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How does Jane Austen Present Love and Marriage in “Pride and Prejudice”?

Jane Austen presents love and marriage in many ways in the novel “Pride and Prejudice.” In this essay, I am going to discuss some of these marriages, not only from Jane Austen’s portrayal of her characters but also from my own point of view. Jane Austen opens Pride and Prejudice with a statement: “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must want to be in want of a wife.” By using this statement as her opening line she makes it very clear that she is humoured by the idea that every young man who has a large sum of money is eagerly looking for a wife. The main part of her book is based on matrimony. The statement shows clearly that she feels money and marriage are somewhat closely connected.

Jane Austen expresses several relationships in the novel. Some of these happen to be successful, but on the other hand, some don’t. By expressing the successful and unsuccessful relationships between the characters, it makes the reader question what the necessities are for a successful and loving relationship. In this essay, I am going to discuss how Jane Austen distinguishes each relationship in a very different way from another. Jane Austen presents Mr. and Mrs. Bennet’s marriage as highly unsuccessful. They are the first married couple we as readers are introduced to and almost from the very start of the novel we can tell they are certainly not a good match. In fact, they seem to be so unmatched it is hard to imagine why they ever married each other in the first place! Perhaps it was Mrs. Bennet’s good looks that captivated Mr. Bennet’s attention, or perhaps it was even her appearance of good humour that he was enticed by.

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However, it is quite definite that Mr. Bennet has long-lived to regret ever falling for her as Jane Austen so rightly tells us. When Mr. Bennet speaks to his beloved daughter Lizzie, he feelingly says to her, ” My dear child, let me not have the grief of seeing you unable to respect your partner in life. You know not what you are about.” This happens when Mr. Darcy has just proposed to Elizabeth. When I question why Mr. and Mrs. Bennet’s marriage is so unsuccessful, I am faced with three points that I think contribute to their marital problem. Between Mr. and Mrs. Bennet there is no intellectual equality. Mr. Bennet is clever, but on the other hand, his wife isn’t, in fact, Mrs. Bennet is a fool! She does not understand her husband in the slightest manner, and so Mr. Bennet frequently takes this opportunity to make a quick comment that will offend Mrs. Bennet. Jane Austen says, ” The experience of three and twenty years had been insufficient to make his wife understand his temper.”

These twenty-three years of his unhappy marriage had brought Mrs. Bennet’s characteristics out in a true light. She was a woman of mean understanding, very little information and an uncertain temper. She fancied herself nervous whenever she felt discontented. The business of her life was to get her daughters married, it seemed that was all the poor woman ever went on about and it infuriated Mr. Bennet greatly. The second point is that Mr. Bennet never showed any respect for his wife and almost seemed to enjoy ridiculing her in front of her daughters. Take the example of when Mrs. Bennet overhears some news that a young handsome man with a large fortune; four or five thousand a year has agreed to take possession of Netherfield Park before Michaelmas. She breathlessly answers Mr. Bennet’s questions revealing to the reader that the man is called Mr. Charles Bingley and what a fine thing he would be for one of the girls he would be. Mr. Bennet knowing his wife’s ways only too well after twenty-three long hard years chooses to ridicule her in front of her daughters.

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He answers her in such a manner that infuriates her greatly and refuses to accept Mrs. Bennet’s wishes of him going to pay Mr. Bingley a visit when he arrives in the neighbourhood. Shocked at this refusal, she asks him to think of his daughters’ future, as she believes that Mr. Bingley would be perfect for one of them. Mr. Bennet uses strong sarcasm as a reply to Mrs. Bennet as he knows it will certainly infuriate her even more, explaining that if Mr. Bingley were to meet with his daughters, he may favour Mrs. Bennet over them all! “.. For you are as handsome as any of them, Mr. Bingley might like you the best of the party.” Surely, with Mrs. Bennet being the mother of five grown-up daughters, she should now be well past the stage of her own beauty! My final point about Mr. and Mrs. Bennet’s marriage is that they don’t seem to enjoy sharing each other’s company. In awkward situations of his paternal and marital responsibilities he simply retreats back to his library in the hope to avoid all the fuss. Mrs. Bennet complains rather dramatically throughout the novel, ” You take delight in vexing me. You have no compassion for my nerves.”

Mr. Bennet replies sarcastically ” You mistake me, my dear, I have high respect for your nerves. They are my old friends. I have heard you mention them with consideration these twenty years at least!” From the points that I have just discussed, I think it is safe to say that the marriage of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet is very unsuccessful. The next unsuccessful relationship I am going to discuss is that of Mr. Collins and Charlotte Lucas. Their marriage is entirely loveless. The only explanatory reason why Mr. Collins is in desperate need of a wife is that of Lady Catherine de Burgh. When she tells Mr. Collins twice that it was his duty to marry, he sets out to find a suitable match. He also thinks that it will set an ” example of matrimony in his parish” and that it will also add very greatly to his happiness. During this time of his lookout for a wife, he changes quickly from Jane Bennet to Elizabeth Bennet but after being rejected by both women he turns to Charlotte Lucas, Elizabeth’s best friend. Mr. Collins is only capable of loving himself; he is quite selfish and has no proper knowledge of love.

