Using ‘Pride and Prejudice’ discuss how society viewed the ideas of love and marriage. Jane Austen was born in 1775 in the village of Stevenson in Hampshire. She was the seventh of eight children and the daughter of Revered George Austen and his wife Cassandra. From a very young age Jane Austen was encouraged and enjoyed to write, and the reading she did in her father’s extensive library resulted in a love of literature. At the age of 14 Jane Austen wrote her first novel “Love and Friendship” yet it wasn’t until 1811 when she was 36 that she had her first book published. She never married and was a strong believer in marrying for love.Order now
She rejected a marriage proposal from a wealthy landowner and after her parents died spent the majority of her life living with her brothers on their estates. “Pride and Prejudice” her most famous book, was published in 1813 and can be viewed as a satire of the patriarchal society that she lived in. The book received huge praise and is still loved today. The first sentence, ‘It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of good fortune, must be in want of a wife,’ establishes the main themes that Austen will explore in the novel: love, marriage and social status.
This sentence is typical of Austen’s ironic style of writing and an example of how she uses satire to mock certain groups of people. Jane Austen knows that it is very presumptuous to assume that a single man of large fortune must want a wife and she also knows that this fact is not ‘universally acknowledged. ‘ Instead of this being Austen’s point of view it is in fact the belief of mothers, such as the character of Mrs Bennet. The way in which Jane Austen states the opposite of her beliefs and exaggerates this point of view makes it seem ridiculous, this irony and wit adding humour to the book.
During the early 1800’s it was not common that people would marry for love and more likely that they would marry for more material reasons. Potential partners would be judged by their wealth, appearance, manners, connections and social status and as Jane Austen illustrates, personality and compatibility were not key concerns when choosing a marriage partner in this era. An example of this type of marriage in the novel is shown in Jane Austen’s account of the marriage between Charlotte Lucas and Mr Collins, whose marriage seems to be more like a business transaction.
Jane Austen also demonstrates through the marriages of Mr and Mrs Bennet and Lydia and Wickham, how short courtships can lead young people to become infatuated with one another rather than falling in love. The short courtship would then usually lead to a marriage which was unlikely to be a happy one, as when youth and beauty wore off there would be nothing holding the relationship together. Jane Austen was a firm believer in marrying for love and thought that marrying for reasons such as wealth was no better than prostitution.
She displays her bias towards loving marriages by telling the tale in particular of Elizabeth and Mr Darcy, who after many disagreements, due to pride and prejudice, develop their own characters and fall in love with one another then get engaged. Another example of Austen’s bias towards loving marriages is shown by the way in which she portrays Charlotte Lucas and Mr Collins’ marriage. Charlotte Lucas was, ‘at the age of twenty-seven, without ever being handsome. ‘ She also was, ‘a well-educated woman of small fortune. All these factors contributed to her desperation for a husband. In the early 1800’s if a woman was neither attractive, wealthy nor young then she had little chance of getting a husband and would most likely end up becoming either a governess or an old maid. Because Charlotte has little to offer, she makes it clear that she is willing to accept any man who can provide her with security for the rest of her life. She is clearly not marrying for love and this was not abnormal for a woman in her position. I am not a romantic you know,’ she says, ‘I ask only a comfortable home. ‘
‘Only,’ emphasises that all Charlotte feels she needs to be happy, is financial security and the fact that she is not, ‘romantic’ shows that she has barely given love a thought and like many other women at the time feels it is not essential to love the person you marry. This again demonstrates how undervalued love was when choosing a marriage partner in the early 1800’s. On viewing most marriages at the time Charlotte comments that, ‘Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance. She seems so certain of this, saying ‘entirely’ showing that a large proportion of marriages during this era were unhappy and also illustrating that most people’s choice in marriage partner was not based on how happy they thought they would be and really happiness was a matter of chance. It seemed to be the view however in the early 1800’s that an unhappy marriage, where there was little in common between partners was better than becoming an old maid or governess.
