The marriage created by Mr. and Mrs. Bennet is one in which the partners are not well matched. Mr. Bennet seems to have chosen his wife based on shallow attributes such as physical beauty, rather than for meaningful reasons that have the power to sustain the happiness of both. The two have created an environment in which some of the daughters have been able to acquire good manners and tastes. However, this may be said to have occurred by accident, as there exists little evidence to demonstrate either of them to be good parents. Despite the fact that Mr.
Bennet appears to be a man of much better sense than his wife, he also fails to exert his influence as the father of the house, and this contributes not only to the unfortunate events of his household, but also to the happiness of his marriage. Mr. and Mrs. Bennet can be seen as an example of a couple that is made up of persons who are unsuited to each other. They cannot be said to love each other, because while Mr. Bennet is a gentleman who understands such graces as propriety and gentility, his wife behaves in a base manner that he continually abhors.
In fact, he is often mortified in public by the displays put on by his wife and some of his daughters. At home, he demonstrates his inability to endure his wife’s presence by the fact that he is usually closeted away in his study. Austen writes, “In his library he had always been sure of leisure; and though prepared, as he told Elizabeth, to meet with folly and conceit in every other room in the house, he was used to be free from them there” (58). While sometimes he does this legitimately to attend to business, at other times this retreat is merely to get away from the annoying personality of his wife.
His attitude toward her suggests that he is unable to sympathize with the things she considers very important. At other times, he demonstrates a certain flippancy that refuses to acknowledge that anything at all his wife regards could be of any significance. Yet, while many of her concerns truly are of little significance, those concerning the fate of her daughters are real. Mr. Bennet, however, seems to be so determined not to take his wife seriously and that he is quite unprepared to give his children a solid future. Mr.
Bennet’s general attitude of disregard for his wife’s interests can also be seen in his comments and retorts directed at her. His wife is unable to understand him, and he is less than patient in accommodating her. Austen writes, “Mr. Bennet was so odd a mixture of quick parts, sarcastic humour, reserve, and caprice, that the experience of three-and-twenty years had been insufficient to make his wife understand his character” (7) Furthermore, Austen describes him as quick witted and his wife as the opposite, highlighting the difference of intelligence between the two.
About Mrs. Bennet, she continues: “Her mind was less difficult to develop. She was a woman of mean understanding, little information, and uncertain temper” (7). As a result of this, Mr. Bennet takes advantage of his intellectual superiority (and his wife’s denseness) to make fun of her or throw her sarcastic remarks. Laurie Meunier Graves agrees with this analysis when she describes the marriage in the following manner: “Mr. and Mrs. Bennet are locked in a marriage so unhappy that it’s almost difficult to envision how they ever came together in the first place.
Mr. Bennet’s cool intellect runs counter to Mrs. Bennet’s hot emotions, which frequently explode into hysteria, often at Mr. Bennet’s instigation. ” This description highlights the antagonistic nature of the union into which these two persons have been locked. It can be seen that the marriage shared by the Bennets is unfulfilling for both parties involved. Mrs. Bennet’s source of happiness has been described as “visiting and news” (Austen, 7), while Mr.
Bennet’s miniscule happiness comes in the form of amusement at his wife’s silliness, as “to his wife he was very little otherwise indebted, than as her ignorance and folly had contributed to his amusement” (183). Even Elizabeth Bennet, their most sensible daughter, has little confidence in the strength and solidity of her parents’ marriage. In describing it and its effect on the household, Elizabeth’s feelings are that “she had never felt so strongly as now the disadvantages that must attend the children of so unsuitable a marriage” (187).
In seeking solace, both have to retreat from each other and neither is able to understand the other. This inability to understand or sympathize with each other precludes any form of closeness that defines an intimate relationship, and therefore the marriage must be considered an unhappy failure. References Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. London: Penguin, 1994. Graves, Laurie Meunier. “Notes from Hinterland: Is Marriage Necessary? ” Wolf Moon Journal: A Maine Magazine of Art and Opinion. Wolf Moon Press, 2007. http://www. wolfmoonpress. com/opinion/ismarriage. htm