Attitudes Towards Marriage in 'Pride & Prejudice'

Categories: Pride And Prejudice

Within the captivating narrative of Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice, the characters of Mr. Collins, Elizabeth Bennet, and Charlotte Lucas unfold diverse attitudes towards marriage, shedding light on the complexities of matrimony in the early nineteenth century. This essay delves into their distinct perspectives, comparing them against contemporary views and societal expectations, while also highlighting aspects not explicitly addressed in the original text.

Overview of Marriage Views in "Pride & Prejudice"

In the intricate tapestry of Pride & Prejudice, Austen paints a vivid portrait of varying attitudes towards marriage.

Elizabeth Bennet emerges as the embodiment of the desire to marry for love, standing in stark contrast to her friend Charlotte Lucas, who places a higher value on the security of marriage than on romantic inclinations. Meanwhile, Mr. Collins, the pragmatic vicar, seeks matrimony as a means to set an exemplary standard, heavily influenced by the counsel of Lady Catherine de Bough.

Elizabeth, with her spirited independence, represents a break from societal norms by boldly rejecting Mr.

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Collins' proposal in Chapter 19. She unequivocally refuses a union devoid of genuine affection, showcasing a determination to marry for love. This principled stance aligns more closely with contemporary values than those of her time. However, it also invites opposition from her mother, Mrs. Bennet, who sees marriage as a path to financial security rather than a pursuit of personal happiness.

Charlotte Lucas, on the other hand, accepts Mr. Collins' proposal in Chapter 22, choosing financial security over romantic considerations. The surprising revelation leaves Elizabeth incredulous, emphasizing the disparity between their views.

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Despite Charlotte's pragmatic choice, her adherence to her earlier advice about marriage, as seen in Chapter 6, adds an admirable layer to her character, showcasing a consistency in her convictions.

Comparison with Modern Attitudes

Austen's characters navigate a societal landscape where marriage is entwined with considerations of security and financial stability. Unlike the present era, where individuals often marry for love, the characters in Pride & Prejudice grapple with societal expectations that place a premium on practicality over emotional fulfillment.

Elizabeth's outright rejection of Mr. Collins based on her lack of love for him highlights a departure from the societal expectations of her time. Her commitment to marrying for love reflects a more contemporary perspective, where personal fulfillment takes precedence over external pressures. In contrast, Charlotte's acceptance of Mr. Collins' proposal, driven by the desire for financial security, illustrates the prevailing emphasis on practicality in the early nineteenth century.

Mr. Collins' Perspective

Chapter 15 delves into Mr. Collins' motivation for marriage, revealing his materialistic inclination. Driven by the possession of a fine house and a substantial income, he switches his attention from Jane to Elizabeth, displaying a lack of genuine affection. His proposal to Elizabeth further exposes his skewed priorities, as he places societal expectations and personal happiness after considerations of financial stability and setting an example as a clergyman.

Mr. Collins, enamored by Lady Catherine de Bough, adheres to her advice, highlighting the significant influence individuals in authoritative positions had on personal choices. His actions reflect a society where personal autonomy took a backseat to societal expectations, and decisions about marriage were often shaped by influential figures.

In proposing to Charlotte just three days after Elizabeth's rejection, Mr. Collins further showcases the transience of his affections. His swift move highlights a lack of depth in his purported 'love' for Elizabeth, raising questions about the authenticity of his feelings. This rapid shift in focus adds complexity to Mr. Collins' character, portraying him as more driven by societal norms than genuine emotional connections.

Social Expectations in the Early Nineteenth Century

The influence of Lady Catherine de Bough on Mr. Collins underscores the societal expectations that shaped decisions about marriage during the early nineteenth century. Mr. Collins, idolizing Lady Catherine, adheres to her advice, emphasizing the significant impact of influential individuals on personal choices.

In contrast to today's era of autonomy, people in Austen's time navigated societal norms, often sacrificing personal desires for perceived societal obligations. Lady Catherine's role as a guiding force in Mr. Collins' decisions reflects a society where individuals sought approval from esteemed figures, impacting not only their personal lives but also societal expectations as a whole.

Personal Opinion

As a reader, aligning with Elizabeth's perspective on marriage resonates more profoundly. The belief that genuine love should be the cornerstone of matrimony mirrors contemporary values, diverging from the prevailing early nineteenth-century notion that prioritized financial security. In our current age, where personal autonomy reigns supreme, the concept of marrying for love rather than practicality is a sentiment that continues to find resonance.

Moreover, Elizabeth's unwavering commitment to her principles, despite societal pressures, portrays her as a symbol of resilience against the societal norms of her time. Her bold rejection of Mr. Collins and adherence to her belief in marrying for love showcase a strength of character that transcends the constraints of societal expectations.

In conclusion, Pride & Prejudice not only weaves a captivating tale of love and societal expectations but also serves as a lens through which one can examine the evolving attitudes towards marriage. Elizabeth's unwavering commitment to marrying for love, Charlotte's pragmatic choices, and Mr. Collins' misguided priorities collectively contribute to a narrative that reflects the complexities and nuances of matrimonial decisions in the early nineteenth century.

Updated: Jan 11, 2024
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Attitudes Towards Marriage in 'Pride & Prejudice'. (2017, Oct 30). Retrieved from

Attitudes Towards Marriage in 'Pride & Prejudice' essay
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