In the novel marriage is said to be, ‘the only honourable provision for a well-educated woman of small fortune,’ the word ‘honourable’ really shows how much old maids and governess’ were considered inferior during this era. This displays how limited women’s options were in the early 1800’s and tells us that they could only choose one path in which they wouldn’t be frowned upon by society; and that was marriage with a respectable man.
Charlotte’s family was also, ‘relieved from their apprehension of Charlotte’s dying an old maid,’ illustrating that not only would Charlotte’s being an old maid taint her reputation but it would also damage her family’s reputation. This portrays how much people were judged by their connections during this era and also how important it would have been for women to be well married. Mr Collins comes to Longbourn with the intention of marrying one of the Bennet daughters.
He makes it clear in the novel that this is a ‘plan’ he has concocted and is also rather proud of it saying in relation to his plan that, ‘he thought it an excellent one, full of eligibility and suitableness. ‘ The way in which he has planned his proposal without even meeting any of the Bennet sisters shows how little personality mattered in the early 1800’s, when choosing a marriage partner.
Marriages were formed for convenience and we can see this by the way Mr Collins comments that his plan is full of ‘suitableness’ and ‘eligibility’ showing that all he is considering when looking for a fiancÃƒÂ© is how suitable she is, according to the conventions of society, which during this era were status, connections and wealth. His opinions on her personality or how much he even likes her do not seem to be issues.
He also had made sure that he was financially secure before deciding to marry, Austen writes, ‘Having now a good house and very sufficient income, he intended to marry. ‘ This illustrates how marriage has not been a natural process in Mr Collins’ case but rather the next step according to the conventions of society. The way in which Mr Collins behaves does not suggest that he is lonely or in want of a companion and he seems to already have a female he admires in the form of Lady Catherine De Bourgh.
He is in fact marrying upon her, ‘advice and recommendation,’ showing that he is marrying to please other people and so that he will be looked upon more favourably in society, not for his own personal happiness. This shows how controlled and restricted society was at the time and also demonstrates the strict nature of society’s attitudes towards marriage. You can tell that Mr Collins is not concerned about the personality of his marriage partner, just like Charlotte.
He thinks that Charlotte has been ‘tolerably encouraging’ therefore decides upon marrying her, ‘tolerably’ suggests only slightly and if he is willing to marry with such little affection it displays how little he values Charlotte as a person. Austen demonstrates to the reader that Charlotte Lucas and Mr Collins’ marriage is unhappy through a conversation between Elizabeth and Charlotte where Charlotte Lucas is seen to have ‘evident enjoyment’ in keeping Mr Collins out of the house, implying that she does not enjoy his company.
Also Elizabeth, who knows Charlotte best ‘supposed that he must often be forgotten,’ showing that although Charlotte didn’t enjoy Mr Collins’ company she can forget about him and busy herself with other things, such as cleaning the house, which I think shows the simplicity of women’s lives during this era and indicates that they usually had little excitement or stimulation beyond household tasks. The fact that he is ‘often’ forgotten indicates that they do not spend a lot of quality time with each other showing that the relationship between them is poor.
Mr Collins seems oblivious to his marriage situation however and comments on Charlotte Lucas and his relationship saying, ‘We seem to have been designed for each other. ‘ This is slightly ironic as although one may think the statement is foolish and false, as the pair are not at all compatible and are far from being a perfect couple, they have actually been ‘designed’ for each other in the sense that they both were in want of a stable marriage and in marrying have provided each other with exactly what they want.
Austen disagrees with marriages for wealth and status and represents this marriage negatively convey her point to the reader. The love marriages in the novel are between handsome, intelligent and amiable partners whereas the marriages for other reasons often are between people who are not compatible and are foolish and irritating. This would not necessarily be the case and Austen only includes and satirises characters like Mr Collins so that that type of marriage is looked upon negatively.
Charlotte Lucas’ marriage is also made to seem inferior in comparison to the relationship between Elizabeth and Mr Darcy as theirs is a lot stronger and there is real love involved. Elizabeth and Mr Darcy’s love builds up through the novel and Austen shows us that people should not be judged too hastily by first impressions. When Mr Darcy comes to his first ball in the area he is described by people as ‘proud’, ‘disagreeable’ and ‘horrid’ and this is after the locals have met him only once.
