Pride and Prejudice
Love and Marriage
Jane Austen shows the readers within the first sentence what the plot and main theme of Pride and Prejudice is and what social ideas she plans on presenting through this novel. The first sentence of Pride and Prejudice stands as one of the most famous introductory lines in literature. It states, “it is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife” (Austen 5). This statement puts the novel in motion by showing that the novel will deal with the pursuit of single wealthy men by various female characters. By stating this, Austen reveals that the reverse is also true in the nineteenth century English society, which is that single women of no wealth during these times are also in want of a husband. Austen’s whole purpose in the writing of this story is to show the social pressures on women’s marriages and how this social expectation is faulty. Swords quotes David Springs assertion that “Jane Austen’s major preoccupation was the fate of women in the society of her time.” Jane Austen was a young woman who lived during the late eighteenth century and early nineteenth century, and was witness to women’s roles and restrictions and that times societal flaws. Austen wrote Pride and Prejudice to show her attitude on her society’s rules and ideas on women and marriages through her character’s pursuits of spouses and matrimonies.
What were women’s lives like in the actual world that Jane Austen set her novels? As children they were to be seen but not heard. Men at that time saw young girls and women’s minds as limited and shouldn’t be burdened with serious intellectual education. Because of this, girls were not given the same type of education that young boys were. Since during this time, marriage was pretty much the only option that women had to “sustain herself honorably,” young girls were taught ways to attract a suitable husband (Stephanievilla 4). Their limited education consisted of needlework, fine handwriting, singing, dancing, playing piano, and reading (3). Marriage at this time was the only thing that could give a woman any sense of security. If their fathers were to die, it was custom that only the eldest son could inherit the money and property. Unfortunately, if the family did not have a male son the land would be given to the closet male relative, which left the women in a very delicate position. Austen show’s readers this aspect of her society by having the Bennet sisters in the same situation. Without a male sibling their land and home will be entailed to a Mr. Collins. If Mr. Bennet were to die, his five daughters and his wife would be left homeless or at the charity of others because Mr. Collins would not have it in his heart to let them reside in the house with him. Their only way to escape this fate would be to get married. However, there was many obstacles that middle class young women had to deal with that kept young...