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Compare and contrast the marriage proposals made to Elizabeth by Collins and Darcy, and explore how the style and content of their proposals reflect how the two characters are portrayed in the rest of the novel.

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Introduction

Pride and Prejudice Compare and contrast the marriage proposals made to Elizabeth by Collins and Darcy, and explore how the style and content of their proposals reflect how the two characters are portrayed in the rest of the novel. The novel 'Pride and Prejudice' was written by Jane Austen during the 19th Century, also known as the Regency period. The life choices of women in the 1800's were severely limited as women had no economic power, which left them vulnerable. Marriage was a necessity in order to improve social standing and provide financial security. If a woman did not marry, and continued living at her childhood home, she was considered to be a burden to her family and was dubbed a spinster of the parish. This would explain why Charlotte Lucas accepted Mr Collins' offer of marriage, after he was rejected by Lizzie, as she knew it was her only chance to run her own household and secure her future, despite the disagreeable character of Mr Collins. Marriage could also be the only way to avoid ruin, as a gentleman's estates were often entailed away which would leave his wife and daughters, if he had no sons, facing destitution. The Longbourne estate is a prime example of this as, when Mr Bennet dies, the estate goes to Mr Collins rather than his family, leaving them very little money to live on and support themselves with. Jane Austin however, being of the upper-class, was unusual, due not only to the fact that she did not marry, but that she was able to support herself through her writing. The Regency period is also known as the age of elegance, due to the intricate social rituals that were the trademark of the upper classes, and which were constructed to accommodate the bringing together of young people in the hope of finding suitable matches, and in order for this to occur, a young woman would have had to be deemed accomplished in what were considered the ladylike arts. ...read more.

Middle

Most new acquaintances would have been formed at balls or the assembly rooms, where there were strict rules as to a person's conduct. However, the way Darcy behaves at the assembly rooms, "continually giving offence" shows him to be arrogant and proud, as he feels no obligation to be civil to the inhabitants of Meryton. Believing them to be below him shows him to be conceited and this opinion was not uncommon amongst those who attended the ball "for he was discovered to be proud...above his company, and above being pleased." However it could be wondered by an objective reader whether his aloof manner might in fact be due to his being daunted by the challenge of forming new acquaintances. The next mention of Darcy is shortly before the party at Lucas Lodge where it is evident that he is slowly beginning to change his mind about Elizabeth and think more favourably of her. This, however, proves amusing to the reader as, after making it clear to his friends that she had "hardly a good feature in her face", he discovers the "beautiful expression of her dark eyes" and beings to wish to know more of her. These feelings he describes as "mortifying" which, now that he may have to admit to his friends that he was wrong and embarrass himself, further proves his pride. Nevertheless his shyness is apparent when he is unable to strike up a conversation with her, despite having the inclination, and instead eavesdrops on her "as a step towards conversing with her himself", showing that he finds the process daunting. Even before Darcy proposes, it is made clear that he is uneasy by the nervous manner with which he sits for a few seconds, then paces the room. Despite his agitation, he still manages to be polite, with his inquiry as to her health, demonstrating his good breeding and sense of propriety. ...read more.

Conclusion

When Lady Catherine visits Longbourne in an attempt to make Lizzie promise never to marry Darcy, her nephew, she demonstrates how members of the gentry were expected to marry someone of their own class, preferably for business or financial reasons, and that marrying someone of a lower rank was not approved of. This is a very different view to that of modern society where a person can marry whomsoever they choose, regardless of background, and a fathers' permission does not have to be granted even though it is still traditional to ask. Collins and Darcy each have a very different effect on Elizabeth. Like the reader, she is both amused and horrified when Collins proposes to her, yet she recognises her underlying need to marry someone who can provide for her financially as she has so little that she is able to contribute to the marriage. At first Elizabeth does not think favourably of either man, Collins being unpleasant as well as being an embarrassment to her, and Darcy seeming proud and aloof. Her feelings for Darcy are very complex as, after his behaviour at the ball, his separation of Jane and Bingley and the way in which Lizzie thought he had treated Wickham, had caused her extreme dislike of him. However her feelings for him change and in the later part of the novel the reader is aware of her embarrassment as to her earlier prejudices, when Darcy proves that he is in fact capable of change and is responsible for saving the family's reputation. In spite of being more liberated in her attitude to marriage than Charlotte Lucas or her mother, Lizzie's pragmatism would have meant that becoming mistress of Pemberley was also important to her. By marrying Darcy she achieves financial stability, allowing her to run her own household and provide for her mother and sisters should her father die. ?? ?? ?? ?? ...read more.

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