He is known to be a lot richer than Mr Bingley whom everybody is highly complimentary about, however because his manners are seen to be inadequate he is viewed upon a lot less favourably, conveying the importance of manners when finding a partner during this era and how they could affect a gentleman’s popularity. Austen also demonstrates that love itself cannot be brought on by appearances or first impressions. When Darcy and Elizabeth first meet Mr Darcy says, ‘she is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me’ which is far from complimentary, yet by the end of the novel Darcy says ‘how ardently I admire and love you Elizabeth. Darcy’s use of a powerful adjective such as ‘ardently’ shows a strong, passionate devotion to Elizabeth and really signifies how much his feelings have changed since he called her ‘tolerable’, which suggests indifference! Here Austen I think is criticising short courtships and trying to show the reader that if people get to know each other thoroughly, as Elizabeth and Darcy did, then their relationship will be a lot stronger.
Elizabeth and Darcy are allowed to gradually and naturally fall in love and out of all the characters they are shown to be the happiest and to have the most thorough understanding of one another. Darcy does find Lizzy attractive and comments to Miss Bingley on her ‘fine eyes’ yet we know Mr Darcy’s love goes deeper than this as he acknowledges the intelligence a women must possess, slightly complimenting Elizabeth, ‘and to all this she mustÃ¢â‚¬Â¦the improvement of her mind by extensive reading. Mr Darcy is not being shallow when viewing Elizabeth and Austen was a strong believer herself in people not being judged for superficial reasons. Elizabeth throughout her life so far has not acted in the orthodox way that society would expect her to do. She is opinionated and is determined not to be forced into anything she doesn’t agree with. Austen has made her the heroine because of these qualities she possesses and because she has followed her heart she has become very happy.
Elizabeth seems to be almost Jane Austen’s role model for women of that era. In rejecting Mr Collins’ marriage proposal Elizabeth’s mother says, ‘if you take it into your head to go on refusing every offer of marriage in this way, you will never get a husband at all,’ she cannot relate at all to why Elizabeth rejected Mr Collins as she saw it as a very convenient match, she also tries to scare Elizabeth by saying, ‘you will never get a husband at all,’ showing how feared it was to not marry.
Elizabeth however has not placed marriage at the centre of her ambitions, she says to Charlotte Lucas when she is talking of Jane securing Mr Bingley, ‘Your plan is a good oneÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ if I were determined to get a rich husband I daresay I would adopt it’. This illustrates that her principles are too strong for her to marry for reasons as shallow as money. Because of this attitude the thought that she would ‘never get a husband at all’ will scare her significantly less than most women at the time.
Elizabeth has an independence that most women of the era wouldn’t have been allowed to possess and would have been too cowardly to go against the conventions of society. Mr Collins would have provided her with a stable income and allowed her to keep her family home, yet because love is lacking from the relationship she cannot marry him. Austen glorifies this and makes it seem like a great decision as because Lizzy has rejected Mr Collins she has made it possible for her to marry the man she truly loves.
The plot however does not consider how Elizabeth’s life would have been if she had never found anybody whom she could live comfortably with but also love. Jane Austen’s storyline because of this I think is somewhat idealistic and though she has all the correct principles, her character Elizabeth was very lucky in finding a man who could provide for her but whom she also loved. For many women in the early 1800’s waiting around for such a lucky situation was totally impractical and unrealistic. Mr Darcy is very aware from the start of the book about how a man such as himself is expected to behave and marry.
From birth he had apparently been ‘destined for his cousin’ Miss De Bourgh and the way their ‘union’ was planned ‘while in their cradles’ shows that even rich and powerful men such as Mr Darcy had the potential to be restricted in their marriage choices. It also again assures the reader that personality and compatibility did not matter during this era, as Darcy’s family when planning the ‘union’ did not consider that when the pair was united they could in the worst-case scenario despise each other!
