In Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen introduces the major thematic concept of marriage and financial wealth. Throughout the novel, Austen depicts various relationships that exhibit the two recurring themes. Set during the regency period, the perception of marriage revolves around a universal truth. Austen claims that a single man “must be in want of a wife.” Hence, the social stature and wealth of men were of principal importance for women. Austen, however, hints that the opposite may prove more exact: a single woman, under the social limitations, is in want of a husband. Through this speculation, Austen acknowledges that the economic pressure of social acceptance serves as a foundation for a proper marriage.
Introducing the novel, Austen explains, “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife” (1). According to this statement, the truth depends on what society deems acceptable. With this mindset, social acceptance relies on the economic standings of a single man rather than his character. Austin continues by describing that a man “must be in want of a wife,” emphasizing a sense of desire and need. Ideally, Austen condenses the ideas of want and need as the key motives for marriage. Despite Austen’s claims, that the man must be in want of a wife, the woman's desires is what truly matters. Darryl Jones recounts that there is a ‘fundamentally economic basis’ in Austen’s work, especially in the case of women (Jones 18). Therefore, a man's good fortune should complement his wife's economic needs. This mentality, however, defines the flaws of marriage, but identifies the woman’s perspective on marriage during Austen’s time.
The concern of marriage continues through Mrs. Bennet, whose economic desires are quite evident. When the news of an eligible bachelor arrives, Mrs. Bennet exclaims, “Oh! Single, my dear, to be sure! A single man of large fortune; four or five thousand a year. What a fine thing for our girls” (2). Considering Mrs. Bennet’s lines, the reader acknowledges Austen’s first claims on marriage. Mrs. Bennet not only exemplifies the opening statement of the novel, but also justifies the effect it has on mother figures. As Mrs. Bennet’s character develops, the reader recognizes her obsession with the marriage of her daughters. Mrs. Bennet understands the importance of marrying ‘well’ in order to maintain a high standing in the social realm. However, understanding the consequences directly affects Mrs. Bennet’s desperate behavior. This interpretation becomes an inevitable experience for each of Mrs. Bennet’s daughters.
Mrs. Bennet’s desperation is especially noticeable when Elizabeth, the protagonist, is given the opportunity to marry Mr. Collins, a distant cousin and a wealthy land owner. After learning of Elizabeth’s refusal to marry Collins, she implores Mr. Bennet to force Elizabeth to change her mind. In her final efforts to convince Elizabeth, Mrs. Bennet...