Explore the different attitudes to marriage presented in Pride and
In the time of Jane Austen, marriage was mainly based on attraction
and compatibility. Women had the right to choose husbands, but status
in society and wealth were very important parts of their decision. In
'Pride and Prejudice' we see many different attitudes and reasons for
marrying in the gentry.
Jane Austen was brought up in a family who loved to read novels, a new
concept of writing that was very different to poetry and plays. At
first novels, written mainly around letters, were not taken very
seriously and were believed to be overly sentimental and unrealistic,
and also thought to be dangerous to influential young women. Jane
Austen's first published novel was 'Sense and Sensibility' in 1811,
'Pride and Prejudice' was published two years later.
Elizabeth is the heroine of this novel and one thing is clear about
her attitudes from the start - she will only marry for love. She is
therefore amazed that her friend Charlotte Lucas does not marry for
love, but for status and a comfortable home, "Charlotte engaged to Mr
Collins - impossible". In this way she can be seen to be prejudiced
and quite blind to other people's viewpoints other than her own - a
failing on her part.
Lizzy takes after Mr Bennet, in that she has a quick and generally
accurate judgement of people's characters. It is clear at the
beginning that she dislikes Mr Darcy, "with more quickness of
observation, she was very little disposed to approve of him". At their
first meeting Mr Darcy is very proud and disagreeable in contrast with
the good-natured Mr Bingley. It shows that she is a very good judge of
character and that she takes her first impressions of someone very
seriously. However, she does misjudge one person's character, and is
immediately attracted to George Wickham. She is "taken in" by his
"truthful looks", which is quite ironic because whilst Mr Wickham
tells stories about his dealings with Mr Darcy, very few things of
what he is saying is the truth. Elizabeth is attracted to him because
he is the opposite of Mr Darcy, and has very few failings in society.
For example, he does not look down upon the society that he is in, and
shows very little pride or arrogance that makes Mr Darcy look like a
most disagreeable man in the Meryton society.
In the novel, Lizzy receives three offers of marriage in total - two
from Mr Darcy and one from Mr Collins, whose is first. Lizzy's good
judge of character means that she believes Mr Collins to be somewhat
of an "oddity", a silly man wanting to heal the breach with the Bennet
family by marrying one of the five daughters for the wrong reasons.
Elizabeth knows that Mr Collins does not love her, and certainly she
does not love him, so refuses his proposals. "You could not make me
happy, and I am convinced that I am the last woman in the world who
could make you so", and "My feelings in every respect...