Women fall from grace when caught for being unfaithful while men tend to be able to get off guilt free in the Austen Six. The fact that this is the way Austen presents it might make us think that this is the way she thinks it should be. Not so. The fact that she highlights the differences of the relative treatment for the same misdemeanour surely shows that she is revealing the unfairness of it all.
When Typical-Teen-LydiaBennet, in Pride and Prejudice elopes with Wickham, and lives with him without being married, she will lose her reputation
and any chance of being resurrected in society, and her family will be tainted
by association. Clawing-Mr Collins writes a beautiful letter of condolence to
Mr Bennet. “The death of your daughter would have been a blessing in comparison to this”.
No doubt some, maybe many, people in the early 1800’s would have believed this and by putting such words into the odious Mr Collins’ mouth Austen is showing how abhorrent such judgmental moralising is. “Throw off your unworthy child” says Clawing-Mr Collins “and leave her to reap the fruits of her heinous offence”.
Jane Austen is lampooning a society that can judge such sexual misdemeanors so
hypocritically and unfairly.