“It is after all a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” This opening sentence of the book is extremely ironic. It prepares us for the reasons of some of the marriages within the novel. We can see, from the very first sentence that one of the novel’s main focus is marriage, and in some cases, a material attitude towards it.
Money was not however, the only reason for marriage within the novel. Early on in the book we are presented with a scene in which Elizabeth Bennet discusses with her good friend Charlotte Lucas that she and her sister would very much like to marry for love. This aspect is investigated throughout this novel in which, marriage for money would have been the most sensible option for people in the class of the Bennet’s at that time.
One of the most intriguing and perhaps to the modern reader, insane marriages of the book, based mostly on materialistic attributes is that of Charlotte Lucas and Mr. Collins. Charlotte and Mr. Collins seem to have nothing in common and are not at all in love with each other. Charlotte’s attitude to marriage is based on the desire to be content with possession and money. We see this through her remark in chapter 22. “I am not a romantic you know,” she tells Elizabeth after Collins’ proposal. “I never was. I ask only a comfortable home; and considering Mr. Collins’s character, connections and situation in life, is as fair, as most people can boast about.” We see that Charlotte’s attitude to marriage is similar to the wishes of society and of Mrs. Bennet’s. She is in need of financial stability and a want to be married; because-as we say nowadays-she’s not getting any younger.
Of course, Mr. Collins’ attitude to marriage is different. As he tells Elizabeth when proposing to her: “It is a right thing for every clergyman in easy circumstances to set an example of matrimony to his parish and…that it is the particular advice and recommendation of the very noble lady whom I have the honor of calling patroness.” His rather pompous character and obsessive nature towards Lady Catherine DeBough all encourage him to marry as soon as possible. We can see that he is most certainly not in love with Charlotte from the way he previously admires Jane Bennet, then changing his mind to Lizzy when he discovers Jane’s attachment to Mr. Bingley; but he then changes his mind again to Charlotte Lucas who does accept his proposal. He is fickle and his want for a wife is not for his own happiness, but for the respect he will gain from society and his patroness.
The feelings within this marriage are mutual. Both are in want of stability and they use each other to gain this. In this way, the marriage can be seen as extremely successful. Charlotte gains a house, money, a husband to provide for her, and a comfortable future. Collins gains respect and pride in fulfilling the shallow desires of his patroness. Nowadays we would see this marriage as still successful, but not in the least part romantic. In today’s modern times, on the whole, people marry for love. When Elizabeth visits Charlotte in Hunsford we can see that married life is successful. It is working out well for both Charlotte and Mr. Collins as they have un-voiced compromises. Charlotte retreats to the sanctuary of her room whenever Mr. Collins is around and in return, she gains the stability of a good home and comfortable living conditions. We as the reader know of Mr. Collins’ irritating character, and sure enough, Charlotte also does. She “encourages him to work in his garden” (Chapter 28) as it subtly gets him out of the house. These small-unsaid compromises all contribute to make this marriage seem successful; however, there is the lack of affection between both.
Lydia and Wickham’s marriage is extremely different. It hits us with great shock as the reader and as we know, as a great shock to Lizzy through the letter she receives. Lydia never expresses emotion toward Wickham throughout the whole book, up to the point when we learn of her elopement. She is obviously fond of the men in the regiment, but has no specific interest in Wickham. After news of the elopement has reached us and is known to all characters in the book, we also then learn that Lydia ‘loves’ Wickham. She writes to Mrs. Forster on the night of her escape and claims that: “there is one man in the world I love…” (Chapter 47)
However, contained in the same letter is the name of another man-Pratt- whom she intends to dance with at the next ball. Through this subtle fact, we can see revealed, her flirtatious character and extreme fickleness. Lydia’s relationship with Wickham is a physical passion. We know he is very handsome and Lydia mimics her mother’s shallow points of view on men. She is extremely naï¿½ve in that, she doesn’t realize that not getting married to a man, and being alone with him would have caused shame to herself. In those days she would have been branded as ‘dirty’ and the reason we as the reader and Elizabeth as her sister are shocked, is because we really don’t believe she could be so silly! “Oh! Thoughtless, thoughtless Lydia” cries Elizabeth. (Chapter 47) It is possible that Lydia married Wickham for the pure joy of seeming superior to towards her sisters or she may genuinely love him.
Whichever one of those it is, her fantasy is ruined by Wickham’s complete disinterest in her. It was imperative that Wickham should leave Brighton because of financial issues and with Lydia throwing herself at anything male he would not have said no to her company. However, he did not want to marry her. This becomes clear when we learn that Darcy had to pay Wickham to do so. Wickham had no intention of becoming anyone’s husband and if it wasn’t for his shallow and selfish nature and Darcy’s offer of money, he would not have done so. Wickham is in want of money, not a wife. This becomes clear to us because we know of his planned elopement with Georgiana Darcy because of her large fortune. He gains money from this marriage and therefore he makes the most of it. Lydia also gains what she wants: a handsome husband. However we learn that: “Wickham’s affection for Lydia was not equal to hers for him.” We can see that their marriage was not at all successful. In their final mentioning of the novel we read that “His affection for her soon sunk into indifference; hers lasted a little longer…” In many ways this is not unlike the marriage between Mr. and Mrs. Bennet, based mainly on lust.
There is only one marriage in the whole book, which is exactly as society desires marriages to be. This is the one between Jane and Bingley.
