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Consider the various attitudes towards marriage in Pride and Prejudice. What do you think Austen believed were the key ingredients to marriage?

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Introduction

Consider the various attitudes towards marriage in Pride and Prejudice. What do you think Austen believed were the key ingredients to marriage? The key theme of pride and prejudice is marriage. This is indicated in the opening of the novel, when Jane Austen muses, somewhat sardonically, that 'it is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife'. This sets the tone appropriately for the rest of the novel, as all Austen's core plots centre around marriage. It was an institute of paramount importance to people of Austen's time. As a young lady, marriage was not only for love, but also for fortune, convenience, stature and respect. Elizabeth Bennet is the heroine of Pride and Prejudice, who finds her self in the marrying market, having to consider the conditions of marriage. As with her other heroines, like Fanny Price, Austen uses Lizzie to demonstrate her own opinions. Throughout the novel Austen's other characters also illustrate her own views about marriage and the views commonly held by people of her era. Austen introduces us to Mr and Mrs Bennet in order to communicate key ingredients she believes necessary for marriage. We realise very quickly Mrs Bennets frivolous, foolish character is ill suited to the calm, intelligent, introverted personality of Mr Bennet. We learn that they married quickly, in a rush of lust, and that it wasn't until after wedlock Mr Bennet discovered the unsuitability of his bride. Mr Bennet who 'was so odd a mixture of quick parts, sarcastic humour, reserve, and caprice' is totally incompatible with his spouse, 'a woman of mean understanding, little information, and uncertain temper.' ...read more.

Middle

She was but fifteen. Fortuitously their plot was discovered and stopped, and to protect the reputation of Miss Darcy, concealed. Elizabeth is also obliged to conceal the debacle. She is of course no longer partial to Mr Wickham on her return to Hertfordshire, revealing Austen's morality. Lydia Bennet is an exceedingly spoilt, irritating girl, whose main pleasure in life is flirting with the Meryton officers. 'Sometimes one officer, sometimes another had been her favourite, as their attentions raised them in her opinion.' A favourite with her mother, Lydia has been allowed to lead a frolicsome, flippant existence, with little discipline or restraint. Austen clearly disapproves of such frivolous behaviour, as we learn when Mr Bennet brands her 'the silliest girl in England'. It also exposes the incompetent parenting of Mr and Mrs Bennet. When Lydia is invited to Brighton for the summer, in pursuit of the regiment, Lizzie begs her father to consider the sense of allowing such an irresponsible daughter so much freedom. Mr Bennet is not, however, moved to reconsider, reasoning that once she realises her own insignificance she will become more humble, and so Lydia is sent to Brighton. It is here she and Wickham make the fateful decision to abandon society. It is whilst Lizzie is in Derbyshire that she hears of Lydia's elopement with Wickham. Lizzie is devastated, and leaves for home at once. During Austen's era such an ignominy would shame the entire family. Elizabeth ruminates what Lydia has done 'the humiliation, the misery, she was bringing on them all' - Lydia's faux pas would not only devastate her own chances of marrying, but also those of her sisters too. ...read more.

Conclusion

It is not until a trip to Pemberly when she again meets him she begins to appreciate his good qualities, loyalty, kindness, intelligence and respect. She realises her prejudice against him, and sees the truth in his views, but just as she begins to care for him Lydia elopes with Wickham and she conjectures all hope gone for the her and Mr Darcy. 'She began now to comprehend that he was exactly the man, who, in disposition and talents, would suit her.' However, as with Jane and Bingley, love prevails and the two are eventually married. Austen demonstrates through Darcy and Elizabeth the need for the ingredient of balance in a happy union. Their qualities off set one another, his seriousness with her wit, her ignorance with his intelligence. Darcy shows such dedication to Elizabeth, paying off Wickham to spare her family's name, disregarding his family's wishes in order to be with her. Lady Catherine De Bourg, Darcy's aunt, for example, is horrified that Darcy will not marry her daughter and therefore keeping the family money together. She assumes he has forgotten 'what he owes himself and his family.' Her view is that of one very common in Austen's era, that fortune should be built upon by marriage, but we see Darcy, like Elizabeth, sees marrying for love as more important that marrying for financial gain, revealing to us that he shares a strong morality with Elizabeth in a time when such principles were rarely come across. This of course expresses Austen's own ethics. We are left to feel that Darcy and Lizzie have made the perfect match for one another, thanks to the ingredients of good sense, stability, affection, common interest, complimenting disposition and most importantly mutual respect. These are the ingredients Austen believes to be key to a successful marriage, as all of the marriages in Pride and Prejudice demonstrate. Camille Watts ...read more.

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