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Marriage

Marriage in Pride and Prejudice It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man
in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. This first sentence of Jane
Austen's Pride and Prejudice could not have better prepared the reader for the rest of the
novel. The thread that sews together the lives of all the characters in this classic is the
establishment of marriage.

Austen uses the Bennet family of Longbourn to illustrate the good and bad reasons
behind marriage.
Mrs. Bennet is an irritating woman whose main goal in life is to get her five daughters
married. It might be correct in assuming that she felt social and financial pressure to do
so. Her husband's estate was entailed to his nephew, Mr. Collins, upon Mr. Bennet's
death. Therefore, Mrs. Bennet wanted her daughters to have financial stability elsewhere
in case of their father's death. In the time period of this story there was very little social
acceptance of women who were single their whole lives. For the most part, women could
not acquire money on their own without inheriting or marrying into good fortune.
Women who could not find a husband were often referred to as old maids and lived their
whole lives with their parents. I can understand why Mrs. Bennet did not want this for
any of her daughters. The Bennets' marriage was not ideal. Mr. Bennet had married his
wife because she was beautiful in her youth and her ability to supply him with children.
Eventually though, her beauty faded and so did their enjoyment of each other. He enjoyed
his time alone in his study where he could be away from his wife and daughters. Mrs.
Bennet enjoyed gossiping about neighbors and finding future husbands for her daughters.
I do believe that Austen is showing the reader that marrying only for physical appearance
is wrong - beauty fades with time.

Charlotte Lucas, Elizabeth's dearest friend, marries Mr. Collins for money. The narrator
plainly states that Charlotte accepted his proposal for the pure and disinterested desire of
an establishment. She was twenty-six years old and her family was beginning to be
worried. Upon hearing of her engagement, her brothers were relieved from their
apprehension of Charlotte dying an old maid. Charlotte wanted nothing more out of
marriage than financial stability and that is what she got. In Hunsford it seems that
Charlotte did nothing but tend to the chores of maintaining her home and pleasing Lady
Catherine. I do not believe that Charlotte and Mr. Collins were in love at all and they did
not really seem too happy in each other's company. I think their marriage was an
illustration of why you should not marry just for financial reasons.

Lydia's marriage to Wickham was simply for romance and lust. For a good while, the
flirtatious teenager had had her eye on military officers. I believe that when Wickham
showed her attention she fell in love and henceforth came their marriage. The sad fact is
that she liked him a great deal more than he cared about her. Wickham had many debts
and used the money he got from marrying her to pay them off. Therefore, Lydia is
married to a man that doesn't really care for her all that much and Wickham is married to
a girl that cannot really offer him anything. This couple shows that you should marry
someone who feels the same towards you or eventually you will be unhappy.
The marriages of the two eldest Bennet daughters were pleasant and appear to be ideal.
Jane had longed for Mr. Bingley for quite a while. Bingley was handsome, rich, kind, and
well liked. He and Jane shared many conversations and had complimentary personalities.
They were pleasantly matched and I believe that they shared a happy life together.

Elizabeth and Darcy's marriage was an excellent match. They were equal in intellect, had
physical attraction and deep love for one another, financial security, romance, and
companionship. They are the two I believe would be most happy in life. Austen wanted
the reader to know that marriage should be approached as a package deal - a package of
love, financial stability, physical attraction, and happiness.

1. It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good


fortune, must be in want of a wife.

This is the first sentence of Pride and Prejudice and stands as one of the most famous
first lines in literature. Even as it briskly introduces the arrival of Mr. Bingley at
Netherfield—the event that sets the novel in motion—this sentence also offers a
miniature sketch of the entire plot, which concerns itself with the pursuit of “single men
in possession of a good fortune” by various female characters. The preoccupation with
socially advantageous marriage in nineteenth-century English society manifests itself
here, for in claiming that a single man “must be in want of a wife,” the narrator reveals
that the reverse is also true: a single woman, whose socially prescribed options are quite
limited, is in (perhaps desperate) want of a husband.

The main subject in the novel is stated in the first sentence of the novel: "It is a truth
universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in
want of a wife." In this statement, Austen has cleverly done three things: she has declared
that the main subject of the novel will be courtship and marriage, she has established the
humorous tone of the novel by taking a simple subject to elaborate and to speak
intelligently of, and she has prepared the reader for a chase in the novel of either a
husband in search of a wife, or a women in pursuit of a husband.

