You should consider:
* Elizabeth’s motives for the decisions she makes
* Her relationships with Mr Collins and Mr Darcy
* Austen’s presentations of the 3 proposals
* The importance of marriage in the society of the time
In reading Pride and Prejudice it becomes very apparent that marriage is a very central theme. In fact a lot of the action is focused on the main Character Elizabeth and her decisions on the three marriage proposals. Elizabeth receives three marriage proposals throughout the novel ‘Pride and Prejudice’. However she rejects the first two and accepts the third. Elizabeth’s motives for these decisions are based wholly on her relationships with Mr Darcy and Mr Collins. Throughout these decisions we gain a valuable insight of the character Elizabeth and also come to realise the enormity of the importance attached to marriage in her contemporary time.
In the early 1800s marriage was vital for women if they were to live an affluent and socially acceptable lifestyle. Women in the early 1800s did not earn money; this was the man’s job. Women therefore looked at marriage as means of stability, thus making women dependent on men. Since women were deprived of the liberty to earn and inherit money, marriage was their safety net from a life of poverty and despair. Men were seen as superior to women in, the form in which they received money, jobs, marriage and other affairs. If women were born into the lower or middle class people they were seen inferior to upper-class people because of their lack of wealth. The very upper class people were known as aristocrats. Anyone of the aristocracy did not need marriage for means of stability. Lady Catherine De Bourgh was if the aristocracy and though she was very rich she wanted her daughter to marry Darcy so her daughter would continue living a pleasant and comfortable life as she was living. Throughout the novel we see the necessity of marriage especially to lower class people like the Bennets as they have all female children.
Throughout the novel ‘Pride and Prejudice’ we are reminded of the importance of marriage in many ways; The way in which Mrs Bennet is so eager to get her daughters married, Mr Collins annoyance at Elizabeth’s refusal of marriage, Miss Charlotte Lucas’ eagerness to accept Mr Collins proposal highlights the stigma attached to unmarried women. Mrs Bennet’s joy at Jane and Elizabeth’s marriages into wealthy backgrounds further consolidates the importance of marriage.
Elizabeth has many motives for rejecting the first proposal she receives. Her first proposal is given by Mr. Collins her cousin. Elizabeth has a very aloof relationship with Mr Collins. Elizabeth has an incite to what Mr Collins is really like,
upon hearing a letter her father received from Mr Collins. Elizabeth who is a very good judge of Character finds it difficult to learn of him when she says “He must be an oddity, I think…I cannot make him out” it gives him a mysterious feel but when she goes on to say “there is something very pompous in his style…..can he be a sensible man?” we grasp the feel that Elizabeth and her cousin will not become close in relationships and that Elizabeth wont give Mr Collins a proper chance to prove he is not boring or pompous and that he might be a suitable match.. Elizabeth had an assertion made before meeting Mr Collins and she believes him to be strange. It is clear her opinion of Mr Collins is decided and firmly established.
From the point of which Mr Collins is introduced to Elizabeth, she takes and instant dislike to him. Elizabeth detected he was affected, characterless, self-opinionated and unpleasant before even meeting him. Hence she feared her relationship with him would be very predictable in that she would not like him. His visit to Longbourn was a disaster as she learned her predictions were correct. Elizabeth dislikes him even more when he asks her to dance at the ball which spoils her plans with Mr Wickham. Mr Collins pomposity is revealed when in his proposal he gives laborious list of reasons for his marrying of Elizabeth. His pomposity is revealed yet again after Elizabeth declining his proposal he replies “it is usual with young ladies to reject the addresses of the man whom they secretly mean to accept….I am therefore by no means discouraged.” Mr Collins thinks Elizabeth is teasing him and he doesn’t give up.
