Marriage in Pride and Prejudice
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Austen presents us with several different examples of marriage in
Pride and Prejudice.
‘Austen presents us with several different examples of marriage in
‘Pride and Prejudice.’ Focusing on at least three couples, explore
how each relationship is presented and what you think are Austen’s
Throughout ‘Pride and Prejudice’, Austen often refers back to the era
in which it was written and the kind of culture and society that she
grew up in herself. It is also apparent that she sees the character
Elizabeth as an alter-ego for herself, as she is rebellious to the
things expected from her by her family and society in general - in
reality, it would be preposterous to turn down a marriage proposal!
It is evident that Austen did not like the general role that women
took on in the early nineteenth century, with no financial
independence and an expectation to serve the rest of their lives being
a good wife and mother with only the accomplishments such as music and
art, to excite them.
I have first decided to comment on the relationship between Mr and Mrs
Bennet. Mr Bennet clearly regrets his marriage to Mrs Bennet and
realises that he was really only attracted to her beauty and wealth,
rather than her personality. This runs parallel to the relationship
between Lydia and Mr Wickham. Wickham eloped with Lydia only for her
money because he was desperate to leave his debts behind and wanted a
companion to join him in his escape, which resulted in an unhappy
marriage, an arrangement made only to protect the family’s honour and
respect among other acquaintances who would very much have frowned
upon the elopement if it had not resulted in a marriage.
Marriages of that time were rarely for love; they were usually to
ensure financial security, to carry on the family name, connections
and a comfortable home. An example of this is the marriage between
Charlotte Lucas and Mr Collins. She tells Lizzie after her
engagement, “I am not romantic you know. I never was. I ask only a
comfortable home; and considering Mr Collins’s character, connections,
and situation in life, I am convinced that my chance of happiness
with him is as fair, as most people can boast on entering the marriage
Mr and Mrs Bennet’s marriage is presented to us through satire and
condescendence. Mr Bennet, though unhappy with his marriage, has the
upper hand where he can mock his dizzy wife while Mrs Bennet sits
blissfully unaware. Mrs Bennet’s days are solely confined to ensuring
that her daughters are married off to wealthy young gentlemen with
good status and connections, to make sure that when her husband dies
How to Cite this Page
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she is not left with nothing, as their house has been left in the
hands of Mr Collins in the event of Mr Bennet’s death. As a result of
the odd mixture of personalities within the Bennet household, Mr
Bennet had decided long ago to leave Mrs Bennet to herself to worry
about the marital state of her despairing daughters.
“Her father, captured by youth and beauty and that appearance of good
humour, which youth and beauty generally give, had married a woman
whose weak understanding and liberal mind had very early in their
marriage put an end to all real affection for her.” Austen’s
intention for these bad examples of marriage was to show readers that
most marriages of that time were unsuccessful and unhappy with maybe a
few exceptions. This was usually due to couples marrying hastily and
being in lust rather than love, also not really knowing each others
personalities until it was too late.
The most important couple in the book is obviously Elizabeth and Mr
Darcy, and it is evident that Austen’s intention for this relationship
or at least for the character of Elizabeth is and to show that there
were a few women who would not conform to the expectations set by
society. Jane Austen was clearly one of these women. This
relationship set the path for the whole novel, it clearly relates to
the title and gives the whole story a sense of warmth because of its
predictable happily-ever-after ending. Pride and prejudice are the two
main themes in the novel and are shown mainly through the two
principle characters. Both are too proud to admit their faults as
well as their affection for each other and due to Mr Wickham’s evil
scheming, Lizzie is automatically prejudiced against Darcy without
knowing the full truth.
At the first ball at Netherfield, Lizzie is at first rejected by
Darcy, he tells Bingley “She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to
tempt me.” This gives the reader an automatic indication of his
arrogance and initial perception of Lizzie. It then becomes evident
that he does indeed have feelings for her, ‘She attracted him more
than he liked,’ but his pride and prejudice take over. By the time he
does pluck up the courage to confess his true feelings to her, he
proposes to her with a speech declaring his love for her. Lizzie is
taken aback by this but is aware that she does not love him and that
it will have been the second proposal that she had refused. She did
feel penitent for rejecting him, ‘She was at first sorry for the pain
he was about to receive.’ Another reason for her rejection was that
it was rumoured that he was the cause of Mr Bingley not proposing to
her sister, Jane, and when asked if this was true, he affirmed it with
not a hint of remorse, giving Lizzie even more reason to believe she
had done the right thing in denying him her hand. Wickham forced
Elizabeth to believe that Darcy betrayed him with regard to the
clerical living that Darcy apparently was supposed to hand over to
Wickham from his father but didn’t. This added with the prejudice
that Lizzie already had for Darcy, causes her to have an inaccurate
judgement of his character and disregard his affection for her leading
to the rejection of his marriage proposal to her. This is because of
the dissembled remarks made by Wickham in an effort to shame Darcy. It
is after the refusal of the engagement that Darcy writes her a letter
stating that Lizzie had been deceived by Wickham and that in fact
Wickham had endeavoured to elope with Darcy’s sister, Georgiana.