When Mr. Bingley acquires Netherfield, Mrs. Bennet is determined that one of her daughters should marry the master of the estate. “If I can see one of my daughters happily settled at Netherfield…I shall have nothing more to wish for”(Chapter 3). Therefore it is extremely fortunate that Bingley takes a liking to Jane from their first meeting, and that he is not too proud to dismiss her as a lower class citizen. He claims on their first meeting that ” she is the most beautiful creature he ever beheld” and his feelings we learn by the end of the novel, never changed. His gullible character and trust in his good friend Darcy all make him believe he does not love her, however when he finds out that Jane does indeed love him in return, all his doubts of his own affection are erased.
Jane’s attitude to marriage was traditional in those days. She allowed herself to be courted by a handsome, rich man and, by with her mother’s guidance, she captured his heart. We hear of her good nature throughout the book, but finalize our good judgment of her when her father blesses her and says: “you are each of you so complying…so easy…and so generous…”. Jane was told not to appear too interested in Bingley at first incase she scared him away. However, this was the fault that provoked Darcy to think her feelings for his friend were less than his for her. Luckily for both, their love for each other resulted in a perfect marriage when feelings were known to each other..
I think this marriage is extremely successful in today’s society as well as society in those days. Both Jane and Bingley loved each other and the relationship was fair and uncomplicated. Jane got the fortune that her mother wanted her to inherit and Bingley got a beautiful, fair and loving wife.
As the title suggests, there must be pride and prejudice mentioned in the novel at some point. In fact, the two main characters and perhaps the most exciting romance within the book are based on these two qualities. Elizabeth is prejudiced against Darcy after his failing to dance at the ball in the 3rd Chapter and after being won over by Wickham, is ready to believe any information he supplied to her against Darcy. Darcy’s pride in his own high status in society almost leads him to dismiss Elizabeth entirely. This is also a possibility when we look at his behavior towards Jane and Bingley’s relationship. These two seem to battle for their love despite their personality traits.
Elizabeth’s attitude towards marriage is hopelessly romantic. She reveals to Jane in Chapter 4 that she would very much like to marry for love, and she does not go against this in any way at all. It seems Elizabeth is one of the few in the novel who does not marry for money, and ironically, at the end, she gains the fairy tale marriage. She gains a handsome husband, a rich estate and the love she wished for.
Darcy seems proud at the beginning of the book. This cannot be doubted. He would not dance with anyone at the ball, and his proud comment:” Your sisters are engaged…there is not another woman in the room, whom it would not be a punishment to stand up with.” sums up his character in the first half of the book. He desperately tries to fight against his feelings towards feisty Lizzy Bennet and even when he knows he loves her, he proposes saying: “In vain I have struggled…could you expect me to rejoice in the inferiority of your connections…whose condition in life is so decidedly beneath my own?”
Had it not been for Elizabeth’s strong and argumentative nature and answering his proposal saying “You could not have made me the offer of your hand in any way that would have tempted me to accept.” Darcy would not have been encouraged to fight his pride for her love. At this point Darcy realizes his proud nature and begins to change. We see this through the composition of the letter explaining his feelings and also through his hospitality towards her at Pemberly. His generosity towards the disguising of Lydia’s shame was overwhelming, and we find that “he thought only of her.” His pride has been deleted and he discovers that he loves Elizabeth despite social class or connections.
Battling something within you is extremely hard, and we can see how much Darcy loves Lizzy; he fights a bad quality inside himself just for the returned love from her. Another battle they both fight for their love for one another is the interference and displeased opinion of Lady Catherine DeBough. Darcy was intended to marry her daughter and when she finds out that her rich soon-to-be-son-in-law could possibly marry someone so low down in status as Elizabeth, she intends to break all hope of love.
“Are the shades of Pemberly to be thus polluted?” Lady Catherine asks rhetorically, implying that Elizabeth’s inferiority and lack of connections could bring shame to Darcy. Earlier on in that conversation, Elizabeth states what is true, and also what Darcy has realized. She says: “whatever my connections may be, if your nephew does not object to them, they can be nothing to you.” By this point, Darcy has realized this. He has realized the main priority in the game of love, that is: it is between two people and no one else could possibly matter. If Elizabeth did not have such a strong personality at this point, driven by her realization of love for Darcy, and if Darcy had not realized his aching love for Elizabeth and been prepared to propose again, their relationship would never have resulted in the ‘happy ever after’ situation in which it does.
I do not think this marriage is the most successful in the whole book, however it is an idealistic picture of love overcoming everything. Everyone is happy and everyone gets what they want. Mrs. Bennet is ecstatic and all prejudice against Darcy goes out the window when she discovers one of her daughters will be living on “ten thousand a year!” Elizabeth gets more than she bargained for. Having previously wanted to marry mainly for love, she gains the estate, the money and the loving husband. Darcy finally gets Elizabeth, and his determination to get her, makes this one of the most incredible love stories in literature.
I think the most successful marriage in the whole novel is definitely that between Jane and Bingley. Although it is ordinary, we can see the love each one has for the other. Jane respected Bingley’s choice when she thought he had left her because she loved him and wanted him to be happy, and Bingley never stopped loving her. It was love at first sight and both were elated when they heard that they had consented to be married. There was no interference on either of their feelings and I think it was a very personal romance. It resulted in a fairy tale ending and the couple that are first mentioned in the book continue their sweet and caring relationship throughout the novel.