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Pride and Prejudice – Marriage

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Jane Austen’s book of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ involves the marriages of the Bennet daughters’- how they behave to marriage proposals and how marriage is the social topic of the week-every week.

Throughout this novel we can deduce what Jane Austen’s view is on marriage. Jane Austen shows a variety of marriages throughout the novel, and shows the pitfalls of marriage simply to please society and to ensure financial security. She tells us how marriage is very important for daughters and their families- how they need to stay in the class they were born in.

Jane Austen viewed that when a gentleman came into the town, people “little know the feelings or views of such a man may be entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered as the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters.”

When Mr Bingley comes into the town- he becomes the match for Jane- the eldest of the Bennet daughters. His arrival makes the mother of the family very excited, as he would ensure that Jane would be financially secure for the rest of her life and would save the family from poverty.

When Bingley first dances with Miss Bennet, he describes her to Darcy as being “the most beautiful creature I have ever beheld.” This match is said to be ‘love at first sight.’

On the other hand, the match of Elizabeth and Darcy is very different. They both feel antagonism towards each other, Elizabeth being proud of her own feelings, and being prejudiced against Darcy’s behaviour, and Darcy being proud of his social rank and being prejudiced against anyone of lower social rank.

Elizabeth is so determined not to allow money to influence her choice of partner that she rejects him for quite a long time.

When Darcy’s friend Bingley encourages him to dance with Elizabeth he replies that she is “tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt him.”

Darcy does not particularly like Elizabeth at first as a result of Elizabeth’s family behaviour. From this we can say that although Darcy does in fact has feelings for Elizabeth, he does not want to get involved with her due to her family, and that he is playing safe- that he doesn’t want to jump into a relationship too quickly.

The importance of having a real understanding rather than simple physical attraction in a relationship in shown when Jane Austen ensures that Elizabeth and Darcy marry in the end.

One marriage, which shows the evils of feelings over control, is the one of Lydia and Wickham. They marry on the basis of physical attraction and have no regard of the feelings of other people. The only reason Wickham married Lydia was for money, not for true love.

Jane Austen is both critical and supportive of marriage in the novel. She is critical of all the wrong reasons to get married. For example, Lydia for excitement and Charlotte for financial security, but she also shows that marriage can be ideal for people who are socially and temperamentally suitable- i.e. Darcy and Elizabeth, Jane and Bingley.

Austen shows that marriage is very important for women in that society, and that their whole future depends on it. The importance of marriage is stressed right at the beginning of the book with the famous ironic statement about “a man in want of a wife.”

In the time of Jane Austen, marriage was the basis of society, but Mrs Bennet reacts differently when Lydia and Wickham elope. At first Mrs Bennet is really ashamed of the elopement and fears what society will think of her, and her family. She is ashamed that such a scandalous act has taken place; that their reputation would be shattered to bits, and how the ‘rules’ of marriage- that the eldest daughter must be married first, are not obeyed to.

Mrs Bennet is very angry at Lydia’s elopement, but her attitude changes when the married couple come to visit the Longbourn estate.

Mrs Bennet loathes Wickham at first but when Lydia asks her mother’s opinion about her husband she replies. “He is a charming man.”

Even though it seems as though the mother of the family is content about the marriage, Mr Bennet is glad to get rid of her. He thinks that she is “silly and ignorant.”

You can tell that this marriage was only one sided because “Wickham’s affection for Lydia was no equal to Lydia’s for him.” “Lydia was exceedingly fond of him. He was her dear Mr Wickham.”

From this we can tell that even though the ‘rule’ of marriage was broken Mr and Mrs Bennet had to accept this marriage and had to carry on with life as normal.

Another example of this is again the attitude Mrs Bennet has towards the feelings to her future son-in-law, but this time towards Darcy. At first she thinks of him being too proud and too stuck-up, only thinking about himself and taking no account of other people’s feelings and emotions.

When Mrs Bennet first sees Darcy she describes him of being “most disagreeable, horrid man… so high and deceited.” That is how strongly she felt towards Darcy. Yet her opinion of Darcy changes again when she discovers that Elizabeth and Darcy have fallen in love and are going to get married.

