Jane Austen Essay

1534 words - 6 pages

Marriage and Money in Jane Austen's Novels; Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility and Lady Susan During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, money was a controlling element in most marriages. Not only did money determine ones social rank but it also influenced the connections one could establish. Austen conveys her society's preoccupation with money, class and connections clearly in her novels Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, and Lady Susan. Throughout these novels, she eloquently illustrates how a person in possession of a large fortune is often to be better than those that are not as fortunate. These people of large fortune looked down upon anyone who did not have as much money as they did. Money there for established what class you were in as well as the connections that you could make with other people who were of the same general salary. Although there is not much room for a person to move up on the social latter, there are ways in which to do this; such as, trades men who earn enough money and would be able to buy their way into the gentry or even the aristocracy, much like Sir William Lucas and Mr. Bingley of Pride and Prejudice do. Social class is more often than not established by who families, not the individual, therefore if one family member is disgraced, the entire family suffers for it, like in Pride and Prejudice, when Lydia elopes with Wickham. Not only could Lydia have been ruined by this foolish action but the rest of Bennet girls would be ruined as well. Women during these centuries are not allowed to support themselves; instead, their social rank was determined for them by their fathers, until they were married when it would be then replaced by that of her husbands. Unlike her novels, the marriages of Jane Austen's time were more like business mergers rather than a "romantic folly." Pre-nuptial agreements were always used to secure the financial part of the marriage and if one backed out of an engagement, they could be sued for not honoring them. (12) Some of Austen's characters, however, do follow the practice of the time and marry their partners solely to attain economic bliss; for example, Charlotte Lucas, Mr. Collins, Lady Susan, Sir James, Miss Grey and Willoughby. In showing this materialism and greed in her minor characters, Austen is able to depict how society functions in her time while still creating her happy ending for her heroine(s). Women of her time were not thought of as equals, if they were married, they were the property of their husbands, if they were not, they were a liability of their father or brother(s), because, the only respectable thing for a women of the middle to upper class was to marry a man in possession of a respectable fortune and of good breeding. In Jane Austen's novels, money as well as class and connections are the controlling factors in marriage, yet she contradicts this socially imposed value system by showing how love and the person's character can overcome these...

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