Jane Austen wrote six novels in all, and each of them is about courtship and marriage during the early nineteenth century. Pride and Prejudice is a comic novel; the ironic opening sentence sets the tone, outlines the plot and states the theme of social criticism: “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 novel, marriage is seen as market, and the young women are its merchandise.
In this novel eight people become married. I shall examine two of these relationships and will decide on whether or not the individuals are suitably paired. I have chosen to review the relationships between Mr. Collins and Charlotte Lucas and also Mr Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet. I have chosen these two in particular to show a contrast, marrying for love and marrying for material possessions items.
Firstly I will discuss the Collinses’ relationship. This is a relationship where each individual uses the other for personal gain. Mr Collins gets a wife and Charlotte gets an establishment. Charlotte is fully aware of her motives when she accepts Mr Collins hand in marriage and is totally aware that she is unlikely to receive another offer of marriage. Elizabeth sees this as Charlotte going against her principles but for Charlotte it is the only realistic chance left for a position in society. Mr Collins believes himself to be in love with Charlotte but he had also previously thought himself to be in love with two others. Charlotte is not in love with Mr Collins, and even goes as far to have a private room at the rear of the house so that Mr Collins, usually looking out for Lady Catherine de Bourgh does not interrupt her. Charlotte also encouraged Mr Collins to take up gardening to keep him out of her way. This scenario can be compared to the Bennets’ marriage, where Mr Bennet spends as much time as possible in the library, mainly to avoid Mrs Bennet.
Charlottes decision to marry Mr Collins follows logically from her views on marriage, ” I ask only a comfortable home, and considering Mr Collins character, connections and situation in life, I am convinced that my chance of happiness with him is as fair as most people can boast on entering to marriage state.” Elizabeth’s pride comes through when dealing with this situation as she views Charlotte as Mr Collins wife as a “humiliating picture and that she will be “disgracing herself”. Elizabeth’s pride is one of morality and she cannot believe that her own friend could fall so far below her ideals of conduct.
In the 19th century, both financially and socially marriage was a woman’s primary aim in life. It is therefore not surprising that when the opportunity arose for Charlotte she seized it. On the other hand Mr Collins who is presented as conceited, pompous, narrow-minded and as a silly man, has different views on marriage. His reasons for marriage are that every clergyman should set and example, “My reasons for marrying are, first, that I think it is a right thing for every clergyman in easy circumstances (like myself) to set the example of matrimony in his parish.” It will add to his happiness, and most importantly, Lady Catherine de Bourgh advised on it. One of the funny aspect’s of Mr Collins character is that he is so much influenced by Lady Catherine. Mr Collins is a “good Christian,” and writes a letter to Mr Bennet on the event of marriage between Wickham and Lydia. He wrote the letter as a Christian and Mr Bennet must forgive them but by no means invite them back to Longbourn. This was hardly an appropriate letter to be sent by a Clergyman. Generally, poor Charlotte cannot get a word in edge ways. Mr Collins does all the talking while she just smiles and nods her head. Both husband and wife appear to be content, however, and the marriage appears to be stable and harmonious.
The second marriage that I am going to discuss is that of Mr Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet. This relationship is somewhat of a roller coaster relationship, which doesn’t get off on the right foot as Elizabeth overhears Mr Darcy’s first impression of her as being, “tolerable but not quite handsome enough to tempt me.” Elizabeth on hearing this takes a dislike to Darcy, describing him as “bitter and rude” and believing “that he fancied himself.” There are similarities between these two characters as they are both capable of justified and unjustified forms of pride but as time goes by the icy relationship thaws, but this takes time to happen.
Mr Darcy and his cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam come to visit their aunt Lady Catherine. In a private conversation Colonel Fitzwilliam informs Elizabeth that Mr Darcy “saved a friend (Mr Bingley) from the inconveniences of a most imprudent marriage.” Fitzwilliam does not realise what the consequences may be from what he has just told Elizabeth. Elizabeth decides that he must have been speaking of her sister Jane. This could not have happened at a worse time, because Mr Darcy proposes to Elizabeth the next day,” In vain I have struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.” Because of Elizabeth’s “deeply rooted dislike” against him Mr Darcy’s offer was declined and his chance of happiness seemed lost. The following day however, Elizabeth received a letter from Mr Darcy. This letter explained the events surrounding Mr Bingley and revealed Wickham’s true “bad” character. Elizabeth had pride in her judgement of character and when she receives the letter from Mr Darcy she realises she is capable of making mistakes, this was to be the turning point of Elizabeth’s affection towards Mr Darcy.
Elizabeth was to join her Aunt and Uncle on a tour around the lakes. Unfortunately this vacation had to be cut short because of her Uncle Gardener’s business commitments in London. They only had time to tour Derbyshire but on being taken around Mr Darcy’s home, Pemberley, Elizabeth was overwhelmed. Her first thought was that she could have been mistress of this magnificent place. The housekeeper Mrs Reynolds, showed them around the house and could not stop praising Mr Darcy, ” He is the best landlord, and the best master that ever lived not like the wild young men of nowadays, who think of nothing but themselves.” Mrs Reynolds account suggests that Mr Darcy’s pride is mistaken and it is really shyness.
When Elizabeth views all the splendour of Pemberley we begin to wonder if she is going to adopt some of Charlotte Lucas’s realism. As the party walked through the park they came across the master of the house, Mr Darcy. He had not been due at Pemberley until the next day. Elizabeth was afraid he might think she was there to see him, but to her surprise Mr Darcy showed her the utmost respect and courtesy. From this stage onward Elizabeth’s affections grew for the man she would eventually marry.
After Wickham and Lydia’s marriage it is brought to light that Mr Darcy attended the wedding. Elizabeth was curious and wrote to her aunt to determine why Mr Darcy had been present. The reply informed her that Mr Darcy searched for the couple, paid off Wickhams debts and ensured that he married Lydia Bennet to save her from social disgrace. Elizabeth began to wonder whether he had done this for her out of duty. Either way, she thought this to be a very gallant action by Mr Darcy. Elizabeth’s affection was deepening.
Lady Catherine was made aware of Mr Darcy’s interest in Elizabeth and it was not long until a large coach pulled up outside Long bourn. Lady Catherine stepped out. She came solely to warn Elizabeth to stay away from Mr Darcy as he was to be engaged to her daughter. Elizabeth was not put off by this threat. A short time later, Mr Bennet received a later from Mr Collins congratulating him on the engagement of Elizabeth and Mr Darcy even though Elizabeth was not yet aware of Mr Darcy’s feelings.
Mr Darcy came back with Mr Bingley to shoot at Netherfield. It was not long before he and Elizabeth found themselves alone. While talking together Mr Darcy apologised for his behaviour towards her. He then asked if her feelings had changed since he had last proposed. If they had not changed then one word “would silence him on the matter for the rest of his life.” To his delight Elizabeth said that her feelings had indeed changed and, as simply as that they were engaged. From this point onwards, it was clear that if they were married, the prospects for success were high. Their relationship overcome many trials, which could have ruined any possible chance of happiness but Elizabeth brought out the best in Mr Darcy and he adored her all the more. They eventually married and lived a happy life together. Their “love” never failed.