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‘It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of good fortune must be in want of a wife.’ The fact that Austen opens Pride and Prejudice with this sentence is evident that the theme is going to be important. Also it holds a truth as well as being satirical and humorous. As a beginning sentence, we know that this idea of marriage will be expanded later on and become more important as the novel commences. Austen fills the novel’s dialogue with irony, making people such as Mrs.
Bennet and Mr. Collins reveal their foolishness to the reader through their ridiculous comments. Pride and Prejudice is a love story that is both humorous and deeply serious. It shows a mixture of emotions on all the characters behalf. Satire is used a great deal, where Austen criticises people in a humorous way.
This is due to the fact that for a woman in this period, marriage was the surest route to independence and freedom.
The story is based on a series of conflicts, the central one is between Elizabeth and Darcy, and smaller ones concerning the other characters. Jane Austen portrays marriage in Pride and Prejudice in various ways. The first idea is true and deep love, and that they would want to be together forever regardless of money or social class. This reason alone should be why the couple marry. Another idea would be money, people may have chosen to marry due each other having a substantial amount of money or land.
Some marriages may be very passionate or in contrast they could be quite forced. All the marriages in the novel vary as they are all slightly different under different circumstances.
Austen chooses to portray the Bennet’s marriage mainly by Elizabeth’s thoughts and opinions. Their marriage is rather different to any others. Mr. Bennet proposed when Mrs Bennet was rather young. This meant she was naï¿½ve and not thinking about the consequences fully. Elizabeth’s father chose to marry her mother because he was ‘captivated by her youth and beauty’. The older the couple became, the more they argued. ‘You mistake me my dear. I have a high respect for your nerves. They are my old friends. I have heard you mention them with consideration these twenty years at least.’ This shows us that they have been together for at least twenty years and they still argue with each other. In addition, it shows that she uses ridicule. Mr. Bennet puts up with Mrs Bennet even though she may become annoyed by little things.
Mrs Bennet has an uncertain temper and when she was discontented, she became really nervous. As she became more and more nervous, she took out her nerves and anger on her husband. Due to this and other reasons, Mr. Bennet discovered that she has a ‘weak understanding and illiberal mind.’ Mrs Bennet is desperate for all of her daughters to get married and settle down with a family, ‘Oh! Single, my dear, to be sure! A single man of large fortune; favour five thousand a year. What a fine thing for our girls!’ whereas Mr. Bennet is not as bothered whether they do get married or stay single for the rest of their lives. Austen uses this marriage to represent how not all marriages work out perfectly, and that sometimes there are arguments.
Charlotte Lucas and Mr. Collins married for a reason that Austen does not agree with. They both married for convenience, practicality and to achieve a desired social rank. Charlotte wanted to settle down in a ‘comfortable home’, and Mr. Collins wanted to ‘set an example of matrimony in his parish’ and ‘add very greatly to my happiness’. Collins also wanted to follow the ‘recommendation of the very noble lady whom I have the honour of calling Patroness’. Mr. Collins had a fair amount of money, so Lady and Sir Lucas did not disapprove of their daughter’s marriage.
Charlotte married to solidify her life as she was twenty-seven and way beyond the marrying age. Soon she regretted it as she spent most her time trying to avoid her husband. This is unmistakeably obvious that this marriage should not have taken place. Charlotte and Collins so not have any feelings for each other, but both feel as if they have achieved something as they are settled down with some fortune. As Austen uses her writing techniques throughout the novel, Collins was described in a very burlesque way, this was due to his exaggerated behaviour.
Lydia and Wickham got married even though they each had different opinions on the subject. Lydia had rushed into an ill-advised romance with Wickham, an officer who at first appears charming and trustworthy. ‘His appearance was greatly in his favour, he had all the best part of beauty – a fine countenance, a good figure, and very pleasing address.’ Another benefit would have been that he became socially named. Lydia wanted marriage to be the answer as she believed that they were meant to be with each other and that he loved her in return. Little did she know that Wickham had no intention of marrying her, but when he finally did decide to, he only took into consideration how much money the Bennet’s owned to find out how much he would make. Lydia did not see or understand that Wickham did not love her and did not intend on marriage.
Everyone in Lydia’s family thought that she was stupid and foolish accepting Wickham’s proposal as they could see how untrustworthy he was. They also all knew that he was forced into it by Mr. Darcy. Mr. Darcy also felt responsible as he new what Wickham was like, but failed to warn anyone even though he knew the consequences would end in marriage. Darcy forced Wickham to marry for the reason that he wanted to help out Elizabeth as he had feelings towards her and he thought that doing this would make her love him. When Lydia went on her trip to Brighton, she saw this as an opportunity to become friends with male officers.