Lady Catherine comments that Darcy in liking Elizabeth has forgotten ‘what he owes to himself and to all his family’. It is strange how Lady Catherine feels her nephew ‘owes’ her a good marriage and this use of words tells us that even men in the position of Mr Darcy often had the great burden of marrying well in order to keep their family’s name respected. Although Darcy may feel that his ‘tacit engagement’ is indeed ‘tacit’ and therefore not binding, he still does feel that he should obey social protocol and marry somebody of high status.
This is why he tries to stop himself from loving Elizabeth, which he admits to her rather tactlessly in his first marriage proposal telling her about, ‘His sense of her inferiority- of it’s being a degradation’. The fact that society would view the marriage as a ‘degradation’ on Darcy’s part shows that love was not accepted as a justified excuse for marriage. People would not care if a couple were in love and instead would view the marriage upon how convenient it was for the people involved. Darcy’s younger brother, Colonel Fitzwilliam had restricted choices when marrying as he would not inherit his father’s estate or much of his fortune.
He tells Elizabeth ‘there are not many in my rank of life who can afford to marry without some attention to money’ illustrating that it was not just women who were denied love marriages but also men with little wealth and these men were often younger sons. Colonel Fitzwilliam seems saddened by this fact saying, ‘A younger sonÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ must be inured to self denial and dependance’. The way in which he uses ‘inured’ makes him seen resigned and reluctant to deny himself of a marriage for love and also suggests that he finds it an undesirable prospect.
This displays that the unlucky ones in society who had to marry for wealth were often unhappy with the situation yet still felt they must obey society’s rules and marry in this way. Elizabeth and Mr Darcy’s marriage on the whole was fairly atypical of the normal marriages in the early 1800’s, firstly because it was a marriage for love, secondly because the couple got to know each other thoroughly and finally because it would have been highly unlikely that a man of Darcy’s high status would have married somebody of the rank that Elizabeth was at.
This is portrayed to be the happiest relationship and Austen through this story is expressing her opinion that although within society people should take into consideration status, connections and wealth Ã¢â‚¬â€œ as this is only practical, she feels love is also a key factor in a marriage, as these material things cannot give somebody the happiness that love can. Elizabeth and Mr Darcy’s marriage also had the potential to be affected by the elopement between Elizabeth’s sister, Lydia and Mr Wickham as Elizabeth would be viewed negatively because of her sister’s unorthodox behaviour.
Lydia had always been flirtatious and as soon as a regiment of soldiers settled in her hometown of Meryton she is intent on spending as much time with them as possible and is a terrible flirt. Elizabeth comments that ‘she has been given up to nothing but amusement and vanity. She has been allowed to dispose of her time in the most idle and frivolous manner’. Elizabeth here is explaining to her Aunt how Lydia has not been intellectually challenged.
She is too lazy to do so of her own accord but it would be expected that as parents Mr and Mrs Bennet would encourage this instead of letting her run wild however, ‘she has never been taught on serious subjects’ which explains her uncaring and often selfish attitude. Lydia is very vain and shallow and judges people by their looks, ‘he is and ugly fellow’ she says about a servant, ‘I never saw such a long chin in my life’. Comments like these expose her vanity and imply that when it comes to men instead of looking for a nice person she will go for looks.
It is also clear that Lydia’s only objective in life is to get married she says, ‘how ashamed I should be of not being married before three and twenty’. The word ‘ashamed’ tells us that a single woman who was not fairly young would be viewed as inferior, proving that marriage really did improve your reputation during this era and often your rank in society. Lydia recognises this and says to Jane, ‘you must go lower because I am a married woman’ illustrating how even a patched up marriage like Lydia’s could still improve social status and status within the family.
Mr Wickham is an attractive man and ‘had all the best part of beauty’ which is undoubtedly one of the reasons Lydia was attracted to him. From Mr Wickham’s past behaviour it is clear that he wants to marry for money. He has many debts and to clear and this would need a considerable amount of money. This is why he elopes with Miss Darcy, his ‘chief object was unquestionably my sister’s Miss Darcy’s fortune, which is thirty thousand pounds’.
