external image Pride+and+Prejudice.jpg

Pride and Prejudice and the Longstanding Oppression of Women


This unit explores the longstanding oppression of women through Jane Austen's novel, Pride and Prejudice. This unit is designed for 11th and 12th grade students in a British Literature class. Other texts and resources will also be utilized to further students' understanding of this oppression in the 19th and 21st Century.

Teaching Unit

The main objective of this unit is to explore the role of women in society from the 19th Century through the 21st Century, and examine just how much this role has changed, for better or worse. The novel, Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen, will help to accomplish this analysis of women throughout history, both in England and the United States. Examining the role of women is not only valuable for women, but also for men. Strict gender roles and the oppression of women did not only occur before and during the 19th Century, but is still occurring today; thus, this is a critical unit for every student to examine in the secondary classroom.

Jane Austen’s novel, Pride and Prejudice, which was published in 1813, portrays the story of the Bennet family, through the perspective of the protagonist and one of the most well-known female characters in literature, Elizabeth Bennet. This novel has remained one of the most popular and charming love stories, even in the 21st Century; however, the novel goes much deeper than witty charm. Austen uses the character of Elizabeth to confront some of the most controversial gender roles of her time, and ironically, of our time as well. Taking risks, Austen challenges these roles through a strong female protagonist, and calls for readers to question them. Not only is Elizabeth strong-willed and blunt of tongue, she is also courageously able to turn down two marriage proposals, and continuously defend her rights as a woman. During a time when women could not legally own property, and any woman in their mid-twenties was considered an old maid, Elizabeth Bennet gave women a strong voice and furthered the movement for women’s’ rights through literature.

This unit is designed for 11th and 12th grade students in a British Literature class; however, since this topic is so critical, it could easily be crafted to fit 9th and 10th graders, and even a non-British Literature class. Through deep analysis of the central theme of this unit, the changing role of women and the oppression they still face, we will explore a wide variety of pieces. Students will examine and analyze this theme in the hopes of gaining awareness and working towards the elimination of such treatment towards women. The goals of this unit are to further students’ understanding of gender roles, the oppression that women faced in the 19th Century and still face today, the wide-array of mediums in which women are oppressed; and finally, to develop an awareness of this issue, through the examination of various texts, that will aid in its elimination. Women constantly face oppression in school, the workplace, and in the media, just to name a few. True, women have come a long way in their fight—especially since women have only had the right to vote for less than 100 years—but they still have a long way to go. These issues are present in students' lives on a daily basis, as they go to school, read magazines, play video games or watch TV, thus it needs to be addressed. Using Pride and Prejudice as a gateway into this longstanding issue, students have the opportunity to analyze a classic piece of literature and compare it to the world around them. Hopefully this unit will be one of the first steps that students can take to realize that oppression against women is still present, and that something needs to be done. Learning to critically analyze various media, texts, and situations, students will understand the extent to which gender roles are still very present in our modern society.

In addition to Pride and Prejudice, I will also include a multitude of other resources to deepen the students’ understanding of the issue at hand. Students will begin with a critical primary resource, Sarah Stickney Eliss’s “The Wives of England: Their Relative Duties, Domestic Influence, and Social Obligations.” Written in 1843, this resource depicts the “proper” ways that women should act in regards to marriage, as well as the rights and obligations they had as women. Taking a very traditional view, Ellis firmly argues that the woman’s place is in the home, and that her sole duty is to serve and please her husband. Although many of Ellis’s ideas are found in Pride and Prejudice, they are much more subtle than this unfortunate handbook for women. After analyzing this resource, however, students will have more of a first-hand view of what the women in the novel were facing and the expectations that were bestowed on them during this time. Students will then write a journal reflection on their reactions to these behaviors of women at the time, if they were present among the characters in the novel, and if women still follow these rules today. After students become more familiar with the “laws” of that time, I will bring in the contemporary novel, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, by Seth Grahame-Smith. Although much of this text follows Austen’s novel, many new additions make this piece worth examining. When Austen’s ladies become zombie-fighting machines, gender roles seem to be somewhat twisted. Analyzing the differences and how they affect the reader’s view on women and men in the text will deepen their understanding and awareness of these gender issues in both texts. Along the same lines, I will also have students examine clips from the various film adaptations of the novel—specifically the 1995 BBC version, and the 2005 Focus Features version—to examine the filmic differences and if this does or does not alter how we view the characters and oppression in the piece. Additional clips from the films Legally Blonde (2001) and Mona Lisa Smile (2003) will be used to accentuate other perspectives of gender roles throughout the years. Students will write a compare/contrast essay on either the two literary pieces, or Pride and Prejudice and one of the film adaptations. Following these film screenings, various YouTube clips and images of women’s suffrage will also be tied in to show just how hard women have worked for the rights that they currently have. Gaining inspiration from such images, students will write a journal reflecting on how women’s roles changed after earning the right to vote, and how they have not. Students will also respond on whether or not they believe another demonstration is needed for the oppression and current negative representation of women.

