Explore how the theme of marriage is presented in Pride and Prejudice. What comments do you think the writer may have been making about his or her own time

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Explore how the theme of marriage is presented in Pride and Prejudice. What comments do you think the writer may have been making about his or her own time


In this essay I am exploring the theme of marriage in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. I will look at what the writer is trying to say about their own time. To do this I will look at three main marriages, these are Mr and Mrs Bennet, Charlotte Lucas and Mr Collins and Darcy and Elizabeth. I will investigate how they came about and what comments the writer is trying to make about marriage through these characters. I studied the book and annotated it as I went along; I also watched the video and explored how the theme of marriage was being presented here.


I will explore the theme of marriage through Mr and Mrs Bennet. They are the parents of one of the main characters, Elizabeth. They are also parents to four other daughters; these are Jane, Mary, Kitty and Lydia. In this book Mrs Bennet’s main aim to get their five daughters married, preferably to someone rich.


In chapter one Mrs Bennet says “… a single man of large fortune; four or five thousand a year. What a fine thing for our girls.” This is Mrs Bennet talking about Mr Bingley. This shows that Mrs Bennet thinks that some one who has a lot of money is a good person to marry.


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At the end of chapter one it is written “Mr Bennet was so odd a mixture of quick parts, sarcastic humour… that the experience of three- and- twenty years had been insufficient to make his wife understand his character. “ Here in the book this is Jane Austen narrating and she is showing how after years she does not know Mr Bennet very well. She shows here that the couple had been brought together not because of love but for the sake of marriage.


At the start of chapter 4 it says “Her father, captivated by youth and beauty, and that appearance of good humour … illiberal mind had very early in their marriage put an end to all real affection for her. Respect, esteem, and confidence had vanished forever…” This is Elisabeth narrating and she is saying how her father and mother did not marry for love but for looks and appearances. She is saying how respect, esteem and confidence should be there in a marriage but in this marriage it is not. Elisabeth also says “... to the impropriety of her father’s behaviour as a husband.” She is saying this is one example of how marriages which were not for love could go wrong. When she says ‘impropriety’ she means how disrespectful and bad mannered her father is as a husband. She is saying that her father does not treat her mother very well and he is a bad husband because he did not marry for love.


This marriage shows that people may not be how they seem, if they are beautiful it does not mean that they will be a good husband or wife. Mr Bennet married Mrs Bennet for her beauty but he did not know her very well and therefore was not aware of her stupidity. So, their marriage was not a success and Jane Austen and Elisabeth both disapprove of it as they think they should have married because they love each other. The writer is saying that in their time there may have been a lot of marriages where the husband would rarely associate themselves with the wife and this is because they married for what the other person looked like and how much money they had. I think the writer is trying to say they should marry for love and if they do not it will end up like the Bennets marriage, where they do not get on very well.





Next I will look at the marriage of Charlotte Lucas and Mr Collins. I will explore their views on marriage and how they came together. This will then show us what the writer is trying to say about her time. Elizabeth is Charlotte’s best friend, and Mr Collins is Mr Bennet’s cousin. When Mr Bennet dies Mr Collins is the next of kin so will receive the property. Therefore before proposing to Charlotte he proposes to Elizabeth and is rejected.


When talking to Elizabeth in a conversation about Mr Darcy, Charlotte says “One cannot wonder that so very fine a young man, with family, fortune, everything in his favour should think highly of himself. If I may so express it he has a right to be proud.” This shows that Charlotte thinks that with good looks, good family connections and a lot of money would be the ideal man in that time. She believes that they are very important in a marriage and shows these are the qualities she would look for.


When Charlotte talks to Lizzie she tells her how she thinks you can get a man to marry you, she says, “If a woman conceals her affection with the same skill from the object of it, she may lose the opportunity of fixing him…” This shows she thinks that a woman should openly show how she feels for the man then she has more of a chance of making him propose.


She also says. “In nine cases out of ten a woman had better show more affection than she feels.” The following sentence shows that Charlotte believes that you should exaggerate how you feel so that the man becomes more encouraged.