Because Lydia is of no significant financial value to Mr Wickham, when the pair run away to London together Elizabeth thinks the only reason he would elope with her would be for a sexual relationship and this was seen as very wrong in society at the time. Co-habiting was viewed as immoral and unChristian and this is why almost all of the characters in the book find Lydia’s behaviour distressing and improper. Mr Collins displays how strongly people disagreed with a man and woman living together without being married as he is so disgraced by the news that he says to Mr Bennet, ‘throw off your unworthy child from your affection forever’.
This is a very harsh statement and ‘forever’ makes it seem like it was such a bad thing to do that it could not even be forgiven! ‘Loss of virtue in a female is irretrievable’ Mary comments. This statement reflects society’s views at the time and displays how having sex before marriage or even it being presumed that someone had had sex before marriage could permanently damage a woman’s reputation and after this, it would be unlikely that you or any of your siblings would gain good marriages. In the end Mr Darcy bribes Mr Wickham with money and makes him marry Lydia.
Although rumours fly round about the nature of their marriage this is a lot better than there being no marriage; as Lydia would have been suspected to no longer be a virgin and probably could not ever marry. Lydia remains blissfully ignorant of all the trouble she has caused and brags of her marriage. The marriage was most definitely founded upon lust, which Austen feels is not the correct way to begin a marriage and she voices this opinion through the views of Elizabeth who comments, ‘But how little permanent happiness could belong to a coupleÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ brought together because their passions were stronger than their virtue’.
Elizabeth recognises that the couple may be happy at the moment but knows that as their good looks and youthful nature fade they will have nothing left holding their marriage together, therefore how can ‘permanent’ happiness occur? Also Lydia may believe that Wickham is ‘the one man in the world I love and he is an angel’ yet the feeling is obviously not mutual as if Mr Wickham loved Lydia he would not have to bribed into marrying her! It is also very ironic that Lydia describes Mr Wickham as an ‘angel’ as from his past behaviour it is perfectly clear that he is no angel.
Lydia does not even understand his true nature and knows little of his lying and cheating personality. Because of this it is extremely likely that their marriage on the whole will not be a happy one. Lydia’s marriage is similar to the marriage of her parents as that was too founded upon lust and physical attraction and it could be possible that as her and her husband age their marriage will become somewhat like Mr and Mrs Bennet’s is. Mr Bennet is an intelligent man who isn’t intellectually stimulated in his loveless marriage.
Mrs Bennet is a melodramatic and irritating character and Mr Bennet uses irony beyond her understanding to mock her, which he finds entertaining. It is clear from the beginning that the pair are not on the same intellectual level as Mr Bennet takes great pleasure in reading and Mrs Bennet’s ‘business of her life was to get her daughters married; it’s solace visiting and news’. This demonstrates that while Mr Bennet would rather read his wife would rather gossip showing a distinct difference in character.
Austen writes that Mr Bennet ‘had married a woman whose weak understanding and illiberal mind, had very early put an end to any real affection for her’. The couple obviously seems to not be compatible but if so why did they marry? Jane Austen tells us the answer to this by writing that he was ‘captivated by youth and beauty, and that appearance of good humour. ‘ This illustrates that Mr Bennet married Mrs Bennet because of physical attraction and lust, just as Lydia and Wickham did.
She also commented that Mrs Bennet had an ‘appearance’ of good humour and this I think demonstrates that girls would often not behave as they normally would when trying to secure a husband, instead they would put on a front and in Mrs Bennet’s case create an ‘appearance’ of good humour. Because women so desperately needed a husband they would be as polite and pleasant as they could to create a good impression and all this combined with very short courtships; led to marriages which were later regretted.
We can see Mr Bennet regrets his choices in marriage as he warns Lizzy of making the same mistakes as he did, ‘do not let me have to see the grief of you not being able to respect your partner in life’. This clearly shows that he has no respect for his wife but also shows how strongly this grieves him. ‘Grief’ is a very strong word to use and is often associated with death, this shows how extremely regretful he is about his marriage and how much it saddens him. Jane Austen is showing how awful it is to be in an unhappy marriage and warning people that they should not marry for lust.