It later became apparent, in the letter written by Darcy to Lizzie
that all the allegations made by Wickham were indeed fictitious and
that his intentions behind preventing the marriage between Jane and
Bingley was because he interpreted Jane’s manor towards Bingley less
affectionate than his and did not want to see his best friend feel
unrequited love for her. Blinded by what Wickham had told her until
the letter, Lizzie then had to decide whether her morals were in the
right place and whether she had let her pride and prejudice get in the
way of a perfectly appropriate marriage..
There is further prejudice felt by Darcy’s aunt, Lady Catherine de
Bourgh, to Lizzie which is another obstacle in the way of their love.
Lady Catherine could only see Lizzie as a young girl who was not
worthy of her nephew’s affection with little to offer a man of Darcy’s
stance, especially as Darcy was to be betrothed to his cousin, Anne de
Bourgh. Austen’s intention for this principle relationship is to
promote the fact that not all marriages were unhappy and only
arrangements made to increase status and security, but that some were
based purely on one person’s love for another.
Another relationship which is an example of this, is that of Jane and
Mr Bingley. With Bingley’s scheming sister, Caroline, their
relationship is rather rocky and unsure with both not knowing how the
other feels until Bingley’s proposal towards the end of the novel.
This was one relationship that everyone (except Bingley’s sisters, of
course) was hoping for, but Darcy put that in jeopardy when he
discouraged a proposal from Bingley because he was not sure if his
strong affection for Jane was given in return. Bingley had longed for
Jane from their initial meeting. He told Darcy, “Oh! She is the most
beautiful creature I ever once beheld!” Jane was just as besotted,
“He is just what a young man ought to be.” And so, against the odds,
they finally proclaimed their love for each other and a marriage was
soon in order, to everyone’s delight. It is the examples of Jane and
Bingley, and Lizzie and Darcy, of marriages that tend to ‘go the
distance’ as they have the strong foundations that a good and healthy
marriage requires. Austen shows us the ‘Love at first sight’ type of
relationship but due to external intervention its course doesn’t run
Lydia and Wickham’s marriage was one of disaster from the beginning.
After a sneaky elopement the only option, so as to save the Bennet
family from utter disgrace, was for a marriage to go ahead. A silly
act of lust resulted in both parties experiencing debt and being in an
unhappy marriage. Mr Wickham had already tried to elope with Darcy’s
sister, Georgiana, and had set his sights upon a young lady who had
just came upon a good fortune, Mary King though she refused him. He
then settled for Lydia and then found that the only way to escape his
debts was to force the Bennet family to pay him to marry Lydia.
“Unhappy as the event must be for Lydia, we may draw from it this
useful lesson; that loss of virtue in a female is irretrievable - that
one false step involves her endless ruin.” The Bennets assume that
the Gardiners, Mrs Bennet’s brother and his wife, had paid off Wickham
but it was in fact Mr Darcy as he wanted to do a good deed for the
woman whom he loved - Elizabeth. The reader and Lizzie herself became
aware of this knowledge towards the end of the novel.
So, in conclusion, it is clear that the principle theme of the novel
was marriage and this relates to the importance of it throughout the
eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Jane Austen clearly intended to
base Elizabeth’s character upon herself as she was a non-conformist
with regard to most of the things that were supposed to have made up
the “accomplished young lady”. Jane Austen herself was indeed very
much similar to the character of Lizzie in which she embedded
knowledge and experiences from her past, these included rejecting a
marriage proposal herself because she was not in love with him and the
only man in which she did love was sent away from her because his aunt
considered her connections too low. All this in her life explains a
lot about the novel and the ideal relationship that Mr Darcy and
Received 30 July 2014; revised 28 August 2014; accepted 28 October 2014
Jane Austen, one of women writers, was famous for her realistic writing style. Among her works, Pride and Prejudice is a world-famous masterpiece, in which she created four different marriages, and showed us her views on marriage. The views have some guiding significance to our modern women even now.
Jane Austen, Views on Marriage, Elizabeth, Guiding Significance
Jane Austen was a famous realistic woman writer of late 18th century and early 19th century. Born in a clerical family and educated strictly, Jane Austen created six novels and three unfinished stories, during just 42 peaceful years, and was considered to be a prolific writer.
