How Society Viewed Love and Marriage in Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Jane Austen was born in 1775 and spent most of her life in the
countryside in a village called Steventon, Hampshire. She was the
daughter of a clergyman, Reverend George Austen and her mother was
called Cassandra Austen. She had a brief education starting at the age
of seven and ending at eleven, when she settled at home. Like women in
Austen’s society, she had little education due to the beliefs at the
time; the only education she would have received would likely have
been to up her social status, through marriage. She wrote “Pride and
Prejudice” to portray society’s views of love and marriage to the
reader and to shoe that marriages take place for different reasons. We
see throughout the novel the excessive number of marriages and
courtships that take place.
The opening sentence “It’s a truth universally acknowledged, that a
single man in the possession of a good fortune must be in want of a
wife” introduces the theme of love, marriage and money in an ironic
way. The irony is contained in the fact that marriage is meant to be
about love and happiness but clearly revolves around wealth and social
standing. In the novel we see two established marriages take place;
The Bennet’s and the Gardiner’s. Throughout the novel four other
marriages take place; Lydia and Mr Wickham, Charlotte Lucas and Mr
Collins, Elizabeth and Darcy and Jane and Mr Bingley.
The marriage between Mr Collins and Charlotte Lucas is purely based on
financial and social security not love or appearance, It was extremely
common fro women in Austens era to marry and save themselves from
spinsterhood and social security and to gain, the above mentioned,
financial and social security. In this type of marriage Austen
illustrates that women who submit themselves are largely willing to
suffer emotional distress in silence. “… Mr Collins to be sure neither
sensible nor agreeable; his society was irksome and his attachment to
her must be imaginary. But still he would be a husband…” This reflects
the social beliefs of, at least, the middle classes at the time.
Evidently all that Charlotte wants out of life is a comfortable home
and enough wealth to sustain this. “ I’m not a romantic girl you know.
I never was, I only ask for a comfortable home …”. The use of the word
“only” emphasises the fact that Charlotte wants this and nothing else.
The consequences of her not marring well would be to severely limit
her options i.e. she would have to become a governess or an old maid
for a wealthy couple, but this would not support her once she had
reached an age at which, she could no longer work. When Charlotte
Married Mr Collins she seemed happy in their relationship, even though
its not based on love :- she has all that she wants out of marriage.
She does however ignore her husbands silliness and does not have any
bad words to say about him. “ When Mr Collins said anything of...