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Jane Austen’s Presentation of Love and Marriage in Her Novel Pride and Prejudice Essay Sample

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Jane Austen’s Presentation of Love and Marriage in Her Novel Pride and Prejudice Essay Sample

Austen’s novel, Pride and Prejudice was written in 1813 and is set firmly in this period. The novel revolves around the choices people make when choosing a partner in marriage; the social rigmaroles they go through while attempting to find the right man or woman and the difficulties some people have to overcome before they can marry. The novel was written when society stressed social control over personal pleasure. “Society” at this time was very judgemental; men had to have money, social status and be agreeable; women needed some money, social status, beauty, accomplishments and education. To succeed one had to learn and live by rules. Accomplishments such as reading, riding, sewing, singing and playing music were important for wealthy girls, as “society” would not allow them to take up a profession. The novel is based on middle to upper class society where snobbery is common. Elizabeth Bennet, our heroine, is described by Lady Catherine as “a young woman of inferior birth,” whom she thinks is “of no importance in this world.” Austen, however, would seem to disapprove of mercenary attitudes. Regency England, therefore, did not possess the freedom of our own twenty first century society regarding love and marriage.

The book has a dazzling opening line: “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” Immediately, in the first sentence, Austen has made the reader think about marriage and money. She concentrates on aspects of love all the way through the novel. The novel is written to challenge people like Mrs Bennet and their views on “society” as a whole and is written from Elizabeth Bennet’s point of view. Mrs Bennet thinks that any man with a large fortune “is considered the rightful property” of one of her daughters.

Chapter one presents Mrs Bennet to us and it proves that her views are singularly similar to those of the opening sentence. This chapter makes it clear to the reader how Austen views Mr and Mrs Bennet’s marriage; she shows this with satire, irony and deliberate mockery. Mrs Bennet is elated by the fact that she has just learnt from her friend Mrs Long that Netherfield has been “let” to “a young man of large fortune from north of England.” She thinks it is “a fine thing” for her “girls.” Mr Bennet teases and mocks her about her scheming for the young man to marry one or other of her daughters. All Mrs Bennet wants for her “girls” is “a single man of large fortune” and that he is a man of acceptable social status or a man of “rank.”

Mr Bennet was captivated by Mrs Bennet’s “youth and beauty” and her “appearance of good humour” and passion was the foundation of their marriage. Mr Bennet however, would prefer to have his daughters married to a wealthy and “agreeable man,” but he doesn’t care as much about it as Mrs Bennet. To close the opening chapter, Austen reveals that Mr and Mrs Bennet have been married for “three-and-twenty years” and that, even this long time hasn’t been enough for Mrs Bennet to understand Mr Bennet’s character. He “was so odd a mixture of quick parts, sarcastic humour, reserve and caprice.” “Her mind was less difficult to develop,” as she was more interested in getting her own way, rather than gaining knowledge and understanding. Mrs Bennet’s “weak understanding” and “illiberal mind” prevents any “lasting affection”. The matrimony succeeds on the grounds that they keep out of each other’s way.

Mr Collins is someone whom Austen takes great pleasure in satirising. When he first enters the Bennet house, he quickly decides that Jane would make him a fine wife. Later he learns that she is “soon to be engaged” so, he just as quickly changes his affections to direct them at Elizabeth. He makes sure that she is not going to be otherwise engaged and then, after conferring with Mrs Bennet, makes his proposal. His reason for marrying was, in short, that his “patroness” had told him that it would be a good idea for him to get married. After she has turned him down, he doesn’t take no for an answer, he says “The more you say ‘no,’ the more I know you love me.” She again says no and he continues to argue. He eventually gives up. Mrs Bennet is outraged.

She is engrossed in getting Elizabeth married off and having the house safe after Mr Bennet dies. However, Elizabeth will not say yes, and so Mr Collins transfers his amorous intentions on to Charlotte Lucas. We hear later that she accepts his marriage proposal immediately because she considers herself to be “plain,” all she wants is “financial security” from a marriage; her view is that “Happiness in marriage is purely a matter of chance.” Their marriage doesn’t possess “understanding of one another’s characters,” “good dispositions” or “similarity in feeling and taste.” The affection/attraction in the marriage perhaps comes from Mr Collins, although as she and everyone else say that she is “plain,” he must not think so. The only thing this marriage really possesses is “financial security.” Austen gently mocks their partnership.