Among the works, Pride and Prejudice is the most successful and impressive masterpiece. The famous novel was written in 1813, and was very popular all the time and had been read widely. It showed the daily lives and values of the Middle-Class Englishmen of that time, which is Male-Centered. Many people simply regard Pride and Prejudice as a love story, but in my opinion, this book is an illustration of the society at that time. Jane Austen perfectly reflected the relation between money and marriage at her time and gave the people in her works vivid character.
The characters have their own personalities. Mr. Bennet is an old-style gentleman. Mrs. Bennet is a woman who makes great efforts to marry off her daughters. Mr. Bingley is a friendly young man, but his friend, Mr. Darcy is very proud. Mr. Darcy seems to always feel superior. Even the five daughters in Bennet family are very different. Jane is simple, innocent and never speaks evil of others. Elizabeth is a clever girl who always has her own opinion. Mary likes reading classic books who actually is a pedant. Kitty doesn’t have her own opinion but likes to follow her sister, Lydia. Lydia is a girl who follows exotic things, handsome man, and is somehow a little profligate. The parents, the daughters, and even the young men are all representative personages of different groups. That’s why when we read the book, we can easily find the same personalities in the modern society now. Indeed, the book is the representative of the society in Britain in the late 18th century and the early 19th century.
The family of gentlemen in the countryside is Jane Austen’s favorite topic, because this little topic can reflect big problems. It concludes the stratum situation and economic relationships in Britain in her era. People always think that Austen was an expert at telling love stories. In fact, the marriage in her book is not the result of love, but the result of economic needs. After reading this book, everyone will go to think deeply about what love is and what marriage is.
In this essay, we will talk about the four marriages in this novel, Jane Austen’s marriage values, and its practical significant to modern people.
2. Four Marriages in Pride and Prejudice
Jane Austen weaved four marriages in Pride and Prejudice. The four marriages are all different from each other. Through these different marriages, Jane Austen showed us the true social problems and characteristics of that time, and implied her own values of marriage.
2.1. Collins and Charlotte
In the novel, when the homely and plain Charlotte decided to marry Collins, she was only satisfied, without thinking highly either of men or of matrimony, marriage had always been her object, and we can see it was the only honorable provision for well-educated young women of small fortune.
In fact what Charlotte asks is only a comfortable shatter, a higher social position and a better wealth. She once explained to Elizabeth, “I am not romantic, you know. I never was. I ask only a comfortable home; and considering Mr. Collins character, connections, and situation in life, I am convinced that my chance of happiness with him is as fair, as most people state” (Austen, 1970).
For Collins, he is a man who does not know what love is at all. When Mr. Collins first proposed to Elizabeth, much to her mother’s displeasure and her father’s joy, she firmly and promptly rejected him. He almost immediately transferred his affections to Elizabeth’s best friend, Charlotte Lucas, who, 27 and somewhat homely, accepted at once his offer of marriage. Collin’s decision to marry Charlotte is only because of Elizabeth’s refusal to him. What he needs is just a wife who helps him not to be a single man any longer.
2.2. Lydia and Wickham
We know that, in the novel, Lydia, as Mr. Bennet’s third daughter, was spoilt by her mother, so she was very conceited and arrogant, and behave frivolously. Wickham, he has no other advantage except for his attractive physical appearance. In his opinion, love is just recreation. Due to he was trouble with a large debt, he entices Lydia and gets her love easily. When their love does not get the permission from the parents, they elope. When Elizabeth hears the news, she believes that their love does not have a happy ending. Indeed, Wickham would not marry Lydia, because she was no charming and has nothing to attract him. He does not love her but the wealth of her family.
2.3. Jane and Bingley
Jane was the oldest of Mr. Bennet daughter, a pretty girl of sweet and gentle disposition. Bingley was an immediate success in local society. At the first ball, Jane has a good impression of Bingley, and it is the same to Bingley. They were attracted to each other at once. After the ball, “When Jane and Elizabeth were alone, the former, who had been cautious in her praise of Mr. Bingley before, expressed to her sister how very much she admired him” (Austen, 1970).
For Bingley, he had a good temper. He was so modest and had no opinion about his own marriage. No matter how obvious his attachment to Jane was, he believed Darcy’s representation of Jane’s indifference was true. Because Mr. Bingley’s two sisters didn’t like Jane, they thought Mr. Bingley should choose Darcy’s sister as his wife, who was of cause “superior” to Jane. Under the influences of his sisters and Mr. Darcy, Bingley began to doubt Jane’s affection to him. Finally, he thought Jane didn’t love him, so he left her without saying goodbye. Later, when all the misunderstanding clarified, he came back to Jane at Darcy’s assistance. Bingley’s indecisive character determines his happiness and results that this life was controlled by others. Later on a visit to Bingley’s, Jane’s love affair with Bingley is advanced. Even Bingley is apparently on the point of proposing to Jane. Actually Bingley is attracted by Jane’s tenderness and beautiful appearance, while Jane is attracted by his gentle manner. They love each other.
