By Lex Elliott (MA Student, Lancaster University)
This semester, the new English Literature MA module Nineteenth Century Literature: Place – Space – Text asked students to complete a digital map for their formative assessment. Their brief was to select a nineteenth-century text and to use a digital mapping tool such as Google MyMaps or CartoDB to create a map of an element of their chosen text. That map should raise questions about the ways that we conceive of or understand place/space in the text. For more information about this task, please get in touch with the module tutor, Joanna Taylor. Here, Lex considers how mapping Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (1813) might complicate our understandings of gender relations in the novel.
Mapping Pride and Prejudice
Using Google MyMaps, I explored how gender in Austen’s Pride and Prejudice could be mapped, as well as the limitations when trying to map social experiences. According to Yi Fu Tuan’s theory of place and space in ‘Space and Place: Humanistic Perspective’, we can define space simply as physical location, whereas place also takes into account one’s position in society. Maps generally only show space, but Austen’s novels focus on social commentary, so in order to discuss place, it is necessary to apply the social aspects of Pride and Prejudice to its mapped locations.
Points on the map
- Pemberley, Derbyshire
This is the residence of Fitzwilliam Darcy and his sister Georgianna. In the novel, it is mentioned that Chatsworth House is nearby, as it is one of the locations Elizabeth Bennet visits with her aunt and uncle on their tour of Derbyshire. Chatsworth House has also been used as the filming location for Pemberley in the 2005 film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice and the BBC miniseries Death Comes to Pemberley. Thus Chatsworth House is the closest real life approximation of Pemberley, and is where I have placed the marker for Pemberley.
- Longbourn/Meryton, Hertfordshire
The Bennet family – Mrs Bennet, Mr Bennet, and their five daughters – live in Longbourn. Netherfield Park, which the Bingleys, along with Charles Bingley’s friend Fitzwilliam Darcy, move to at the start of the novel, is close by. Meryton is the nearby town where the militia, including George Wickham, are stationed for part of the novel. The location on my map follows the theory that Meryton is based on Ware in Hertfordshire. Longbourn, Meryton, and Netherfield Park are all under one marker.
- Gardiners’ house, London
The Gardiners are Mrs Bennet’s sister and brother-in-law. Jane Bennet goes to stay with them in London for a few weeks when the Bingleys leave Netherfield Park. She hopes to see them in London. It is stated in the novel that they live on Gracechurch Street, so this marker is quite accurate.
- Lydia and Wickham’s residence, London
When Lydia and Wickham elope, they go to London. Mr Bennet and Mr Gardiner try to find them and fail, but Mr Darcy is able to track them down. There is no known location for where they live, but the last place Mr Bennet and Mr Gardiner are able to track them to is Clapham, which is probably nearby.
- Bingley’s London residence
When Darcy convinces Charles Bingley that Jane does not love him, they leave their residence at Netherfield Park and return to London. There is no information about where in London they live, so the marker is in the centre of London.
- Rosings Park/Hunsford Parsonage, Kent
This is the estate where Lady Catherine de Bourgh, Mr Collins’ patron and Darcy’s aunt, lives. Mr Collins and his wife Charlotte live nearby, at Hunsford Parsonage. Elizabeth visits Charlotte in the novel, and they go to dinner at Rosings Park, where they run into Darcy. Mr Collins states that his lives near Westerham, Kent, which is where the marker for this location is placed.
- Brighton, East Sussex
The militia move to Brighton after staying in Meryton. Lydia Bennet goes with Colonel and Mrs Forster to stay in Brighton. She is reacquainted with George Wickham there, and they elope. No specific location is given in the novel, so the marker is in the centre of Brighton.
Reading the Map
What my map reveals is that place in Pride and Prejudice is very much gendered, so even when two characters occupy the same physical space, their experiences of it can be entirely different. Men have much more secure experiences of place in this novel, since they have their own incomes, are largely independent, and are able to own property. In fact, almost every location I have mapped belongs to a man (the exception being Rosings Park, which is owned by the extremely wealthy Lady Catherine de Bourgh, who is able to overcome many of the gender barriers faced by the other characters because of her financial position). This is illustrated on my map, with property owned by men in green, and the single piece of property owned by a woman in purple.
Men also have more freedom in terms of mobility, since they can travel freely and do not need to be accompanied; women, on the other hand, have to rely on men in order to move through space. Married women must travel with their husbands, and single women must be with suitable relatives or friends.
When comparing the locations visited and routes taken by Elizabeth Bennet, Fitzwilliam Darcy, Jane Bennet, Charles Bingley, Lydia Bennet, and George Wickham, certain patterns become clear. The maps of each of the three couples (Elizabeth and Darcy, Jane and Bingley, Lydia and Wickham) are very similar; their routes through space, like their character arcs, are closely aligned. But when we apply social context, the meanings of these maps are vastly different.
Darcy is able to move between Pemberley (C) – which he owns – Netherfield Park (A), and Rosings Park (B) whenever he wishes to, and he often travels alone. Elizabeth, on the other hand, had to rely on Mr and Mrs Gardiner to take her to Pemberley and the rest of Derbyshire, and she has to stay at Mr Collins’ property when she visits Charlotte in Kent, as well as accessing Rosings Park through Mr Collins. Similarly, Darcy is able to go to London to resolve the matter of Lydia and Wickham’s elopement, whereas Elizabeth and her sisters are expected to wait at home.
Jane and Bingley do comparatively little travelling, but Bingley owns property in the two main locations where they spend time – London (B) and Longbourn (A) – whereas Jayne has to stay with the Gardiners when she spends a few weeks in London. Lydia must similarly stay with Colonel and Mrs Forster when she visits Brighton (B). When Lydia and Wickham elope, Wickham is the one who obtains their money and property (partially by exploiting Lydia’s male relatives).
We can conclude that place in Austen’s novels is gendered, in addition to being impacted by class. Part of why marriage is so central to the plots of Austen’s novels is that women very rarely own property, so in order to have any security over the space they inhabit, they must marry a man. This can be seen in other Austen novels, such as in Sense and Sensibility where Elinor, Marianne, Margaret, and their mother are forced to move out of their house when it passes from their late father to their brother. Yet it is very difficult to map these social, gendered meanings of place; colour coding the property based on gender and ownership gives some impression of this, but it still doesn’t give the full picture. Thus it is my experience that maps are useful for mapping space (location), but – especially in more simplistic mapping programmes – they are less effective for depicting place.