Austens View of Marriage in Pride and Prejudice

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Austen’s View of Marriage in Pride and Prejudice

Ⅰ. Introduction

Jane Austen (1775-1817) is often viewed as the greatest of the English women realistic novelists in the 19th century. Her greatness lies in her ability to stimulate readers to supply what is not there and expand a trifle in our mind and endow with the most enduring form of life scenes. Jane Austen wrote only six complete novels. In these novels, an assembly of characters, men and women, old and young some, but not many, children --- who are unforgettable and can become as real to the reader as his or her own friends and family is vividly described. Austen criticized comically “the overvaluation of love, the miseducation of women, the subterfuges of the marriage market, the rivalry among women for male approval, the female cult of weakness and dependence, the discrepancy between women’s private sphere and male history”(Austen 112). In Jane Austen’s novels, innocent courting and proper marriages constitute the central strands of the story, but behind these we can see that there lurks the ulterior motive of loving an marrying for money and social position. Her heroines without any money or social rank are always placed in a desperate situation of having to lure some young and rich landlords or clergymen with comfortable livings into marrying them, either with their looks or with their wiles, or with both. This is a truthful reflection of the specific historical period of the author’s time during which people seemed to take money much more seriously than other times, especially the women awaiting their marriage. As a realistic novelist, Jane Austen’s view of marriage expressed in her works is actually a true portrayal of the marital status in her time, especially of women of the gentry. Behind the comic plots, there was the sorrowful social reality that women’s fates were determined by their economic conditions and most of them were constrained by the so-called “accomplished lady” concept. The paper is to analyze some cultural background of women’s marriage in Austen’s time and the economic status and property elements that influenced their marriage and thus we can obtain a further understanding of Jane Austen’s view of marriage Ⅱ. Contrast between Marriage in Austen’s Time and Her Novel

A. Marriage in Austen’s time
In Jane Austen’s time, there was no real way for young woman of the “genteel” class to strike out their own or be independent. Professions, universities, polities, etc., were not open to woman. Few occupations were available to them----and those few such as being a governess, i.e. a live -in teacher for the daughters or young children of a family, were not highly respected, and did not generally pay well or have very good working conditions. Jane Austen wrote in a letter about a governess hired brother Edward: “By this time, I suppose she is hard at it, governing away---- poor creature! I pity her. They are my nieces.”(Austen 204). And the patronizing Mrs. Elton in Emma is “astonished” that Emma’s former governess should be “so very lady-like…. quite the gentlewoman”, as opposed to being like a servant in the general view. Therefore most “genteel” woman could not get money except by marrying for it or inheriting it. And since the eldest son generally inherited the bulk of an estate as the “heir”, a woman could be an “heiress “ only when she had no brothers, Besides, only a rather small number of woman could be called professionals, who through their own efforts earned an income sufficient to make themselves independent, or had a recognized career. Jane Austen herself was not really one of these few women professionals-during the last six years of her life she earned an average of a little more than 100 pounds a year by her novel –writing, but her family’s expenses were four times amount, and she did not meet with other authors or...
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