2.4. Darcy and Elizabeth
As the heroine of this novel, Elizabeth’s love is very important. At the beginning, Elizabeth refused to accept Darcy’s pursue. Because in Elizabeth’s mind, Darcy is very cold and extremely proud, he is rich and has high social status, and he look down upon the middle-class girls. In particular, he insulted Elizabeth Bennet, a girl of spirit and intelligence and his father’s favorite. But as time goes by, Darcy began to admire Elizabeth in spite of himself.
For Elizabeth, love is the most important element of marriage. She does not accept a marriage which is not based on love. She does not love Collins, so she refused the future heir to the manor and the wealth. And at first she thought Darcy was too arrogant, so she also refused the wealthy gentleman. We can see a rational and intelligent girl in the novel, who is just Elizabeth. As they knowing each other further and further, Elizabeth cleared the misunderstanding between them, and Mr. Darcy see the disadvantages in himself, they fell in love with each other on the basis of love. This is the best ending for them.
3. The Writing Background of Pride and Prejudice
As a most well-known female writer in the history of English literature, was born in Steventon on December 16, 1775. And she lived peacefully in a small social circle all her life. She was the youngest of seven children in her family. She received most of her education at home. Her family are all fond of reading books, which influenced her very much. Her reading extended little beyond the literature of the 18th century, and within that period she admired Dr. Johnson particularly. Later she was delighted with both the poetry and prose of Scott, she died on July 18th 1817 and she never married. Austen was buried in the cathedral in Winchester (Kaplan, 1994).
In all her novels, the love affairs and marriages of young people, though serious and sympathetic, is subdued by humor to the ordinary way of narration, in which most of us live. She was the founder of the novel which deals with unimportant middleclass people and of which there are many fine examples in latter English fictions. Her style is easy and effortless. In these novels, the life of the gentry, landowners, and clergy of the late 18th century and the early 19th century is shown in detail.
Jane Austen’s father was a country vicar, so Jane took for granted that a person should be sincere, unselfish, disinterested and unworldly, and that virtue should be judged by good sense and good taste. These beliefs are fundamental to her work. Throughout her life Jane Austen had been guided by Christian principles, and she accepted the Church’s teaching without question. Her faith is implicit in all her writing: the virtues of a disciplined life, a caring relationship between husband and loving upbringing, are both reflected in her novels.
4. Jane Austen’s Views on Marriage in Pride and Prejudice and Its Guiding Significant to Modern People
Jane Austen once wrote in her book, “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife” (Gillie, 2005). Readers of Jane Austen can easily find out what does marriage mean and how important social status is to women of Austen’s time.
In Jane Austen’s mind, mutual attraction is the most important thing of a marriage. One who betrays his or her heart will never own true love. True love is much more cherishing than money and social position. This is what Austen puts a great deal of emphasis on. The heroine in the fiction, Elizabeth, is a loyal follower of her own affection. She encourages Jane to pursue true love with Bingley, and has disagreement of Caroline’s overflowing flattery of Darcy for the purpose of only marring a gentleman whose fortune and position are a great appeal to herself, regardless of the affection. In face of Mr. Collins’s proposal, Elizabeth refuses him without hesitation, since she knows that, the gentleman does not love her, but thinks that she is fit to be his wife, considering her character, her appearance and her family background. Actually, Elizabeth is on behalf of Jane Austen. She expresses everything that Austen wants to express. They both believe that a happy marriage is grounded upon mutual attraction. The marriage between Elizabeth and Darcy typically shows that we should not simply judge a person from the first sight of appearance and impression. It takes time to understand each other completely, and to get a pure appeal to each other.
However, when Elizabeth pursues the true love in the marriage, she does not avoid money problem. She admits that true love is the basis of a happy marriage, but money or wealth actually, should be the guarantee. Because a marriage will be unstable without the guarantee of money, and no matter how true their love is. When they cannot afford an easy life, their marriage is also going to fall apart.
People of 21st century are equal with one another, and women can totally control their own future. They do not need to depend on a wealthy and powerful man, and they do not lower themselves to please men. Women in modern time have much more choices and get enough respect. But when thinking about marriage, Jane Austen’s views still have some guiding significance. We should remember what Jane Austen and Elizabeth told us in the novel, that never marry a man, whom you don’t love, and then imagine the condition of material life after your honeymoon.
- Austen, J. (1970). Pride and Prejudice. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- Gillie, C. (2005). The Preface to Austen. Peking: Peking University Press.
- Kaplan, D. (1994). Jane Austen among Women. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.