The final part of this unit will be spent analyzing modern views of women through various media sources—TV, commercials, magazine advertisements, video games, billboards, music videos. After spending time examining gender roles in the 19th Century, students will have the opportunity to formulate an opinion of how these roles have or have not changed. Analyzing various media will bring attention to the ways that women are stereotyped as the “sex object” and only useful when dominated or ruled by men. Taking this modern knowledge, with everything learned thus far in the unit, will be an unexpected eye-opener for students. Students will have this opportunity to explore their areas of interest, in video games, TV shows, magazines, or commercials, to bring examples to share with the class from their everyday lives and the gender roles that they are constantly exposed to. Some examples may be considered inappropriate for class; however, parents will be informed of the importance of this activity prior to class to prevent any controversy over this topic. Analyzing various forms of supposedly inappropriate media will add to the students’ discussion when they have the opportunity to share their findings with the class and discuss how these examples make them feel, from both a male and female perspective; and, how they think the role of women has changed or not changed since the 19th Century.

Throughout the unit, students will constantly be using technology. The internet will definitely be used by students towards the end of the unit as they find and compare various media examples. Students will also take part in a continuous online conversation through Nicenet over the course of the unit. I will have weekly prompts posted on this site that students will be required to respond to, as well as being required to reply to other students’ posts on various topics. Each student will also be required to formulate one of their own questions/topics to pose for the entire class to respond to in addition to my posts throughout the unit. This will allow the students to discuss their opinions and ideas, and have more freedom and choice to express what they are questioning of finding interesting in the unit.

This unit will set very high reading and writing expectations, as we are dealing with a classic piece of British literature. Students will not only be required to read this novel, but other literary additions, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Sarah Stickney Eliss’s “The Wives of England: Their Relative Duties, Domestic Influence, and Social Obligations,” and be able to interpret, analyze, compare and contrast them to Austen’s novel. Students will continuously post on Nicenet both to my questions as well as those posed by their classmates. This will require constant understanding of the texts, and the ability to relate these texts to outside sources as well. For those students who are struggling with the reading level, additional resources, reading questions and conferencing areas will be available on Nicenet to help students along in the reading process. This is also a valid opportunity for those students who are feeling comfortable with the text to add to the Nicenet discussions and aid their peers in their understanding. The interrelatedness of these texts is not as transparent as it may seem, and will require dedication on the part of the student to remain connected with these various texts and resources. Although all students will take part in all reading and writing activities, the final project will allow students to choose their outlet and play to their strengths.

Overall, this is a vital unit for any secondary classroom. These issues are still prevalent in our society today, and using Pride and Prejudice, along with a variety of other relevant examples is a wonderful way to gain student awareness of this issue as well as classical literature. Students will have the opportunity to explore a wide range of texts, and formulate their own opinions and concerns regarding the issue of gender roles, in the hopes of eliminating these longstanding oppressions. This unit is a wonderful example of giving students the chance to learn from history and change the present.

Compare/Contrast Lesson Plan

“Compare/Contrast Two Representations of Austen”

This lesson plan is designed for 11th and 12th grade students enrolled in a British Literature course. Students will be expected to write an essay in which they thoughtfully compare/contrast either Pride and Prejudice with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies or Pride and Prejudice with one of the film adaptations of the novel viewed in class. Students should find the similarities in regards to gender roles and female oppression, as well as analyzing the differences between the pieces and how this affects the characters, the outcome of the story, and the overall meaning that the audience takes away from the piece.

Main Objective: Explore the similarities and differences of gender roles and female oppression between
Pride and Prejudice and one other adaptation of the novel, and how this alters female representation and
why this is important.

CE 1.1.1, CE 1.1.2, CE 1.1.6, CE 1.1.7, CE 1.1.8, CE 1.2.2, CE 1.3.2, CE 3.1.2, CE 3.1.5, CE 3.1.8,
CE 4.1.5, CE 4.2.2

Materials or Resources Needed
§ A copy of Pride and Prejudice, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, BBC version of Pride and Prejudice (1995), or
Focus Features version of Pride and Prejudice (2005)
§ A computer

Activities or Procedures
This will be an opportunity for the students to choose one other adaptation of Pride and Prejudice and write an essay in which they compare/contrast the gender roles and female oppression to those found in Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Students will be given one week to complete this assignment on their own time. This essay must be 5-7 pages in length and exhibit a strong understanding of the issues, or lack thereof, in both pieces.