When Elizabeth informs her mother of her marriage, her mother was “unable to utter a syllable.” Then she bursts out and asks Elizabeth. “Is it really true? How rich and how great you will be! What pin money, what jewels, and what carriages you will have! Jane is nothing to it… such a charming man! So handsome, so tall…”

Mrs Bennet’s aim in life was to get her daughters married to wealthy men and is overjoyed when her dream comes alive. She compares Elizabeth’s husband-to-be wealth to Jane’s, saying that she will be richer than Jane, and how many riches she will have more than Jane.

Austen views marriage in that there needs to be some control and balance of feelings, because without this balance, the marriage isn’t stable. There needs to be this balance in order for there to be happiness in the marriage.

An example of this can be of the marriage of Charlotte and Mr Collins.

As the Bennet family is made up of all girls, they are not allowed to inherit their father’s money. The person that is permitted to do this is Mr Collins, so he comes to propose to Jane, so that at least one of the daughters will have some form of financial backing. When Mr Collins discovers that Jane is not ‘available,’ he turns his eyes on to Elizabeth.

When he proposes to her, Elizabeth refuses his proposal. Soon after his rejection Mr Collins proposes to Charlotte- best friend of Elizabeth. Charlotte accepts his proposal, on the grounds of her future life. She gives her life up, to a man to whom she has no feelings or affections for, just for security. Jane Austen uses this couple to show how women used to risk the rest of their lives for security- that they wouldn’t look at the person from within, just their property or wealth.

From reading the novel we can see what Jane Austen considers to be her ideal marriage.

I think that if Jane Austen were to get married she would have liked to get married to someone like Darcy. I think that she put this character in, to show people not to judge others from their first impressions.

Society viewed marriage as being the dependence to one’s future.

Marriage was the thing in the 18th Century, in which mothers took a very big part. It was the aim in every mother’s life to ‘provide’ and introduce wealthy men to their daughters so they can get married to them. If women did not get married they were looked down upon, and were shunned away.

Society viewed marriage as an institution designed to maintain the social class building.

Men as well as women were interested in the future of their daughters.

When Mrs Bennet tells her husband to go and see Mr Bingley, he mocks her by saying, “I will send a few lines by you to assure him of my hearty consent to his marrying which ever he chuses of the girls,” yet he still goes. He goes because he too wants his daughters to marry into a wealthy background; so that both parents can be well assured that when they die, their daughters will be financially secured with the wealth their husbands will posses. Darcy- being a person from a very wealthy background, did not want Bingley to marry Jane, as she wasn’t in Bingley’s social class. So from this he became determined to split the couple, and became successful in his mission.

He later explains to Elizabeth in his only letter in the novel, how he wanted to break up the couple; how Elizabeth’s family wasn’t good enough for his friend and how the crude behaviour of her sisters provided proof for his action.

At first Elizabeth is against the idea that money should choose her partner but after her visit to Pemberley- the home of Darcy, she is overawed by the wealth and social class Darcy came from, and her opinion changes and admits that wealth and social class are both important to her, and her own personal gain.

Society also ‘said’ that daughters should get married in order of age- i.e. the eldest to marry first. When Lydia and Wickham elope it is a total scandal as this chain is broken. Mrs Bennet’s initial reaction was that she had a nervous breakdown, and even Mr Collins shared her pain, and acted as if he was attending a funeral!

Jane Austen made Lydia and Wickham elope, to show how wrong it can be; both socially, and how it can affect the marriage of the couple emotionally and financially. I think that from this we can tell that if Jane Austen had children she would have had made sure that the marriages in her family would obey the ‘rules.’

Society in the 21st century puts less pressure that people- especially women must get married.

One of the main differences is of course that women had much less independence than they have now.

A woman’s aim in life, in the 18th century was to get herself a rich husband.

I think Jane Austen would have a huge shock if she were to find out that now-a-days society accepts sex before marriage, same sex partners, and single parents.

Back then people in the upper class society didn’t really accept anyone who wasn’t married; nowadays people accept that some women make the choice in not getting married, and society does not have a big impact upon these marriages.

Women of that class had to get married in the 18th century because if they didn’t, their family were looked down upon. Women in upper class families, used to spend their time sewing, knitting and reading, so they had to get married to have financial support. Now it is not unusual for women not to work and to have their own money, and fewer people are choosing to get married.

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