The first line also defines Austen's book as a piece of literature that connects itself to the
18th century period. Pride and Prejudice is 18th century because of the emphasis on man
in his social environment rather than in his individual conditions. The use of satire and
wit, a common form of 18th century literature, also contributes to label the book as 18th
century. However, because Austen had allowed personal feelings of the characters to be
expressed in her work, she can also be classified as Romantic. In the figure of Elizabeth,
Austen shows passion attempting to find a valid mode of existence in society. Passion
and reason also comes together in the novel to show that they are complementary of
marriage.

There are seven different marriages presented in the novel. Excluding the Gardiner and
the Lucas, the remaining five marriages contrasts each other to reveal Austen’s opinions
and thoughts on the subject of marriage.

The marriage between Darcy and Elizabeth reveals the characteristics that constitute a
successful marriage. One of these characteristics is that the feeling cannot be brought on
by appearances, and must gradually develop between the two people as they get to know
one another. In the beginning, Elizabeth and Darcy were distant from each other because
of their prejudice. The series of events which they both experienced gave them the
opportunity to understand one another and the time to reconcile their feelings for each
other. Thus, their mutual understanding is the foundation of their relationship and will
lead them to a peaceful and lasting marriage. This relationship between Elizabeth and
Darcy reveals the importance of getting to know one’s partner before marrying.

The marriage between Jane Bennet and Bingley is also an example of successful
marriage. Austen, through Elizabeth, expresses her opinion of this in the novel:

"....really believed all his [Bingley] expectations of felicity, to be rationally founded,


because they had for basis the excellent understanding, and super-excellent disposition of
Jane, and a general similarity of feeling and taste between her and himself." (Chapter 55)

However, unlike Darcy and Elizabeth, there is a flaw in their relationship. The flaw is
that both characters are too gullible and too good-hearted to ever act strongly against
external forces that may attempt to separate them:

"You [Jane and Bingley] are each of you so complying, that nothing will ever be resolved
on; so easy, that every servant will cheat you; and so generous, that you will always
exceed your income." (Chapter 55)

Obviously, Lydia and Wickham’s marriage is an example of a bad marriage. Their


marriage was based on appearances, good looks, and youthful vivacity. Once these
qualities can no longer be seen by each other, the once strong relationship will slowly
fade away. As in the novel, Lydia and Wickham’s marriage gradually disintegrates;
Lydia becomes a regular visitor at her two elder sister’s home when "her husband was
gone to enjoy himself in London or Bath." Through their relationship, Austen shows that
hasty marriage based on superficial qualities quickly cools and leads to unhappiness.

Although little is told of how Mr. Bennet and Mrs. Bennet got together, it can be inferred
by their conversions that their relationship was similar to that of Lydia and Wickham--
Mr. Bennet had married a woman he found sexually attractive without realizing she was
an unintelligent woman. Mrs. Bennet’s favoritism towards Lydia and her comments on
how she was once as energetic as Lydia reveals this similarity. Mr. Bennet’s comment on
Wickham being his favorite son-in-law reinforces this parallelism. The effect of the
relationships was that Mr. Bennet would isolate himself from his family; he found refuge
in his library or in mocking his wife. Mr. Bennet’s self-realization at the end of the novel
in which he discovers that his lack of attention towards his family had led his family to
develop the way they are, was too late to save his family. He is Austen’s example of a
weak father. In these two latter relationships, Austen shows that it is necessary to use
good judgement to select a spouse, otherwise the two people will lose respect for each
other.

The last example of a marriage is of a different nature than the ones mentioned above.
The marriage between Mr. Collins and Charlotte is based on economics rather than on
love or appearance. It was a common practice during Austen’s time for women to marry a
husband to save herself from spinsterhood or to gain financial security. In Pride and
Prejudice, Austen dramatizes gender inequality and shows that women who submit
themselves to this type of marriage will have to suffer in tormenting silence as Charlotte
does:

"When Mr. Collins said any thing of which his wife might reasonably be ashamed, which
certainly was not unseldom , she [Elizabeth] would involuntarily turned her eye on
Charlotte. Once or twice she could discern a faint blush; but in general Charlotte wisely
did not hear." (Chapter 28)

These five marriages contribute to the theme that a happy and strong marriage takes time
to build and must be based on mutual feeling, understanding, and respect. Hasty
marriages acting on impulse, and based on superficial qualities will not survive and will
lead to inevitable unhappiness.

In Pride and Prejudice, Austen has denounced the elements of marriage and society that
she found distasteful. These are the conclusions of her observation of the people in her
world. However in her writing, Jane has also reflected her own enjoyment in life among
these people with and without their faults.