This lesson will take place towards the beginning/middle of the unit, after students have developed an understanding of the gender issues and implications. Students can choose whether they would like to compare/contrast literary works or film adaptations. Within each essay, students should demonstrate that they understand the depth of the oppression and negative female representation and the ways in which the two pieces may portray them differently. Students should take into consideration word choice, if examining the two novels, or film choice (camera, lense, lighting, scene) if examining either of the film adaptations. The overall essay should reflect the student’s understanding of the issues and how each adaptation varies the representation.

Inclusion of Both Sources
Did you compare/contrast two of the required sources and give equal attention to both?
/20 points
Demonstration of Understanding
Did your essay demonstrate understanding of unit issues?
_/20 points
Was your essay free of grammar and punctuation errors?
/10 points

Drama Lesson Plan

“Dramatic Role Play”

This lesson plan is designed for 11th and 12th grade students enrolled in a British Literature course. In small groups, students will be expected to find a scene in Pride and Prejudice that they believe represents a gender role/stereotype or female oppression and act it out in two ways. The first time the students act out the scene, they will follow the text; however, the second time, they will rewrite the text, and perform it in a way that eliminates the gender role/stereotype or female oppression. In a journal entry, students will then analyze the differences and the feelings that they had afterwards, as well as the ways in which these textual changes could have affected the characters and rest of the text.

Main Objective: Explore the gender roles/stereotypes or female oppression that is present within Pride
and Prejudice and be able to understand the steps it would take to eliminate this in a particular scene in
the text, and the repercussions it may have on the meaning of the text as a whole.

CE 1.5.1, CE 1.5.2, CE 2.1.10, CE 2.2.2, CE 2.3.5, CE 2.3.7, CE 3.1.2, CE 3.1.4, CE 3.1.7,
CE 3.2.5, CE 4.1.5

Materials or Resources Needed
§ A copy of Pride and Prejudice
§ A journal and writing utensil

Activities or Procedures
This will be an opportunity for the students to analyze textual scenes and examples from Pride and Prejudice in which gender role/stereotypes and female oppression are present. Students will then have the opportunity to rewrite this scene in the best way they see fit to eliminate this oppression and negative representation. Students will be given one class period to act out a given scene from the text and rework it in the way that each group believes will creatively eliminate female oppression.

This lesson will take place in the middle of the unit, after students have become familiar with the characters, scenes and issues in Pride and Prejudice. This activity will strengthen individual student ideas on how this issue can be eliminated within the text, while also taking part in a group role play of the characters and placing themselves in their position, both male and female. Students will then have the opportunity to reflect on their group’s decision in rewriting the scene and the changes that it presented for the characters. This activity will not only allow the students to role play in the sense of actually acting out Austen’s characters, but also in how they would change the scene and react at the given time, if possible.

Students will be given the entire class time on one day to form small groups (3-4) and choose a scene in which they believe there is female oppression or negative representation. Students will then act out the scene as written, followed by the opportunity to rewrite the scene to eliminate such oppression. After this activity, students will write in their journals, as an overnight homework assignment, in which they can reflect on their group’s decisions, the implications and changes it presented for the characters in the piece, and any feelings or reactions that they had to the activity.

Selection of Appropriate Scene
Did you select a scene that demonstrates gender roles or oppression of women?
/10 points
Role Play
Did you act out the original scene?
Did you rewrite the scene, with the elimination of oppression or negative representation?
_/20 points
Journal Response
Did you complete a journal response?
/10 points

Reader Response Lesson Plan

“Comparing New Media with Ongoing Issues”

This lesson plan is designed for 11th and 12th grade students enrolled in a British Literature course. Students will be expected to find of gender roles/stereotypes or female oppression in media of their choice. Students will then present their examples to the class. Following each student’s presentation, the class will take part in a large-group discussion in which students will be able to share their initial reactions, opinions and feelings. Students will then break into small groups and compare their examples to similar issues presented in Pride and Prejudice.

Main Objective: Explore the similarities of gender roles and female oppression between the 19th Century
novel and the media currently being presented on a daily basis, and analyze just how much the rights and
representation of women have or have not changed.

