Although love is considered significant in the world we live in now, it was not the case in the 18th century- Austen’s time. As time progressed, so did education, fashion styles, medical practises and most importantly social constructs and values. Love and marriage in Austen’s century, though it had some similarities, it was considerably different. Pride and Prejudice, a romance novel by Jane Austen, first published in 1813 depicts the manner of marriage and love in the Regency era. It is a story of transformation, in which the protagonist, Elizabeth Bennet and her counterpart change to believe that love does transcend all things. The novel delves into the passion and excitement of love, but also the detachment that exists between loveless couples.
Marriage in Austen’s time can be described as a business transaction. For the women, the man’s income was all they could depend on. And usually for men, the women’s dowry or ‘portion’ would be taken under consideration. In Pride and Prejudice, the marriage between Wickham and Lydia was purely based on money, and perhaps Lydia’s foolish adoration towards Wickham. Wickham married Lydia for the money, which he lacked. Before their matrimony Mr Gardiner stated in a letter “They are not married, nor can I find any intention of being so,” however after there was a discussion between Darcy, Wickham and Mr Gardiner regarding the ‘payment’ behind their marriage Wickham was more than ready to marry Lydia. Mr Darcy was willing to pay off all Wickham’s debts and give them another thousand pounds if Wickham was to marry Lydia, and Wickham would only marry Lydia if those conditions were provided to him- this is a marriage completely based on a monetary deal. Furthermore, the narrator says, “Wickham still cherished the hope of more effectually making his fortune through marriage.” This clearly shows that not only women, but men also gained financial means from marriage. Another
example in the text where marriage is represented as a business deal is when Colonel Fitzwilliam states, “there are not many in my rank of life who can afford to marry without some attention to money.” Austen uses dialogue, to reinforce the fact that marriage is money and the bluntness of Austen’s choice of words results in the reader of the modern era to be strongly opposed to what marriage use to be. The novel represents marriage as a business trade, shown by the relationship between Wickham and Lydia. Each gains wealth from the other, and not care, trust or love- the morals of a marriage in today’s society.
Men looked for women who had many ‘accomplishments,’ not necessarily if they loved them, or if they were intelligent or had good personalities. “A woman must have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, dancing, drawing, and the modern languages…,” stated Caroline Bingley. Not only accomplishments were to be perfected, men looked for beauty as well. In the case of Mr Bennet, he followed the social trend where he married based on appearances and accomplishments. Mrs Bennet was a beauty, however she turned out to be a frivolous, foolish and oblivious character, resulting in an inharmonious marriage. A woman in a marriage was about presentation, to be beautiful and accomplished- to not embarrass the husband. Therefore men did not search for their soul mate, but rather a woman who was presentable. Not only did Mr Bennet marry to a beauty, it is also the case for Mr Bingley who loved Jane for her beauty. Austen represents marriage to be decided on by a woman’s charm and accomplishments, in order to win a man’s heart a woman had to be talented in all the art forms. To be accomplished was a vital requirement for women.
Marriage for women is represented as their ultimate goal in life, because it was impossible to live independently- especially the women who belonged to the genteel class. Genteel women were not allowed to pursue professional careers or university degrees. The only accepted occupation was to be a governess, however they were not highly respected. Consequently, women depended on marriage to have money of which men would be the one who provided it. Charlotte Lucas did not, “think highly either of men or of matrimony, marriage had always been her object…” and that was the reason for
her to marry the pompous Mr Collins. Charlotte did not love Mr Collins, she was twenty-seven and still dependent on her family- the only goal she had was to be married, and she was desperate. For women to be dependent on family was something to be ashamed of and the only way to escape out of under the protection of family was to marry. Using characterisation, Austen represents marriage as the most important event, the only respectable option for women. Marriage was a must for those living in the regency era, unlike today, where living independently is accepted and even encouraged.
Not only was marriage from the Regency era different from today, so was the concept of love. Love was not sought for in Austen’s time, rather it would just be convenient if you were really in love with your fiancé. Pride and Prejudice represents love as an unnecessary asset in a relationship. It is not required to love someone, in order to be with him or her and even be married with them. In the case of Charlotte and Mr Collins, love was not apparent. After Charlotte accepted Mr Collins’ proposal, the narrator states that, “his attachment to her must be imaginary.” Charlotte did not love Mr Collins, but accepted his hand in order to obtain a comfortable home. She was not looking for love to be happy, she wanted social security, which could be provided by the clergyman. Charlotte’s view on love represented society’s view, which is that love is not a vital component of marriage, but rather gaining financial security. The absence of love within a marriage was acceptable.
