Q. Pride and Prejudice is concerned with various aspects of love and marriage. Discuss.
“Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen, was written in 1797, when women were still dependent on men for their livelihood and marriage was a tool for women of the time to get settled in comfortable households. During the turn of 19th century in England, balls were one of the places to socialise, in other words, an opportunity for most young women to look for suitable husbands. Many of the Jane Austen novels centre on the theme of love and marriage, and it can be said that it presents to us the social history of England. Raymond Williams said, “Austen’s novels provide an accurate record of that moment in English history in which bourgeois society most evidently interlocked with an agrarian capitalism.” Austen’s Emma is a case in point in which the lead heroine is a match maker and though she herself vows not to marry but eventually falls in love with George Knightley who is the owner of an estate. Similarly, in other Austen novels, the story revolves around men and women interacting and socialising, and leads to an end where the heroine is happily married. Pride and prejudice is not free from such a theme, while marriage is a big concern, we also see development of love and the growth of relationships especially between Jane and Bingley, Elizabeth and Darcy.
Pride and Prejudice starts with the comment, ‘It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.’ This clearly sets out the pace of the story and we come to know that men with property are being highlighted. Mrs Bennet with five daughters to take care of and who also wants to protect her future after her husband’s death, feels it a great responsibility to marry off her daughters in well off households. So, when she hears of a Mr Bingley with ‘four or five thousands a year’, she pesters Mr Bennet to meet him for the sake of her daughters. This shows how she has already raised up her hopes that perhaps ‘he may fall in love with one of them.’ Mr Bingley is not only in the hunt list of Mrs Bennet but also on several other women’s too in the neighbourhood. Mrs Bennet makes a comment on Mrs Long ‘She has two nieces of her own’, which suggests that she is desperate to get her hands laid on him before he commits to another woman. The question is why women needed to be in this institution of marriage. One reason, as it appears, is the social status, and the other, the future comfort that marriage promises to women. As Wollstonecraft quotes, “...the only way women can rise in the world- by marriage.” Why Charlotte gives in to marry Mr. Collins is only for a promising future and to free herself from being a burden to her family. Also, Mrs. Bennet throws her daughters into the marriage market in hope of acquiring them a social status. But why did women have to run after wealthy men? It is only because women did not have any income of their own during that time, so they needed financial support through their husbands to run their lives. Had this been not the case and if women were working, marriage would not have become a priority of life for women just to gain a stable future and financial status of men would not have mattered then. Even now some mothers like Mrs. Bennet, who have adopted such notions of marriage of that time, still talk about getting their daughters married in good households. For them the future is all about marriage, they can’t separate the thought of their daughter’s future from the thought of them being married one day. Similarly, for Mrs. Bennet, Jane marrying Mr. Bingley is an excellent prospect; Elizabeth, being Darcy’s mistress, has the promise of living a luxurious life.
Though Elizabeth is the heroine of the novel, Jane’s life takes a centre-stage in the eyes of the characters as she is the most beautiful of all the women, and so everyone is involved in her love life as they believe that with her...
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