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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.
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