Another type of love was radical, new, true. Mr Darcy and Elizabeth represented true love, though it was formed from misunderstanding and disagreeable first impressions. Love grew despite the differences; Austen’s protagonists are in true love, the type of love where they can conquer all things. Elizabeth, “…with tears in her eyes [replied], ‘I love him,’” though her pride influenced her to misjudge Mr Darcy she overcame her wall of prejudice and was deeply in love him. Similarly with Mr Darcy, he disregarded his embarrassment and preconceptions and confessed his love for Elizabeth. Austen composed the two central characters to fall in true love, implying the idea that true love is the better and more rewarding. Elizabeth did not totally conform to the social constructs, she was self-reliant and
romantic- she wanted love, unlike Charlotte who wanted a comfortable life. And because she did not follow the ways of conduct books, she was rewarded with true love. Though the two characters were deeply in love, they were not hopelessly in love, another radical aspect of the relationship between Darcy and Elizabeth. Mr Darcy confessed to Elizabeth that he,” ardently admire and love you [Elizabeth].” He uses the word ‘admire,’ showing that there is respect and equality between the two, Mr Darcy did not love Elizabeth only on her appearances but of her ‘impertinence’ and ‘liveliness of your mind.’ Love, in Elizabeth and Mr Darcy’s case is represented as the first step towards eternal happiness, it is the ideal marriage with a balance of emotion and rationality.
Both the social and radical perspectives of marriage and love were represented in Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Through Jane and Bingley, Charlotte and Collins and Lydia and Wickham the social standard of marriage is presented. And through Elizabeth and Darcy, a new outlook of marriage and love was formed. Today’s society revolves around love, but in Austen’s time finding marriage was far more crucial. Jane Austen renews the ideas of love and marriage and re-presents them by moulding them with her values. Though she writes in the romance genre, she ventures away at times to create her idealistic true love. In conclusion, marriage is represented as a business transaction, love may be thoughtless but to find true love is to fall in love with ones personality and not only their appearances. Austen believes that marriage is based on the strong foundation of true love and intellectual unity within the marriage.
Aspects of Marriage Present in Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
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Aspects of Marriage Present in Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
There are lots of aspects of marriages in Jane Austen’s novel Pride
and Prejudice. There are marriages of love, convenience, physical
attraction and mercenary. The marriage between Mr. Wickham and Lydia
is partly due to physical attraction and mercenary. The marriage
between Elizabeth ad Mr. Darcy and Jane and Mr. Bingley are due to
love. The marriage between Mr. Collins and Charlotte Lucas is base on
convenience. The Marriage between Mr and Mrs Bennet is also due to
The novel was set in 1796 and was published in 1813. The England
during this period of time was far more class conscious. The main
characters in this novel come from a class called gentry; this is the
class above the emerging professional class and below aristocracy.
Class was more to do with breeding than with wealth. Rules were set
for everything, rules for dressing, rules for travelling, rules or
introducing yourself to others and rules for behaving. In this period
of time women were not allowed to work. However they could become
governesses. They could not inherit wealth from their father, and the
Bennet sisters were no exception therefore Mr. Collins was their heir
to Mr. Bennet’s property.
The marriage between Mr. and Mrs. Bennet was based on physical
attraction. You can see that they do not understand each other. There
is a contrast between both of their character. Mr.Bennet is
intellectual and likes to spend time reading in the library while Mrs.
Bennet is loud, hasty and likes to spend her time gossiping and trying
to finding husbands for her daughters. Mr. Bennet enjoys mocking his
“… I have respect for your nerves they are my old friends…”. Mr. and
Mrs Bennet also have different opinions and ideas of their daughter’s
future “… Your mother will never see your face if you do not marry Mr.
Collins, and I will never see you again if you do…”. You can tell that
this is a marriage based on physical attraction because Mr. Bennet
advises his daughter not to make the same mistake that he did my
marring Mrs. Bennet “…I know that you could be neither happy nor
respectable to your husband, unless you truly esteemed your husband….
My child, let me not have the grief of seeing you unable to respect
you partner in life…” he is in a way hinting that he cannot respect
his wife. Mrs. Bennet is unaware of this as she dose not know her
husband very well. Mrs. Bennet’s character is very similar to the
character of Lydia. Both like officers and both act loud and hastily.
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The marriage between Mr. Collins and Charlotte Lucas’s is based on
convenience. Mr. Collins’s character is very arrogant and pompous. He
is obsessed with Lady Catherine de Bourgh. He never tires of praising
her. Charlotte Lucas’s character is very plain. Lady Catherine de
Bourgh is one of the reasons of this marriage. Lady Catherine de Bourg
had advised him to get married “…She had even condescended to advise
him to marry as soon as he could…”. Mr.Collins has initially intended
to marry one of his cousins however he was refused and married
Charlotte instead. The reason why Charlotte married him was for
convenience “… I am not an romantic you know. I never was. I ask only
a comfortable home and considering Mr. Collin’s situation in life I am
convinced my chance of happiness with him is as most people…”. However
you can sense the hostility between them. Charlotte is sometimes
embarrassed by Mr. Collins “... Once or twice she could disconcert a
faint blush…”. You can see that the marriage is not due to attraction
as Charlotte encourages Mr. Collins to work in the garden in the hope
that he would lose weight and stay away from her.