Charlotte replies to Elisabeth, in a conversation about how Jane should react towards Mr Bingley in order to get him to propose to her , that,” Jane should therefore make the most of every half hour in which she can command his attention. When she is secure of him, there will be leisure for falling in love as much as she chuses.” Charlotte is saying here that Jane should make sure that she has always got his attention and she does not have to fall in love with him, just make him fall in love with her. She thinks that if you get him to propose then you can fall in love with him when you have time, because it is better to be married and not waste time getting to know him and falling in love with him.


Charlotte also says, “… I should think she had as good a chance of happiness as if she were to be studying his character for a month.” She says here there is no point in getting to know him then getting married, she thinks this wastes time and there would be no difference if they got married then got to know each other.


She says that, “…it is better to know as little as possible of the defects of the person with whom you are to pass your life.” This shows she feels that it is better to get married to someone then get to know them because if you get to know them first their bad habits may put you off. This theory is put into practise when she accepts a marriage proposal from Mr Collins so soon.


Mr Collins proposes to Elisabeth before he proposes to Charlotte. When he proposes he gives three reason for marrying her, “… first, that I think it a right thing for every clergyman in easy circumstances (like myself) to set the example of matrimony in his parish; secondly, that I am convinced it will add greatly to my happiness; and thirdly- which perhaps I ought to have mentioned earlier… recommendation of the very noble lady [Miss de Bourgh]…” This shows that these are why he thinks he should get married to her. In none of these reasons does he say that he loves her and this shows that love is not important to him in a marriage.


Mr Collins says to Elisabeth, “To fortune I am perfectly indifferent… and that one thousand pounds in the 4 per cents., which will not be yours till after your mother’s decease is all you may ever be entitled to… when we are married.” This shows that he thinks that Elisabeth will marry him because he will get their house when the father dies and they would like to keep. He thinks she will definitely get married to him and he thinks because he has money. This is important to Mr Collins in a marriage.


After this Mr Collins says, “My situation in life, my connections with the family of de Bourgh, and my relationship to your own, are circumstances highly in my favour…” Mr Collins feels that in marriage connections and jobs are very important factors.


When Charlotte invited Mr Collins round to dinner she was trying to get him to propose. We know this because it says, “…Charlottes kindness extended further than Elizabeth had any conception of… by engaging them towards herself. Such was Miss Lucas’s scheme; and appearances were so favourable, that when they parted at night, she would have felt almost sure of success if he had not been to leave Hertfordshire so very soon.” This shows that she is following her own advice and she is very forward with him. She feels this is a way to get a man to propose and her idea of success is a proposal. So she feels that she wants to marry this man after knowing him for such a short time.


After Mr Collin proposes it is written, “Lady Lucas began directly to calculate… how many years longer Mr Bennet was likely to live…” This shows that money is a very important prospect for the family and this interested them more than anything else.


Here this is Charlotte narrating, she says that, “Without thinking highly either of men or of matrimony, marriage had always been her object; it was the only honourable provision for well-educated young women of small fortune, and however uncertain of giving happiness, must be their pleasantest preservative from want.” A part of this is the opinion of the society it shows that they think that it is good to get married; they see it as an honour. If you get married you are seen as a higher status in life than someone who has not got married.


When speaking to Elizabeth Charlotte says, “I only ask for a comfortable home; and considering Mr Collins’s character, connections, and situation in life, I am convinced that my chance of happiness with him is as fair as most people can boast on entering the marriage state.” She is saying that in a marriage she requires a comfortable home, good connections and a good way of life to be happy.


This marriage is not based on love; they both have got married because they believe it is the right thing to do at their time in life. Mr Collins believes that his connections and situation in life is what a woman looks for in a marriage and I think this shows the opinion of some of the society. I do not think Jane Austen agree with this otherwise she would not portray Mr Collins as such a foolish man. Elizabeth also says that she does not agree with this and therefore not agreeing with society. Mr Collins and Charlotte Lucas believe that love is not required in a marriage and Charlotte also thinks that by getting married it will increase her status in society. This is how the whole society feels so by getting married they are seen as ‘better’ people in life than people who are not married. This reflects when Lydia says to Jane, “Ah, Jane, I take your place now, and you must go lower, because I am a married woman!” This shows that in society a married woman has a higher status than her elder sister. I do not think that Jane Austen approves of this marriage because they do not love each other.