‘She saw herself the object of attention to tons and to scores of them at present unknown.’ After the two married, the Bennet’s welcomed Wickham into their family more freely, even if they didn’t mean it and they were just acting warmly towards him. Elizabeth could not bear to listen to the conversation the family were having about the couple. She heard Lydia telling Jane that she had taken her place in rank order, and this distressed her. ‘Ah! Jane, I take your place now, and you must go lower, because I am a married woman.’ This tells us that Lydia is very pleased that she is the first of all her sisters to get married, and she wants to boast about it and let everyone know. Overall, Austen portrays this marriage as a bad one, due to the circumstances. Later on she begins to change her mind, as Wickham seems to end up wanting Lydia for love, regardless of the past.
Austen strongly agreed with Jane and Bingley’s marriage, as they married for love and it had nothing to do with money or land. They liked each other from the beginning, and kept it that way. I also agree that this marriage was the most suitable given that they grew to love each other before they fully found out each others history. Jane is the eldest of the five daughters, and also considered the prettiest of them. ‘”You are dancing with the only handsome girl in the room,” said Mr. Darcy, looking at the eldest Miss Bennet.’
Darcy along with Elizabeth and Bingley all seem to think that Jane is far prettier than any other of the girls in the ball room at the ball. Mr. Bennet thinks that Jane and Bingley will get cheated out of their money and become poor as they are too kind to their servants. ‘So easy, that every servant will cheat you; and so generous, that you will exceed your income.’ Although, Mr. Bennet did say that Jane and Bingley will be happy together as they married for love and they both truly love each other. Mrs. Bennet on the other hand, is just very pleased that Jane is married and especially happy that it is to someone that earns a great deal of money each year. ‘Why, he has four or five thousand a year, and very likely more.’
In the beginning when Elizabeth and Darcy first met, Elizabeth despised Darcy due to his inexcusable manners, and him refusing to dance with anybody, including herself. At the ball, Darcy thought that Elizabeth was ‘not pretty enough to be worthy of dancing with.’ Mrs Bennet had described him as ‘a disagreeable man.’ After the Ball, Darcy changes his opinion about Elizabeth ‘he was forced to acknowledge her figure to be light and pleasing.’ At this stage, Elizabeth was unaware of Darcy’s feelings towards her. Further in the novel, Darcy fears he is in ‘some danger’ of falling in love with her. The reader then realises that they might have some kind of future together. Soon Elizabeth starts to fall in love with Wickham, the handsome soldier. This is due to Darcy not mentioning how he feels and that Elizabeth knows no better.
Later on, Darcy did not give Wickham the parish that he wanted and had been promised before Darcy’s father passed away. This is when Darcy wrote the letter to Elizabeth telling her about all about his and Wickham’s conversations. He told her all about how Wickham wanted to go to Law School, and then when he didn’t like law school he wanted the Parish again. Lady Catherine de Bourgh, Darcy’s Aunt, strongly disagrees to the fact that Darcy likes and would like to marry Elizabeth. She believes that as he has much more money, he should marry somebody from a higher social class than Elizabeth. Elizabeth definitely is not bothered about what she has to contribute towards the matter as she considers this to be between Darcy and herself only. ‘You are not entitled to know mine; nor will such behaviour as this, ever induce me to be explicit’.
This is Elizabeth’s reply to Lady Catherine when Elizabeth denies telling her what she knows about her and Darcy. Towards the end of the novel, Darcy asks Elizabeth about her feelings towards him, she said she had changed her mind and that she does like him now. Elizabeth and Darcy then get married as they both feel the same way towards each other. This marriage is portrayed as a perfect marriage as they both married for the reason that they each love one another. I agree with this marriage, as they each fell for one another at the end, after all their ups and downs and one marriage proposal. Furthermore, these two have been through many different emotions of anger, stress, sadness and then to happiness until they were both ecstatic by being with each other.
I have come to the conclusion that Austen portrays marrying for love and security as the right reason and is the decent way of doing things. We find this out because any marriage that she sees is good she goes into great detail about and explains everything that is going on, however if she disagrees with a marriage she will explain it quickly and try to finish on the subject rapidly. When Austen disapproves of a character, she views them negatively and does not inform the audience of any positive attributes. Overall I have decided that the best marriage throughout the novel was undoubtedly Darcy and Elizabeth as they married for all the right reasons. They were also the central theme so were meant to be together and work out in the end.
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