2. Mrs. Bennett’s role has been described by some readers as that of a marriage broker whose job is to ensure that her daughters marry successfully. Three of her five daughters are married by the novel’s finale: to what extent have Mrs. Bennett’s machinations led directly to these unions? The early nineteenth century for women was a time when marriage was the main aspiration and once this goal was achieved, her life was defined by producing children within this marriage. For a woman, there was no need for an education because a career outside of the home was unquestionable.
Her career was to make sure that she made her husband was happy, her children were well taken care of, and to run her home efficiently. If a woman remained unmarried, then she had to be taken care of by her family. Therefore, in the novel Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, published in eighteen thirteen, where the Bennett family has five daughters and there is an entailment on the family property to a male relative, there is a desperate need for good marriages for the daughters.
Mrs. Bennett must make sure that as many daughters as possible marry well to ensure not only those daughter’s futures, but her future as well. She might be seen as a marriage broker because she has played a role in the marriages of three of her daughters by the end of the novel. Mrs. Bennett comes across as an annoying character in the novel Pride and Prejudice. However, she is a shrewd woman who has a single purpose and she is relentless in her achievement of goal.
As the novel opens, she is discussing a new neighbor, Mr. Bingly, and she is urging her husband to go and visit so that one of her daughters might catch his eye. It is well known that he is wealthy and if he chose one of her daughters, the other daughters would meet wealthy men and she would have a place to live if her husband were to die before her. Mr. Bingly is attracted to Jane, and from that moment on, Mrs. Bennett is determined to arrange a marriage. She even puts Jane’s health at stake when she insists that she ride a horse to a luncheon with Mr. Bingly’s sister in the rain instead of taking a carriage.
Jane was therefore obliged to go on horseback, and her mother attended her to the door with many cheerful prognostics of a bad day. Her hopes were answered; Jane had not been gone long before it rained hard. (Austen) Jane becomes very sick due to her exposure to the weather and Mrs. Bennett is still ecstatic because she sees this as Jane spending time in the care of Mr. Bingly. When she thinks that she has Jane’s future secured, she turns her attention to Elizabeth and Mr. Collins.
She is more interested in marrying her daughter to the man who will inherit their property at the death of Mr. Bennett than she is her daughter’s happiness. In today’s society, this may seem horrible, but in those days, it was a reality that people could end up on the street. She was trying to think about the harsh reality of life for a woman in a world designed for a man. Elizabeth stands up to her mother. She turns down the proposal of Mr. Collins, and later to Mr. Darcy, an extremely wealthy man. Lydia elopes with Mr. Wickham, a soldier who has been stationed in the nearby village of Meryton. When the news gets back to the Bennett’s that she has not married immediately, the family’s reputation is ruined.
However, when Mrs. Bennett learns that the two finally married, she completely changes and she turns her mind about the situation and becomes quite proud just because she finally has a married daughter. Lydia is only sixteen when she marries, but she has heard nothing but the push for the two older sisters to be married that she believes that she needs to get married as soon as she can even if it is through an unsavory means. Austen tells the reader at the end of the novel that the union is not a happy one and Mrs. Bennett must share some of the blame for the union happening in the first place.
Jane and Elizabeth both marry Mr. Bingly and Mr. Darcy on the same day. It seems to be a fairy tale ending to a story that has a “happily ever after” ending, but the marriage of the two older Bennett girls was also motivated by the teaching of their mother. After Mr. Bingly abandon’s Jane and returns after a year before proposing to her, she readily accepts because she has been taught by her mother that it is important to marry well. She does not stop to think that if he was so easily influenced by those around him, he may not be a good catch.
The reader is led to rally for the relationship between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy, but the truth is that the qualities that she found detestable when she first meets him, are likely to return once the newness of the relationship wears off. Once she visits Pemberly, the Darcy estate, she decides that she should have accepted his earlier proposal, which makes the reader question why she suddenly decides that she loves him. It could be because her mother has taught her to believe that marrying well was the most important thing that a woman could do.
Mrs. Bennett can be seen as a marriage broker for her five daughters because society has demanded that young women be married well to be considered a successful person. Therefore, Mrs. Bennett’s role during the early nineteenth century would not have been perceived as a negative one. She may not go about it in the right way, but she really does want her family’s future as well as her own to be secure. It is because of her teaching and her manipulation that three of her daughters are married by the end of the novel.