Conflicting views on marriage in Pride and Prejudice.

Essay by Ola00007University, Bachelor's June 2004

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'It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife'

This opening paragraph of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen has become one of the most famous sentences in English literature. It states clearly that the novel will explore the theme of marriage and the connection between it and money.

It often so happens that novels mirror the customs and values of a particular society. Thus to understand the essence of the book let me first concentrate on how marriages were arranged in Austen's times and the difficult situation of young women. For many of them marriage on any terms was the only escape from a depressing spinsterhood in respectable poverty. In our times women have many other alternatives in addition to marriage. In those days it was not so. A young women depended for her happiness, her health, in fact the whole shape of life, on her making a good marriage.

If her husband was poor or a gambler or a drunkard, she and her children could suffer from plight as her perspectives for employment were miserable. What is more women were unable to inherit property after the death of a previous landowner. All these factors contributed to the unfortunate position of women in the 19th century and caused them to marry early not for the reasons associated with marriage of today.

The central theme of Pride and Prejudice is how to get a husband, and preferably a rich one. In the first chapter we are introduced into the Bennet family who forms the focus of the plot and the problem of marriage. Mr. and Mrs. Bennet have five daughters all of whom are confronted with a difficult situation. Since Mr. Bennet has no son, his...