Wickham and Lydia’s marriage is also one of little “understanding of one another’s characters,” no “good dispositions,” no “similarity in feeling and taste” and as we later find out, there is no “financial security” either. The initial attraction was based on good looks and affection for one another. But after the initial attraction, Mr Wickham becomes disinterested in Lydia and this is even more of a problem. Lydia doesn’t understand the shame she has brought upon her family and boasts that all her sisters should “look up” to her because she is a “married woman.”

We see many incidents through Elizabeth’s eyes; even when we first meet Wickham, we see that he is never really shown to the reader as a potential partner for her. Her first potential partner is in fact Mr Darcy, who at the first ball “drew the attention of the room” and Elizabeth, with his “fine tall person and handsome features.” Unfortunately, for his reputation and Elizabeth’s, he refuses to dance with her. She overhears him speaking to Mr Bingley, saying that she is “tolerable” but then he also says that she “is not handsome enough even to tempt me.” Because of this, throughout the novel, Elizabeth misreads his forthcoming conduct. After hearing so, most of the people at the ball decide that although rich and handsome, Darcy is also haughty, ill mannered and proud. This is unlike Mrs Bennet’s first impression, which was that he would be as agreeable if not more so than Mr Bingley, this was because he was handsome and rich – all Mrs Bennet wants for “her girls.” At a subsequent ball, Mr Darcy asks Elizabeth if she would like to dance. This is when they have their first informal conversation about “vanity and pride,” which leads them to have greater understanding of one another’s character.

Austen reveals Darcy’s true character through his conversations with Elizabeth. She finds him to be more agreeable than was first assumed. After receiving his letter of proposal and explanation of Wickham’s true character, Elizabeth is even more surprised and shocked. Elizabeth and Darcy, after spending a lot of time together, eventually get married. Even Mr Bennet is surprised at Elizabeth asking to be allowed to marry Mr Darcy but he doesn’t mind, as long as she “loves him.” Their marriage possesses: “understanding of one another’s characters” because they spent much time analysing each other, “good dispositions” because they find it easy to get on with one another, “similarity in feeling and taste” and they know this after spending lots of time with one another, “financial security” because Mr Darcy has a lot of wealth (“ten thousand a year”) and property.

Mr Darcy’s initial attraction to her was based on her physical attributes such as her “pretty eyes” but she wasn’t attracted to him until after his proposal, having been blinded by his flat refusal to dance with her at the first ball. They also possess responsible attitudes, sense, reason and judgement. One thing that is potentially wrong with the marriage from society’s point of view is that Mr Darcy and Elizabeth are of totally different social standings. When we think about Mr Darcy in comparison with Mr Wickham as a potential marriage partner for Elizabeth, we see that Darcy has “all the good will” and Wickham “all the appearance of it.”

Miss Bennet and Mr Bingley are in fact the first couple presented to us in the novel. This is perhaps the best marriage because both characters were physically attracted to one another at their first meeting; they find each other very agreeable; they don’t get married until they have a good “understanding of one another’s characters,” they both enjoy doing the same things and Bingley has enough money (“four or five thousand a year”) to keep them very happy. Jane and Elizabeth talk much about Bingley’s “expectations of felicity” were “rationally founded.” Rationality is one of the things Austen considers as part of a good marriage.

Marriage is a contract; Austen believes that a good marriage is a contract of love; a developed understanding of one another’s characters; good disposition; similarity in feeling and taste; affection and attraction; and finally, financial security – enough money to live comfortably. She also believes that bad or unsuccessful marriages are based on irresponsible attitudes, ignorance and lack of reason and judgement; the couple must have self-understanding as well as that of their partner. They must also possess self-respect and have respect for their partner. Austen condemns the marriages that are based on rank and wealth or just physical attraction. Throughout the novel we see characters taking part in many different courtship and marriage situations. We are shown Austen’s varying view of these marriages and her attitude is revealed in her style.

Proposed other paragraph to go in above conclusion:

The marriage of the Gardiners is also presented as a “good marriage” because they possess everything necessary for the marriage to be successful. They are a very friendly couple and take Elizabeth on a holiday to the Lake District. This trip plays an important part of Elizabeth and Darcy’s relationship because they meet in the grounds of Pemberly and he is very forthcoming and polite. He enquires, “How is your mother?”

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