CE 1.3.1, CE 1.3.5, CE 1.3.9, CE 1.4.2, CE 1.4.4, CE 2.1.2, CE 2.1.5, CE 2.1.9, CE 2.1.11,
CE 2.2.2, CE 2.3.2, CE 3.1.7, CE 3.1.8, CE 3.2.4, CE 3.3.3, CE 3.4.2

Materials or Resources Needed
§ Access to the internet, TV, or magazines
§ A copy of Pride and Prejudice

Activities or Procedures
This will be an opportunity for the students to show choice in their selection of media examples that relate to the novel. Students will have one night to find their example and bring it to class the following day prepared to present, as well as take part in discussion. Students are expected to find a TV commercial, magazine advertisement, video game, music video, etc that demonstrates gender roles of female oppression in the modern media.

This lesson will take place at the end of the unit, after students have developed a clear understanding and background on the topic. With many texts and opinions, finding a relevant source of media will be a valid assignment. This is the students’ opportunity to explore areas in the media that interest them, and this will aid in having a wide range of examples to present to the class and discuss.

The day of the presentations, each student will have 2-3 minutes to present their example. This presentation should include a brief synopsis of their example and a short excerpt from the example. Following this presentation, students will have 5-10 minutes to discuss, as a large group, their initial reactions to the examples that they just experienced. Students will then break into small groups of 3-4 to discuss how their examples relate to the gender roles, oppression, or representation of women in Pride and Prejudice. After this small group discussion, instead of gathering as a large group again, each group will have time to present their findings to another small group and discuss the differences or similarities that they found in their examples.

Media Example
Did you select an example in the current media that demonstrates gender roles, oppression or representation of women?
/10 points
Did you explain the synopsis of your example?
Did you present a short excerpt to the class?
_/20 points
Discussion participation
Did you participate in the large group discussion?
Did you participate in the small group discussion and presentation of your example?
/20 points

Final Project
The final project of this unit will take the form of a multi-genre experience. The majority of the unit grade will be divided amongst discussion participation, Nicenet participation, journal entries, and various other minor activities. The final project will have the goal of tying everything together and allowing the students to dive into this issue in a variety of creative genres. Each student will be expected to complete 3 of the given possibilities based on the issue of gender roles/stereotypes and female oppression examined in this unit. Completion of these items will give each student the opportunity to show that they have a firm understanding of gender roles, the oppression that women faced in the 19th Century and still face today, the wide-array of mediums in which women are oppressed, and finally, an awareness of this issue that will aid in its elimination.

Multi-genre ideas include:
§ Rewrite the ending of Pride and Prejudice in a way that you believe eliminates gender roles or female
oppression—would all of the characters end uptogether?
§ Create a gender-neutral commercial portraying women
§ Rewrite Sarah Stickney Ellis’s handbook according to Elizabeth Bennet
§ Illustrate/create two gender-neutral magazine advertisements for women’s perfume, clothing, makeup,
etc. (one which would appear in a woman’s magazine and one in a man’s)
§ Take a scene from Pride and Prejudice and compare it to a similar situation in the 21st Century; analyze
how the gender roles and female oppression are both similar and different
§ Rewrite a scene in Pride and Prejudice, originally told through Elizabeth Bennet’s perspective, through
the eyes of one of the male characters in the novel (Mr. Bennet, Mr. Darcy, Mr. Bingley, Mr. Wickham, Mr.
Collins); how would they see things differently?
§ Write a journal entry through the perspective of Elizabeth Bennet, portraying what she would think of
women today and their representation in the media.
§ Student Choice (must be pre-approved)

The multi-genre project will be worth 50 points.

How creative and original is your final project?
/5 points
Overall Understanding
Does your work show that you have a firm understanding of the unit issue?
/10 points
Did you complete 3 of the given possibilities for the project?
/30 points
Is your project free of grammar and punctuation errors?
/5 points
/50 points


Pride and Prejudice--purchase the book on Amazon.com
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies--purchase the book on Amazon.com
Nicenet--a great resource for online conversation
Jane Austen--Learn more about Austen through a YouTube Biography clip
Women's Suffrage--view various clips on YouTube on Women's Suffrage to view in class

Other Activity Ideas:

Susan B. Anthony Activity--a great activity to help students understand the gravity of the women's suffrage movement
Gender Activity--Use Barbie and various exercises to let students examine and experience gender roles and prejudice personally
Gender in Literature--A longer set of activities that examine gender roles of women in three texts from three different time periods

Possible Films:

Pride and Prejudice--the 1995 BBC Version
Pride and Prejudice--the 2005 Focus Features Version
Becoming Jane--A modern rendition of Jane Austen's life
Mona Lisa Smile--read about the film and watch the trailer
Legally Blonde--read about the film and watch the trailer

Created By:

Lane VanderWeele