Hear hear. They were also ineffective; Lydia ends up in a marriage trap and poverty, and Mrs. Bennet throws away what agency she has with willful selfishness and silliness. If one has to insist on imposing modern values over these characters, the only one who stands up for herself is Charlotte, who walked deliberately and clear-eyed into exactly what she wanted. Lizzie was not embittered at her choice, but shocked, and disappointed in her friend, however she has to reevaluate her own prejudices when she sees how very well Charlotte has managed things, and how content Charlotte is.
An influential strand of contemporary continental philosophy has argued that the dominant received conceptions of generosity in the West are insufficiently unconditional and betray expectations of reciprocity. Emmanuel Levinas insists that true generosity does not differentiate between more or less deserving recipients, nor does it give in the expectation of return. Rather, it is an unconditional openness to the Other, an opening of oneself to otherness in a way that is willing to have one’s own identity called into question. Jacques Derrida has developed this line of reflection into an assertion of the impossibility of gift. As soon as something is recognized as a gift, the receiver becomes indebted and obliged to offer a return; free gift thus collapses into economic exchange. A gift can only exist so long as it remains unrecognized by both giver and receiver. Derrida’s argument has been subjected to vigorous critique. Most fundamentally, it is not clear why a desire for reciprocity (as opposed to a “gift” made contingent on return) taints generosity, particularly when generosity is understood fundamentally in terms of a gift of self offered in the hope of establishing relationship with some other.