He is so convinced that he is a ” good catch” that he doesn’t take Elizabeth’s strong refusals to heart, instead of more as compliments. Charlotte Lucas is a plain 27-year-old woman who is in danger of soon being classified as an old maid. To her, Mr. Collins is her only chance of ever being proposed to. She knows that if she marries Mr. Collins, she will be secure with a home she can call her own and also a family. She knows that if she doesn’t marry him as she will feel a burden on her family and be passed around her brothers and sisters as either an aunt or unpaid servant. She says that she is not a romantic person. At the Merryton assembly, she says to Elizabeth: ” Happiness in a marriage is entirely a matter of chance and that therefore long acquaintanceship beforehand is not needed. ” As she believes that people grow apart after marriage, she says ” It is better to know as little as possible of the defects of the person of whom you are to pass your life.”

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When she states this to her good friend Elizabeth, she is enlightened to hear that Elizabeth feels she is joking. The marriage to Mr. Collins proves just how wrong Elizabeth was. Charlotte is not joking at all and discovers ways which keep Mr. Collins as occupied as possible for as long as possible ensuring that she doesn’t have to spend much of her free time with him. She encourages him in gardening most days and gives him the best sitting room in the house hoping that he spends a lot of his time there. Their marriage is a highly unsuccessful relationship purely because they have no love for one another. In a way, they have both achieved what they wanted but in terms of how successful the marriage is, it doesn’t fit the criteria too well. Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy’s relationship thankfully ends up as a success. Their relationship does not begin all that well as Mr. Darcy seems more bothered about Elizabeth’s family importance and makes a quick judgement on her instead of her own qualities.

Elizabeth feels disgusted and hurts when Darcy explains that even though he has greatly tried to dislike her due to the circumstances of her family and its background situation. She strongly refuses Darcy’s proposal due to his harsh offence. Mr. Darcy must learn to love her for her alone. ” His sense of her inferiority, of its being a degradation of the family obstacles which judgement had always opposed to inclination.” When he considers proposing to Elizabeth, he does not doubt in the slightest that he will be let down. He is conceited but Elizabeth teaches him to be humble. ” My dearest loveliest Elizabeth! What do I not owe you? You taught me a lesson, hard indeed at first, but most advantageous. By you, I was properly humbled.” From the start of “Pride and Prejudice”, Elizabeth is prejudice against Darcy. This is in favour of Mr. George Wickham. Later on in the novel, Elizabeth has to swallow her pride as she realizes she is not the “studier of character” she thought she was as the truth about Wickham is told. She had misjudged Darcy terribly because he had insulted her at her very first meeting with him at the ball where she overheard him speaking about her to Bingley.

Despite their wrong ways at the beginning of the novel, Elizabeth and Darcy secure a successful relationship in the end, which is based on their equality of intellect. They have a true knowledge of each other’s characters, which is built up throughout the novel. They have shared a relationship over a long period of time and they both share a desire to please each other. Their marriage works as they put the other first and there is a lively physical attraction between them. During “Pride and Prejudice” they both go through a period of suffering but at the end of their suffering, they achieve the reward of each other. The final successful relationship I am going to discuss is that of Jane Bennet and Charles Bingley. When Mr. Bingley firsts meet Jane, he falls quickly in love with her and praises her beauty. He dances with her twice at the ball and seems to only have eyes for her. During her ill spell, he is concerned for her and is very vigilant. Sadly, this cannot be echoed for Mrs. Bennet seeing as she was the one who forced her to ride in the rain hoping she would have to stay over.

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However, this happy picture soon fades though when he moves to London and leaves Jane behind at Longbourne. Jane becomes very depressed but tries her hardest to deny that she is secretly pining for him. Later on in the novel, Jane Austen reunites the pair, and the happy picture is once again formed. Their relationship blossoms and the reader can see that it is built on genuine love and the good knowledge they share of each other. Jane and Bingley are very much alike whereas Elizabeth and Darcy complement each other. Both Jane and Elizabeth find their perfect match during the novel; though it is not obvious to them at first and there is no doubt that both couples will live a very happy life together. The last chapter of “Pride and Prejudice” opens with a quote on marriage: ” Happy for all her maternal feelings was the day on which Mrs. Bennet got rid of her two most deserving daughters.”

In the end, Mrs. Bennet had fulfilled her role in life, simply to ” get rid” of her daughters to a man she accepted good enough. Despite Mrs. Bennet’s relief of casting off Jane and Elizabeth, I feel that both girls made good choices in partners. They certainly both deserve their partners and they will continue to love, honour and understand them throughout their married lives. Neither of them chose to marry for money, simply for love, a strong opinion Jane Austen has. Referring back to the first chapter of the novel, which opened with the famous quotation Jane Austen made, I would like to point something out. When though she is humoured by the fact that every wealthy man is on the lookout and in need of a wife, Austen makes it very clear that marriage should be made for the right reasons.

Her novel gives information and shows an understanding of her reasons for this. She disagrees with any bragging done by Mrs. Bennet to Mr. Bingley about all the men that have previously liked Jane and also with her sending Jane in the rain in the hope of her staying over with an illness. Jane Austen feels that marriage should be committed for strong love, friendship, trust and the capability of bringing out the best in your partner by understanding them. She tells us the moral of marrying. Not all of the relationships in “Pride and Prejudice” follow this moral but Jane and Bingley do, as well as Elizabeth and Darcy. She tells us that people shouldn’t marry for money, looks or sex, for love alone because from loving greater things can grow.

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How does Jane Austen Present Love and Marriage in "Pride and Prejudice"?. (2021, Jun 05). Retrieved June 29, 2022, from