The relationship between Lydia and Mr. Wickham is partly based on
physical attraction and partly mercenary. Mr.Wickham’s character is
very manipulative and scheming. Lydia’s character is very loud, silly
and childish. Mr. Wickham’s aim is to gain money. He had planned to
run away with Miss. Darcy in order to get her money.
The only reason why he agreed to marry Lydia was because Mr. Darcy
agreed to pay off all his debts and pay him thousands of pounds. You
could see that Mr. Wickham has no feelings for Lydia “… Mr. Wickham’s
affection for Lydia was just what Elizabeth had expected to find; not
equal to Lydia’s for him…”. You could see that they were not very
compatible. Lydia married Wickham because she was attracted to him.
She wanted to marry an officer and to be the first one married out of
her sisters “… Ah! Jane, I take your place now, and you must go lower,
because I am the married one …” . She is also trying to imply to her
sisters that her status in the family is higher as she is the first
one to be married “…Is he not a charming man? I am sure my sisters
must all envy me…”.
The marriage between Jane and Mr. Bingley was based on Love.
Mr.Bingley’s character was friendly and gentleman-like. Jane’s
character was also very friendly and forgiving. Both of them were very
similar and very compatible. From the beginning of the novel you can
see the attraction and bond between them. Jane describes Mr. Bingley“…
as what an young man ought to be, good humoured, lively; and I never
saw such happy manners…”. There was an instant connection as in the
ball Mr. Bingley danced with her twice and described her as “the most
beautiful creature I ever beheld…”. You could see that they cared for
each other, when Jane was ill Mr. Bringly repeatedly checked how she
was and tried to make her feel better.
The marriage between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy also is based on love.
Elizabeth’s character is very intellectual, she has a bit of pride and
she is very witty “… he is a gentleman and I am an gentleman’s
daughter…”. Mr.Darcy’s character is very reserved, he does not like
to socialise with people and also had a strong sense of pride. At
first Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy did not like each other. Elizabeth
thought of Mr. Darcy as rude and arrogant and Mr.Darcy thought of her
as “tolerable” .However you could soon start to see Mr.Darcy slowly
start to fall in love with Elizabeth “he began to find it was rendered
uncommonly intelligent by the beautiful expressions of her dark
eyes…”. Mr. Darcy also defended her from the abuse of Miss. Bingley
and Mrs.Hurst when Elizabeth walked through the mud to see Jane.
Mr.Darcy is prepared to give up is status and his reputation to marry
Elizabeth. Elizabeth has far less connections and has an uncle living
in Cheapside (London) who works for a living.
He is prepared to put all of his reputation at risk for his love.
Elizabeth’s attitude towards Mr.Darcy also starts to change when she
finds out about the truth of Mr.Wickham “ She grew absolutely ashamed
of herself- of neither Darcy nor Wickham could she think, without
feeling that she had been blind, partial prejudice absurd…”.She also
starts to admire him when she finds out more about his personal life
and she starts to find out about the other side to him “…he is
certainly a good brother, whatever gives his sister any pleasure is
sure to be done in a second…”. She starts to see Mr.Darcy’s love when
he tracks down Lydia and Wickham and makes him marry her “… her heart
did whisper that he had done it for her…”. You can see that this is a
marriage of love as both really care about each other.
There were many marriages in this novel. There are marriages of love,
convenience, physical attraction and mercenary. The marriage of
Elizabeth and Darcy and Jane and Bingley was a balance between the
head and the heart while the marriage between Charlotte and Mr.
Collins was not love. The marriage between Mr. and Mrs Bennet was
neither, the marriage between Mr.Wickham and Lydia was partly head and
Jane Austen’s view on marriage was very simple; the key to a
successful marriage was a right balance of the head and the heart.
However Jane Austen or her sisters never got married themselves.
I personally think that Jane and Bingley’s marriage and Elizabeth and
Darcy’s marriage is most likely to be successful as both of the people
in this marriage understand and love each other. I agree with Jane
Austen’s view on marriage. She put her point across to the reader by
showing that first impressions are not always true. People who believe
in love tend to believe in love at first sight however in this novel
the main character, Elizabeth judges some people wrong and some right
e.g. she thought Mr. Wickham was the victim. This shows that there is
something more than love that makes a relationship successful.