the job of lady companion or being a governess. Imagine being Mrs. Jenkinson- Miss De Bough’s companion- and always having to be pleasant to that insipid little hypochondriac, always under the careful watch of Lady Catherine.

It might not be as unpleasant an idea to be governess to the little Gardiner children or to the large family that you may be sure Jane and Mr. Bingley would produce, but even in such kindly households as these, a governess lived in a room close to the schoolroom, was on duty 24 hours a day, had, perhaps, a week’s holiday per year and earned between 10 and 20 pounds per year. Of course she had room and board, but you wouldn’t get rich on that salary, nor could you do much to plan for your retirement. If you did not have friendly and thoughtful employers, your life could be very unhappy indeed. You would be considered one of the ‘maidens’ from Proverbs 31, and completely under the care of your mistress. The only other decent occupation open to girls such as the Bennets was marriage, and even here it was pretty unpredictable.
Unlike the Proverbs 31 woman, their clothing was mended and re-trimmed frequently, and they had no occupation. They were merely a decoration for their husbands, and did not do any actual work. Mrs. Bennet’s frequent ‘weakness’ kept her from doing any labor, a stark contrast to the hardworking Proverbs 31 wife who was up before the sun and kept the household going. Also, the disrespectful and unruly younger children of the Bennets were utterly unlike the Proverbs 31 children who praised their mother and respected their parents. As far as stature and pride goes, the woman closest to Proverbs 31 would be Lady Catherine. She was respected and wealthy, and she dressed well and kept her house in order. However, she was not respected because of her hard work, but rather her money and unpleasant disposition.
Elizabeth is the only character to whom most of the attributes of Proverbs 31 would come into play. She was no stranger to hard work, serving others, and looked to be a great future help to her husband, despite their awkward beginnings.

Sara Dawkins 

Author Bio
Sara is an active nanny as well as an active freelance writer. She is a frequent contributor of nanny agency.  You can reach her at saradawkins61ATgmail.com.

2 comments:

Carmine Red said...

Elizabeth Bennet is definitely a candidate here, but what about Fanny Price? I tend to think no one gives Austen's "Christian" heroine the recognition she deserves.

Faith Hope Cherrytea said...

i'm also thinking of Charlotte Lucas and her role as Mr Collins wife... she ably takes on the managing of her own household + gardening and works well to create a home of hospitality... def another prov 31 example.