The Views Of Marriage Expressed In Pride And Prejudice

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 12th grade December 2001

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Jane Austen's most popular novel, Pride and Prejudice, is most easily defined as a romantic comedy. Set in Longbourn, England during the nineteenth century, it describes the growing affections between Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy as they overcome their pride and prejudices, and learn to respect and love one another. Elizabeth's mother, Mrs. Bennet's, main preoccupation is marrying off her daughters. Therefore, one of the recurring themes in this novel is marriage. Jane Austen sets the tone with a marvelously ironic opening sentence: "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife."� In a society in which women try to find husbands amid financial snobbery and class prejudice, Jane Austen's novel celebrates the triumph of love. Ironically, "Though all her novels were concerned with courtship, love, and marriage, Austen never married."�1 Therefore, it is interesting to observe her depiction of matrimony, and whether or not one particular view of marriage is privileged or affirmed in the novel.

The five different marriages between Wickham and Lydia, Mr. and Mrs. Bennet, Mr. Collins and Charlotte Lucas, Jane and Bingley and Elizabeth and Darcy, create contrasts, allowing the author to reveal her opinions and thoughts on the subject.

Lydia and Wickham's elopement is, on the face of it, very romantic, driven by the passion of the youngest of the Bennet sisters. However, is this affection reciprocal? As Darcy explains, Wickham had no intention of marrying Lydia, preferring to marry a woman with means. Therefore, when they run off and live together out of wedlock, Austen demonstrates the effects this has on others, revealing the great importance of a woman's reputation. By becoming Wickham's lover, Lydia clearly places herself outside the demands of society, casting disgrace on the entire Bennet...