What attitudes to love and marriage does Jane Austen explore in Pride and Prejudice? Can you identify Jane Austen’s own view?
Jane Austen’s novel of Pride and Prejudice is set in the early 19th century and the central theme of the novel is love and marriage. Marriage was viewed very differently in those days and each character in her novel has different views of marriage. Marriage to women gave status and independence as women could not acquire money on their own without inheriting or marrying into good fortune, so many girls at that time did not marry for affection or love. Jane Austen uses the Bennet family to illustrate different types of marriage and thus reveals her own view.
An example of marriage can be found between Charlotte Lucas and Mr Collins. Charlotte married for economic reasons and Mr Collin on the other hand married to “set a good example”.
Mr Collins is the Bennets’ cousin who’s “neither sensible nor agreeable”. The letter he wrote to the Bennet family “is a mixture of servility and self-importance”. He married mainly because Lady Catherine de Bourgh advised him to do so. This shows the importance of class as Mr Collins spends most of his time being obsequious to his upper-class patron, Lady Catherine de Bourgh. His choice of wife changed early from Jane to Elizabeth and then to Charlotte after Elizabeth’s rejection in just a few days. When he found out that Jane might be engaged to Bingley soon, he hardly needed time to consider at all “to change from Jane to Elizabeth while Mrs Bennet was stirring the fire”; this shows clearly that he did not choose his partner for love. The five reasons Mr Collins gave for proposing to Elizabeth was firstly, he thinks it’s the right thing to do as a clergyman to “set the example of matrimony”, secondly he thinks that it will provide happiness for him, thirdly it was advised by Lady Catherine De Bourgh, fourthly because he is inheriting the Bennets’ house, he thought it would be a very gallant thing for him to do to marry one of his cousins so the Bennets will lose as little as possible, and lastly and the least important reason is he said that he likes Elizabeth and thinks her suitable. This shows how little affection he has for her, and the way he lays out his reasons shows how formal and dull he is, and all he is doing is trying to please Lady Catherine by doing as she advised.
Charlotte who is Elizabeth’s closest friend married Mr. Collins despite how little she loved him, just to gain financial security and “an establishment”, “accepted him solely from the pure and disinterested desire of an establishment” and “cared not how soon that the establishment were gained”. She viewed marriage differently from her friend partly because of the age difference between them. She is 27 years old which was considered as almost an ‘old maid’ at that time, whereas Elizabeth is only 19. Elizabeth rejected Mr Collins’ proposal straight way with certainty, which was followed by Charlotte’s quick acceptance of this marriage out of practicality. She knew that she mustn’t waste an opportunity like Mr Collins or she might never get another chance. Charlotte stated that she is “not romantic”, she only asked “a comfortable home”, and “considering Mr Collins’ character, connections and situation in life, I am convinced that my chance of happiness with him is as fair as most people can boast on entering the marriage state”. She married for independence by saving herself from spinsterhood and to gain financial security like many women would do at that time, “marriage was the honourable provision for well educated young women of small fortune”.
I believe Jane Austen disapproved of this kind of marriage and that people like Charlotte will not end up happy and will suffer in silence since Mr Collin is such a silly man, "When Mr. Collins said any thing of which his wife might reasonably be ashamed, which certainly was not...
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