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Pride and Prejudice
And do you take this woman to be your lawfully wedded wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, for love… or just for security and wealth? Many people have very different views on marriage. In Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice, many characters disagree about what marriage should be. Some believe there should be happiness and love in a marriage, and others believe happiness is simply a matter of chance. In the poem “Habitation,” Margaret Atwood uses literary techniques such as symbolism and metaphors to show that the idea of marriage is sugar-coated, and a marriage takes work and upkeep to sustain happiness. Both of these pieces of literature have very unique views on marriage. Pride and Prejudice shows many different views on marriage. Many of the characters in the novel would agree that marrying is a practical choice, and should be done for security. Charlotte Lucas and Mrs. Bennet both especially believe this. Mrs. Bennet’s ultimate goal for her daughters is to have them married. She states, “If I can see but one of my daughters happily settled at Netherfield, and all the others equally well married, I shall have nothing to wish for.” Mrs. Bennet believes that once her daughters are married, everything will be taken care of, they will all be safe and secure in marriage. While Mrs. Bennet is thinking of marriage as security, Margaret Atwood crushes this idea in the first few lines of her poem “Habitation.” With the opening metaphor, “Marriage is not a house or even a tent,” Atwood denies marriage being secure. The house and tent symbolize security, so marriage is not that. Margaret Atwood gives the reality of marriage, that it is not a warm, comforting shelter, but a constant battle full of insecurity. Atwood sees marriage not as easy, secure bliss, but something that is a struggle, something that takes strength and determination. This idea would stun some of the characters of Pride and Prejudice such as Mrs. Bennet and Charlotte Lucas who view marriage as security. As well as feeling that marriage is security, according to Charlotte Lucas, “Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance.” Charlotte believes all the work getting to know someone is unimportant. She actually states, “It is better to know as little as possible of the defects of the person with whom you are to pass your life.” Margaret Atwood has a very different opinion of this in the poem “Habitation.” According to Atwood, marriage is hard; this is illustrated in the lines, “the edge of the forest, the edge of the desert.” The repetition of “the edge” followed by a place of danger and mystery shows in a relationship, you are always on the brink of a hard time. The “unpainted stairs” in the poem represent the work that needs to be done to get to know your significant other and to keep happiness. Happiness in marriage is not something many characters of Pride and Prejudice believe necessary, but some do. In the novel, Elizabeth understands there must be love in a marriage for it to be successful. Her father, Mr. Bennet wants her to be happy in marriage; this is evident when he refuses to tell Elizabeth she must marry Mr. Collins. In the poem, the last line is “we are learning to make fire.” The fire represents love, the couple in the poem must work and “make fire” to achieve love. Like this couple, Elizabeth and her father wish for Elizabeth to work to achieve love and happiness before marriage so she can be happy. Both writings want to achieve love and happiness by their work of “making fire.” Before there can be fire, there is cold. The poem states “it is before that, and colder.” Before two people get to know each other, the relationship is cold and distant. Atwood believes you need to work to get to know someone so the relationship warms up. In Pride and Prejudice, Mrs. Bennet does not understand this concept. As she declares to Mr. Bennet “Lizzy declares she will not have Mr. Collins, and Mr. Collins begins to say he will not have Lizzy.” At this time, Lizzy and Mr. Collins’ relationship is still cold. Lizzy would agree with the poem in that in the beginning the relationship is cold and you must get to know someone to warm it up. Mr. Collins and Lizzy have just met and Lizzy would not marry someone when there was no “warmth” and love. Many people have very different views of marriage. The novel Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen and the poem “Habitation” by Margaret Atwood have similar but yet very different views of marriage. While one is more wrapped up in the practicality of security in marriage, the other shows the harsh truth that to sustain happiness in marriage, you must work for it. Both offer very unique ideas on marriage.