Austen also shows the unbalanced marriage having a knock on effect on the children, as Mr and Mrs Bennet’s methods of parenting are heavily critiscised. Mr Bennet is shown to neglect his children. He spends very little time with them and makes no effort to teach or control them, instead leaving them totally in the hands of a woman who he views to be ‘ignorant’. It could easily be argued that this displays complete indifference towards his children and he does not seem to have any affection for some of them, calling Lydia and Kitty ‘two of the silliest girls in the country’.
He could have maybe prevented their flirtatious and silly nature however, but because of tensions between his wife and him he has been prevented from parenting properly. Elizabeth recognises this saying that ‘she had never felt so strongly as now, the disadvantages which must attend the children of so unsuitable a marriage’. She knows that her father has the talents to parents well but comments that he has an ‘ill-judged direction of talents’. Instead of using his capabilities to parent his children he uses wit to mock his wife with.
Elizabeth also blames her father for Lydia’s elopement as she warned him of what could happen yet he did not seem to care. She feels that he could have, ‘preserved the respectability of his daughters, even if incapable of enlarging the mind of his wife’. Elizabeth thinks even though her father is unhappy in his marriage he still should make an effort to parent his daughters. Through the marriages of Lydia and Wickham and Mr and Mrs Bennet Jane Austen portrays marriages founded upon lust to be short-lived and ultimately unhappy.
She also believes that one marriage can have a knock on effect to the next generation of children and affect their choices in life, as this is what happened with Lydia. In comparison to the Bennet’s marriage, Mrs Bennet’s brother Mr Gardiner is seen to have a happy and stable marriage. The Gardiner couple is complemented by Austen, ‘Mr Gardiner was a sensible, gentlemanlike man, greatly superior to his sister as well by nature as education’ and ‘Mrs GardinerÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ was an amiable, intelligent, elegant woman. ‘ Showing that they are both pleasant people.
They are implied to have married for love as neither has a large fortune and they seem to genuinely complement one another’s personality. Austen shows through this marriage that you do not need a great amount of money to be happy or to bring up your children well. She writes, ‘The Netherfield ladies would have had difficulty believing that a man who lived by tradeÃ¢â‚¬Â¦could have been so well bred and agreeable’. Austen here is criticising snobbery and also expressing the belief that money is not the key to happiness.
The Gardiners act as a mother and father figure to Elizabeth, giving her advice where her mother really should be. They try to protect her and advise her against things they feel may hurt her and you really feel that unlike Mrs Bennet, the Gardiners truly care about Lizzy’s happiness. When Mrs Gardiner feels that it is a bad thing for Elizabeth to become involved with Mr Wickham she says, ‘you must not let your fancy run away with you. ‘ Really it is Mrs Bennet who should be giving Elizabeth this advice.
This is an imperative sentence and because Mrs Gardiner says ‘must’ as though it is almost an order, it gives one the feeling that Mrs Gardiner is respected and looked up to by Elizabeth. Elizabeth does not like to be told what to do and the fact that she listens to Mrs Gardiner’s advice demonstrates how well they get on. Mrs Gardiner’s technique for “parenting” Elizabeth also seems effective as Austen writes that this was ‘a wonderful instance of advice being given on such a point, without being resented. ‘ This shows that Mrs Gardiner can warn Elizabeth and advise her on decisions in her life ‘without being resented’.
Austen is trying to shows Mrs Gardiner as a wonderful parent-like figure and the fact that Lizzy talks to her instead of her own mother illustrates their closeness and the effectiveness of Mrs Gardiner skills with children. Through the Gardiners marriage and through contrasting it with the Bennet’s, Austen is trying to show that couples who are well suited can bring up their children better and live happier lives than those who marry for other shallow reasons. Jane Austen also supports the theme that well suited couples are happier through the marriage of Jane Bennet and Mr Bingley.
As soon as Mr Bingley enters the neighbourhood Mrs Bennet has high hopes that he will marry one of her daughters. She says to her husband, ‘a single man of large fortuneÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ What a fine thing for our girls! ‘ This shows that people’s automatic response to hearing that a single, wealthy man is in the neighbourhood is to hope for one of the younger women to marry him. It demonstrates how obsessed society was with marriage and also illustrates that it was near the top of people’s lists of priorities during the era.
