Love & Marriage in Jane Austen’s “Pride & Prejudice”
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‘Pride & Prejudice’ was written in the 18th century by a new author called Jane Austen. Her book can help us have a realistic insight to the social life of her time. It is generated around the Bennet household, a family who live in Meryton. The main theme narrows down to character’s relationships, marriages and 18th century society. I hope to give a clear insight to how this novel helped me reach an understanding of different relationships.
Relationships can come about through many circumstances and situations. Their bases can also differ. In the novel we can see some may be arranged, others based on love, as can be seen through the protagonist, Elizabeth’s marriage to Darcy. Others may be come about for security or initial attraction. But the basis of a marriage shows us how stable and successful the marriage is. Some marriages are successful in the novel whilst other couples only co-exist.
A perfect example of a failed marriage is seen through Mr. and Mrs. Bennet’s marriage. They seem to co-exist, and Mr. Bennet always avoids his wife. One might say he married her because of her looks when he says ‘ for you as handsome as any of them, Mr. Bingley might like you the best of the party’. Through the novel he is ‘in the library’ or steering clear of any involvement in what his wife does. When he does speak to her, he often makes fun of her and talks about how he has ‘high respects for your nerves they are my old friends’ but his wife doesn’t ‘understand his character’ even after so many years of marriage. Their relationship shows that even though Mrs. Bennet was beautiful it does not compensate for her ‘mean understanding, little information and uncertain temper’ so from this we can see that beauty isn’t a good basis for a marriage. Even if someone is beautiful, if they come with no good personality then a marriage is almost certain to fail. Mr. Bennet is not at all like her and they have a personality clash, his gentleman qualities and her lack of social etiquette do not go well together. Mrs. Bennet often embarrasses and puts the family to shame at big events such as balls when she gloats about how Jane got the most dances with Bingley at the ball.
Furthermore marriages based solely upon security and position are bound to fail too. This is seen through Charlotte Lucas and Mr. Collin marriage. She says she married him for the money: ‘I ask only for a comfortable home’, and to gain a higher status: ‘considering Mr. Collins character, connections and situation in life’- she believes she will live a happy life. Socially what Charlotte wanted is important. In society it was important to be married to someone well off to be socially acceptable. Though money is important, from their relationship we can see it was only for social status that they both agreed to marriage.
They both satisfied each other’s needs. After they were married we can see from Elizabeth’s visit to Charlotte that the marriage isn’t how a marriage should really be. When Mr. Collins shows them their garden explaining ‘to work in his garden was one of the most respectable pleasures’ and Charlotte even says that ‘she encouraged it as much as possible’. From this I believe she ‘encouraged’ it so much to avoid him or to get away form his presence, the sad truth is she isn’t happy. But this is expected of someone to whom ‘marriage had always been her object’ and seeing as she was ‘twenty-seven without having ever have been handsome’ I think that meeting Mr. Collins must have been good for her. Both established what they wanted but this doesn’t means that true marriages should be based upon security and social status.
Another bad example of a marriage is one founded on lust. Wickham and Lydia’s marriage was inevitably going to be bad. Lydia is a ‘young girl’ with ‘nothing but love, flirtation and officers have been in her head’. Elizabeth says ‘has never been taught to think on serious subjects’- exactly what Wickham could latch on to and use. We know Wickham cannot be trusted: at first he has ‘a charm of person and address that can captivate women’ but later through the novel we see that in fact he was an ‘imprudent and extravagant’ man and a man who ‘will never marry without some money’.
His ‘elopement with her’ changed the opinion of everyone and he was forced to marry her, though Lydia was senseless of what she had done. In society elopement was considered shameful and damaging to the family but when she returns with Wickham we can see she is only arrogant, ‘ah Jane, I take your place now and you must go lower because I am a married woman’.
From their relationship we know Lydia (because she was so naive) has been taken advantage of but genuinely loves Wickham; she was ‘exceedingly fond of him. He was always her dearest Wickham..’ but Wickham’s feelings were ‘not as equal to Lydia’s for him’. A marriage in blissful failure! Towards the end of the novel there are hints as to what becomes of their marriage, ‘his affections for her soon sunk into indifference; hers lasted a little longer’. We also know that Austen hints a lack of commitment- adultery on Wickham’s part when he ‘was gone to enjoy himself in London or Bath’. This could mean he wanted to get away from Lydia, so he could act as he always has – a typical ‘charmer’ to other ladies.
Though not all relationships are doomed to a bad end, on the contrary there are some relationships in the novel that show love can prevail and how love helps make a successful relationship.
If there was bound to be a destined couple, it was Jane and Bingley. They are the perfect example of two people who are very similar. Jane is in every way the ideal women, and Bingley an ideal man. In Austen’s time we know them to be ideal- Bingley is loved and so is Jane. They declare their love for each other many a times and also we can see that they lines each other from the start because at the ball Bingley ‘danced with her twice. To be sure that did seem as if he admired her.’
