During the 18th and 19th centuries, marriage was central and important in the eyes of most women and the community. This is because it was associated with the continuation of the family line through inheritance. The wealthier the man was, the better it was to marry him since it would improve the woman’s social class and her family. Most women did not get married for love, but reputation and convenience in the novel. In her writing, the author proves this point by showing the different types of unions throughout the novel and the conflict that exist due to these marriages. This paper will describe the different motivations for marriage in the novel and inform if any of them created any major conflicts.
The novel’s first and major motivation for marriage in Pride and Prejudice is reputation and social status. Some parents, family members, and other relatives struggle for long periods to get their daughters married off and make the most of their lives. At the beginning of the novel, the author informs that, ”It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” (Jane 3). According to the author, it did not matter if the man was handsome, ill-favored, or not. As long as he was wealthy, most parents would be fighting to marry their daughters off to him. An example of such a marriage is Charlotte Lucas and Mr. Collins. Mr. Collins, a cousin of Mr. Bennet’s, first visits the family to marry one of the daughters and inherit the estate. Since Mrs. Bennet wants to retain her wealth and status, she agrees to marry off Elizabeth to Mr. Collins with the hope of keeping their home. However, Elizabeth is not interested in the marriage and rejects him. Mr. Collins then turns to her best friend, Charlotte, whom he pretends to love. Although Charlotte knows that he is not in love with her as he claims, she agrees to the proposal to secure a better life. She believes that one should marry for wealth and status. She says that love and happiness will come later. After her engagement to Mr. Collins, she tells her friend, Elizabeth, “…I am not romantic, you know. I never was. I ask only 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.” (Jane 119).
Another reason why women got married in the novel was for their reputation. An example is a marriage between Mr. and Mrs. Bennet. The author informs that Mr. Bennet just married his wife because she was beautiful, and now that the beauty is gone, he spends his days mocking her. Mr. Bennet could not marry any woman in his youth since it would ruin his reputation. Thus he chose the most beautiful woman ignoring her illiteracy and stupidity. Another example is the marriage between Lydia Bennet and Mr. Wickham. During that period, the reputation of young unmarried women was worth a lot. Therefore, some women, including Lydia Bennet, just got married to save their reputations. According to the author, Lydia and Kitty Bennet were wild and liked to fool around with men from the militia regiment. We are informed that Mr. Wickham married Lydia only after her parents forced him not to be seen as a fallen woman after running away with him. The author declares that Lydia puts a high value on the opinion of her neighbors, and she wanted “…all their other neighbors, and to hear herself called “Mrs. Wickham,” by each of them…” (Jane 291).
Another motivation for marriage in the novel is love. An example of such a marriage was Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. Elizabeth is quick-witted and intelligent. When the two first meet, they are not attracted to each other. When Mr. Bingley tells Mr. Darcy about her, he says, “She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me…” (Jane 12). This offends her, and she thinks that he is proud and disagreeable. However, with time, the two are attracted to each other, and Mr. Dracy proposes to her but rejects him due to their history. However, after he explains himself through a letter, she discovers that she has misjudged him. Although many people disapprove of their union, including her mother, sister, and neighbors, they still go ahead with it. Although Mr. Dracy and Elizabeth are from different social classes, they have a happy marriage based on love and not convenience.
Lastly, some of the characters married out of necessity. During that time, society put a lot of pressure on unmarried women. An example of a marriage of necessity was Lady Catherine, who only married her husband for a title and the estate. Mr. Collins also proposed to Charlotte and claimed to be in love with her because Elizabeth rejected him. Charlotte agreed to the marriage because she was getting old and did not want to burden her family.
In the novel, most of the reasons why the characters got married led to many conflicts throughout the story. For instance, Charlotte Lucas and Mr. Collins, whose marriage was based on status and necessity, ignored each other. Although their marriage was logical and the most reasonable in the novel, it ended up causing suffering between the two. Mr. Bennet, who married his wife because she was beautiful, also hurt her. He treated her as a source of amusement just because her beauty was no more. Therefore, except for Mr. Dracy and Elizabeth, who married for love, the other marriages were short and full of conflict.
Jane, Austen. Pride and Prejudice. Рипол Классик, 2017.