Elizabeth says “…I am perfectly serious in my refusal.–You could not make me happy, and I am convinced that I am the last woman in the world who would make you so,” she tries to put her words clear, plain and simple and though they may sound harsh they need to be harsh so that Mr Collins will accept her refusal. Mr Collins has an inability to accept her refusal and continues on as he sees her refusal as forms of encouragement. “You are informingly charming!….and I am persuaded that when sanctioned by the express authority of both your excellent parents, my proposals will not fail of being accepted,” the presentation of this proposal by Austen has made this event quite comical to readers as the pompous Mr Collins will just not give up. His lack of self-knowledge and uncritical mind means he does not understand Elizabeth’s refusal. Elizabeth’s motives for rejecting her first proposal from Mr Collins are clear. She barely knows Mr Collins, he is unbearable to be with, they have nothing in common and there is a huge lack of attraction. Elizabeth is a very witty, strong and intelligent. She is principled and determined to marry for love -or not at all, thus going against believes of many women who marry for stability.
Elizabeth has many motives for refusing Mr Darcy’s first proposal. Elizabeth’s is first introduced to Mr Darcy at the ball. She finds him handsome at first but soon learns he is conceited, proud and unnecessarily rude about Elizabeth when he says “She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me….” Elizabeth believes him to be too proud for her to accept. She initially agrees with her dear friend Miss Charlotte Lucas, that Darcy has a right to be proud but quickly follows with “I could easily have forgiven his pride, had he not mortified mine.” Elizabeth’s reaction shows that she too can be stereotypical and prejudice to newcomers like Darcy. She is perceptive when assessing people but she judges Darcy she is wrong.
Elizabeth is completely taken in by appearances and unquestionably accepts all that Wickham says about Darcy. Which was another motive for her Rejecting Darcy’s first proposal. “For dishonesty I must call it, how can such abominable pride as his have ever done him?” This is response to her conversation with Wickham. It is at this point when we release there is an element of naivety about her character. Elizabeth believes Wickham without a doubt about what he is saying about Darcy. This clearly is a motive for her rejecting Darcy’s first proposal. Before the proposal Elizabeth heard that Darcy was the one who took Bingley, which ruined her sisters chance of happiness with Bingley as he thought they should not be together. Here we see Elizabeth’s compassion for her sister as she would rather see her sister happy before her. Clearly we can see many motives for Elizabeth rejecting her second proposal from Darcy. Elizabeth, from what Wickham told her is lead to believe Darcy is pompous and conceited and this along with other reasons makes the decision of rejection for her.
Upon Darcy’s second proposal Elizabeth accepts it and is overjoyed as over time she had learn how Darcy was not as he appeared pompous or conceited and she learn how she had been mislead by Wickham. She saw a side to Darcy which she had never seen before. After seeing that Darcy had helped her two sisters Lydia and Jane find happiness with Wickham and Bingley, Elizabeth realised Darcy was not conceited, but that he cared a great deal about her and truly loved her. When Darcy declares to Elizabeth “I have been most anxious to acknowledge to you how gratefully I feel it,” Elizabeth’s true feelings for Darcy which were bottled up excel her feeling of love towards Darcy.
Elizabeth’s relationship with Darcy has many twists and turns. Their relationship is more complex and has more substance than that with Mr Collins. At the beginning Elizabeth admires Darcy, as do many others, until overhearing a conversation between him and Darcy which he mocks her. Upon hearing this Elizabeth takes a sudden dislike to Darcy. Later in the novel , Darcy begins to admire Elizabeth on seeing her inner beauty, as we are told “…But no sooner had he made it clear to himself and his friends that she had hardly a good feature in his face , than he began to find it was rendered uncommonly intelligent by the beautiful expression of her dark eyes, he began to wish to know more of her.” Darcy began to notice her intelligence and how interesting she was. Though Darcy had a change of heart Elizabeth had no indication of it and so still found him arrogant, obnoxious and too proud. Elizabeth then feel in love with Wickham who wrongly filled her with lies about Darcy and so she did not notice Darcy’s attraction for her. Consequently Elizabeth dislikes Darcy even more and their relationship becomes strained. In the end her relationship with Darcy ends well, after learning how caring he is and how much he done for her while she was oblivious to all the things he done to keep her happy.
Personally I feel the Novel ‘Pride and Prejudice’ was very enjoyable, it is relevant today in showing how prejudice people can be, but if they are not prejudice they will learn a lot more about people and their kindness. I feel this is the message Austen is putting through, that we should not be prejudice because there can be a whole other side to a person.