Elizabeth and Mr Darcy’s marriage is the next marriage I will look at. Elizabeth is the main character in this book and she is the daughter of a man with a small fortune. Mr Darcy is a man of great fortune and a high status in life. This is the main marriage in the book and I have explored how it came about.


When Elizabeth first met Darcy, Darcy commented on her to Mr Bingley, “She is tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me; and I am in no humour at present to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men. “ This shows what Mr Darcy’s first impressions of Lizzie are and he has based them on looks. He also shows that he cares what other people think of his status when he does not dance with her because she is snubbed by other men. Here he is saying that he does not want some one who men with a lower status do not want.


Before Mr Darcy proposes to Lizzie he tells her he loves her, “In vain I have struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.” This is not a very flattering way of telling Lizzie he loves her because he is saying that by holding it back he was embarrassed and not pleased by loving her.


When Lizzie refuses accept Mr Darcy’s proposal it shows that even though he is rich and has a high status in life she will not marry him because she does not love him and has a bad opinion of him. She does not know him well enough therefore Jane Austen does not allow these characters to marry. She believes that you should marry for love. However in society someone with such a high status would not propose to some who is of small fortune and this would seem not right in society but by Darcy doing this it shows that he loves her.


After Darcy’s proposal he writes her a letter. In this letter it tells Lizzie honestly about why he did not allow Mr Bingley and Jane marry and about Mr Wickham, he also apologises to her.


In this letter he is giving reasons why he did not allow Mr Bingley and Jane marry, he says, “The situation of your mother’s family, though objectionable, was nothing of comparison to that total want of propriety so frequently, so almost uniformly betrayed by herself, by your three younger sisters, and occasionally even by your father. “ This shows that your family are an important part of your status in that time. It shows that if you have an ill behaved family it will affect how you get married and your status. He is saying that her mother’s family is not agreeable but did not compare to how rude her mother would be and her sisters and sometimes the father. This is something that is important in a marriage in that time, connections.


From Mr Darcy writing a letter to Lizzie it shows that in their time the only way to be truly honest was to write a letter. There were no other ways of communicating except at balls and in groups of people. There was no way of talking privately unless proposing so a letter is a way of communicating.


When Lizzie was at the table with Jane, Lizzie is narrating, “... rather knew that she was happy, than felt herself to be so; … she anticipated what would be felt in the family when her situation became known; she was aware that no one liked him but Jane, and even feared that with the others it was a dislike which not all his fortune and consequence might do away.” Here Lizzie is saying that she is embarrassed to tell her family that she is engaged to Mr Darcy and feels that her family may ignore their dislike for him because he is so rich. This shows us that in their time sometimes money can make a person ignore their character.


Jane Austen approves of this marriage because they married for love and they deserve each other. This is an example of a dream marriage in their time as they married for love and because the husband was very rich and married a not so fortunate woman. This shows that in their time not a lot of people got married in this situation. It showed that they did not marry because of money as Jane did not accept Darcy’s first marriage proposal. Jane Austen is trying to say that they should love each other and it cannot be one way. When they get to know each other better then they get married and it is a perfect marriage where they both love each other. Here Jane Austen is trying to say that this is the way that everyone should get married in order to live with sure happiness when married.





In conclusion Jane Austen shows that in her times there were marriages where the couples barely knew each other and still got married, they got married for money or just for security and status. She disapproved of this and tried to show that the way you should get married is by getting to know each other so that they love each other. Jane Austen is critical to her times and feels that the society’s ways are wrong. She feels that they should deserve each other and if they do not marry for love there is less chance of happiness. She showed that if they do not know each other well and just get married on first impressions they will not be very happy, she portrays this in the Bennet’s marriage.











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