Love and Marriage in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice
Pride and Prejudice was published in 1813 during the Regency period.
From a woman’s point of view, marriage was seen as “the only
honourable provision for well-educated young women of small fortune”.
Marriage was seen as the only way of securing a home and a decent
living. If a woman wasn’t married she would have the life of a
spinster, and depend upon a family who may not always support her. The
only other choice was to become a governess, where once again a woman
would be dependent on a family. So, considering these options, most
young women were obliged to get married.
Most marriages were based on physical attraction, financial security
or love and affection; of all these, financial security was the main
reason for marriage. Women married for financial security because it
established a secure livelihood and a definite home. Another reason
for marrying a man in a higher social class was that, if the eldest
sister married well, the rest of the family would be of a higher
status than previously. To marry for love and affection was quite rare
at this period in time, as money played a big factor. For example, in
another Jane Austen novel – Persuasion – the heroine, Anne Elliot
falls in love with Captain Wentworth, but, as he is penniless, they
are forced apart.
From a man’s perspective the reasons for marriage were very similar. A
man married to bring status, wealth, estate and prestige. “It is a
truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a
good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” This quote confirms the
assumption (of the period) that any man with an estate would marry. In
order to keep the estate in the family a man would have to marry and
produce a son. Men tended also to marry within their social class as
it kept a respectable reputation and possibly increased the wealth
within his family. If a man was very wealthy and owned a large estate
he would be very sought after. When Darcy is first observed it was
because of “his fine, tall person, handsome features, noble mien; and
the report which was in general circulation within five minutes after
his entrance of his having ten thousand a year.” So within his first
arrival everyone had established a definite attraction to him if not
for his appearance, then for his money.
However, Austen has used the social symbolism of the marriages to show
the gradual merging of social classes. The marriage of Elizabeth to
Darcy and Jane to Bingley shows that there was a fuse forming between
the aristocracy and bourgeois social ranks.
Marriage in the Regency period can relate to marriages today because
in certain cases women (and men to an extent) marry for financial
stability. Although most people would prefer to observe this as an act
of true love,...