Austen's Marriages and the Age of Reason
Jane Austen successfully portrays the Age of Reason through her characters in Pride and Prejudice. The story revolves around a mother of five daughters, Mrs. Bennet, whose sole purpose is to marry off her daughters to suitable men. Her eldest, Jane, is her most prized daughter. Mrs. Bennet is assured that Jane's beauty and meticulous manners will win her a prized husband who may be able to support not just Jane, but her other sisters as well. The story of this quest told through the second daughter, Elizabeth. She does not necessarily want to be confined to all the expectations of the age. Elizabeth is the only character who demands to marry not only a suitable man, but one she also loves. As far as her younger sisters quests, Lydia and Catherine are immature and simply obsessed with flirting with officers. Once Mrs. Bennet begins to accomplish her goal of marrying her daughters, the reader is able to evaluate some basic values of Austen's portrayal of the Age of Reason. There are four main marriages in the novel: Charlotte's to Mr.Collins, Lydia's to Wickham, Jane's to Mr. Bingley, and Elizabeth's to Mr.Darcy. Through these marriages, Austen will explain what makes a good marriage and what one must posses in order to fulfill the requirements of the age.
Mr. Collins will be the inheritor of the Bennet family's home when Mr. Bennet dies. When Mrs.Bennet hears Mr.Collins may be interested in one of the daughters she is ecstatic because this will ensure that the home stays with one of her girls. Mr. Collins hears that Jane is involved with Mr. Bingley, so he moves on to Elizabeth. Lizzy flat out declines his proposal of marriage. Mr. Collins can not accept no as an answer. Mr.Collins simply needs someone to marry him. He does not care about love or beauty. Thus, When he meets Charlotte Lucas, it is obvious they can satisfy each others needs because Collins needs a wife to present to Lady Catherine and Charlotte is in danger of becoming an old maid. Their contract of marriage was based on absolutely no physical attraction or true love. Their marriage could be classified as a typical marriage of the time. Their marriage was convenient. Charlotte is happy because she receives a home and secure social standing. Collins is pleased because he can go on about his duties to Lady Catherine.
Elizabeth does not comprehend why someone would marry without any true love for his or her husband. The most likely cause of her lack of understanding probably results from growing up in a household where her mother and father showed no affection whatsoever for each other. Elizabeth is mindful of her father's mistake in marrying her mother. The two had nothing in common with each other. One of the few times Mr. Bennet interferes with his wife's business is when he backs Elizabeth up when Mrs. Bennet tries to force her to go back and accept Mr.Collins' proposal. After Mr. Collins moves onto Charlotte, Mrs. Bennet continues to press Lizzy for information about his relations with her best friend. She points out that Charlotte lives comfortably and will never be distressed for money (186).
After the affair with Mr. Collins, Mrs. Bennet is still stuck with five unmarried daughters. Jane is still getting aquatinted with Mr. Bingley, a rich suitor, Elizabeth still has no prospects, and two her three younger sisters are still chasing young officers. Suddenly when everything looks its brightest for Jane, Bingley picks up and leaves Netherfield. This event leaves the family in total despair. Elizabeth decides to go off to live with her aunt in London, Jane goes with another aunt, and Lydia leaves for Brighton with a colonel and his wife. As each goes her own way, they have time to reflect on their own needs and desires. Elizabeth learns that Wickham was not totally truthful with her about both himself and Darcy. She also learns that Darcy prevented the...
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