They do have a deep live for one another and even due to the fact that their social statues were different Bingley marries her. This is because of his undying love her for and of course she was considered as ‘handsome and amiable…as represented by common report’. I believe Austen was trying to show us of a love that was so perfect only to show us that it was slightly empty and boring because they have nothing to clash with, to show spirit in their relationship. This begins to have an affect on them at the end of the novel when ‘ Meryton relations was not desirable even to his easy temper, or her affectionate heart. ‘ – this shows that even perfection can be put to its limits. Nevertheless, their marriage is one to envy.
Austen revolves her book around Elizabeth and Darcy’s marriage. This is because their marriage is based upon truth. They are honest towards each other, complement each other other’s personality and communicate well because of all they have been through. From their relationship we can see that true love encounters difficulties along the way but love can conquer any difficult situation and two people can permanently be happy in a relationship for it.
At the start of the novel we see the prejudice formed between them because of difference of class. Darcy will not dance with Elizabeth because she is ‘not handsome enough’ for him. He says this because he considers all the women in Meryton to be his inferiors but this later leads to his downfall as it is established in the town that he is a most disagreeable, horrid man, not at all worth pleasing’.
‘First impressions’- as the book was formally named plays an important part in how important first impressions can be. At first Elizabeth hates Darcy’s apparent pride and arrogance, at having been rejected by him but later when she later discovers hie true persona she admits ‘He has not improper pride. He is perfectly amiable.’
As the novel moves on he begins to be drawn in by Elizabeth, admitting that she has ‘fine eyes’ and eventually confronting his feelings and telling her ‘allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you’, and asks for her hand in marriage, only to be rejected. He was rejected because of the way he asked. She at first felt ‘sorry for the pain he was to receive’- a rejection but later after hearing him speak with his ‘subsequent language’, she lost all compassion to anger. Darcy is hurt by her rejection and felt he was only being honest, but his pride is hurt when Elizabeth states that had he not ‘behaved in a more gentleman like manner’. Darcy is considered a gentleman and nothing is more insulting to him than being told otherwise.
As Elizabeth is so strong minded and spirited, she immediately thinks worse of him and more anger is produced from his actions.
But towards the end of the novel she softens to him. Realizing that he is to be loved and not hated. Of course Darcy proves what a gentleman he is when he helps the Bennet family with the elopement crisis. He secretly pays Wickham to marry Lydia to stop shame falling on the Bennet’s- to protect Elizabeth, ‘If you will thank me…I believe I though only of you.’ She is also swayed by visiting his house and admits that she started liking him ‘from my first seeing his beautiful grounds at Pemberley.’
When finally Darcy returns at the end of the novel ‘to see Elizabeth, her feelings have changed tremendously. She at last says ‘I love him’ and says ‘he still loves me and we are engaged.’ Towards the end of the novel we see how they talk about everything that they have been through and about how their first impressions and pride had stopped them from expressing their true feelings for each other. They also discuss and apologies for their attitudes towards each other but talk about how they are unchanged people. Underneath the prejudice, Elizabeth finds a charming, handsome, honest man. He in turn acknowledges her finer beauties, her independence, free spirit, honesty and wit.
Together they loved each other because they had experienced so much together and encountered all the hurdles that could’ve stopped them from being united. They even broke social boundaries, much to the dislike of Lady Catherine De Bourgh who wished Darcy to marry her daughter. Austen shows here that love empowers over class or sociably accepted circumstances. Maybe she was also trying to state what was wrong with her own society that you can’t stop a marriage when it is so pure.
Darcy says to Elizabeth ‘by you I was properly humbled.’ This shows not only do they love each other, they have strong understanding for each other and that love can have a strong impact on people, even to the point of changing how they are. Elizabeth showed him how to be the best man, even the more desirable man ever! She is a strong character whom women can relate to today because of her independence, strong character that resembles a modern woman.
From ‘Pride & Prejudice’ I have learnt a lot about all these different relationships, marriages and about love.
Marriages occur for many different reasons but the true relationships are built on love between a couple, as can be seen from Jane & Bingley or Elizabeth & Darcy. Some relationships are bound to fail because trust is important in a marriage as well as honesty. If two people don’t really know one another but can together on the wrong terms, it is only natural for the relationship to dwindle. Bad marriages can occur from initial attraction, lust or general desire for status. These things are not what a true relationship requires to survive. When two people understand each other than there is more room to love that person, purely, such as Elizabeth and Darcy can. This relationship has experienced struggle and yet survived, with spirit, which shows that a good relationship undoubtedly faces struggle but if it is true and pure it will always last. Austen manages to picture perfectly flaws of marriages and how love is important to find, for everyone. I’m sure every woman can honestly say she wishes to find her Darcy one day!