Mothers’ during the early 1800’s had a responsibility to get their children well married as it could secure the family financially and boost their social status. Moreover, the fact that all that Mrs Bennet knows about her new neighbour is that he is ‘single’ and ‘of large fortune’ yet she is still willing to let one of her daughters marry him, shows how people were judged for material things and not for their personality. Mr Bingley was the model man of the time and is described as, ‘just what a young man ought to be’ as he was ‘young’, ‘wonderfully handsome’ and ‘extremely agreeable’.
He was also very rich and because he was admired so much one knows that women during this era looked for the qualities he possessed when finding a husband. Mr Bingley much to Mrs Bennet’ delight, seems to take a liking to Jane, yet at first it is thought by many that a marriage between them would be unlikely as she has ‘such a father and mother, and such low connections. ‘ Jane however was also considered to be the model woman of the time. She was acknowledged as very beautiful and her beauty was so great that many people had a pre-conception of her being handsome before even meeting her.
Mr Collins said that ‘by common report’ they were represented as ‘handsome and amiable’. The phrase ‘common report’ indicated the power of gossip during this era and again the obsession with superficial features. Jane was not loud like her sister Lydia, had good, placid manners and found it easy to socialise. Jane’s tendency to see the good in people and her naivety made her passive and un-opinionated, which was a good trait to have during the early 1800’s, as women lived in a patriarchal society were men liked to feel superior and would want women to agree with them.
We can see an example of Jane’s naivety as she says in relation to Miss Bingley, ‘I am much mistaken if we shall not find a charming neighbour in her. ‘ This is rather ironic as Miss Bingley goes on to treat Jane very ill and one is made quite aware that she is a snobbish and spiteful woman. Jane describing Miss Bingley as ‘charming’ is laughable, as charming is an adjective that describes somebody to have delightful characteristics. Jane has been completely deceived by Miss Bingley and has false conceptions of her character, showing her naivety.
However, despite the pleasing traits she possessed this alone was considered by many as not enough due to her poor connections and fortune. Mr Darcy attempts to separate Mr Bingley and Jane as he feels Jane does not truly love Bingley. ‘Her look and manners were open, cheerful and engaging as ever, but without any symptom of particular regard’ was his reasoning for this decision. This illustrates how women would often have to openly show that they admired somebody and also the amount of effort women needed to put in to secure a marriage.
The courtship between Jane and Mr Bingley shows Mr Bingley ignoring social protocol and the fact that Jane was of lower status than him. He instead follows his heart and is united with the woman who he loves and as the couple seems to be happy, Jane Austen is again displaying that the best marriages are based upon love. Though their relationship may seem slightly two-dimensional and lack the depth of Darcy and Elizabeth’s marriage, the couple have extremely similar characters and are very well suited.
Mr Bennet comments on this saying, ‘You 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. ‘ This identifies their similar traits; generousity, the willingness to comply and easiness. Mr Bennet has also however identified the negative aspects of such a couple and I personally think that although they may be in love and may be happy, as we have seen before when they let external forces separate them, they lack the strength of character that may be needed at some point during their marriage.
In conclusion I think the novel ‘Pride and Prejudice’ by Jane Austen illustrates that marriages in society during the early 1800’s were rarely for love and usually for reasons such as wealth, connections and status; which nowadays would be viewed as shallow. The novel also displays the patriarchal society that women lived in and that as they little else to aspire to, marriage was at the top of their priorities as it could secure them financially for the rest of their lives.
Not marrying was a woman’s worst nightmare in the early 1800’s as it gave her family a bad name and meant the remainder of her life would be spent as a governess or old maid. Through her novel ‘Pride and Prejudice’ Jane Austen criticises marrying for material reasons as she sees this as superficial and is aware that many marriages at the time were not loving ones as they were between couples who were ill suited. By commending loving marriages in her novel and gently mocking marriages based on anything else, Jane Austen publicises her view that marriage should be for love and criticises the social protocol at the time.