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Discuss Jane Austen's treatment of the theme of marriage in Pride and Prejudice.

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Introduction

Discuss Jane Austen's treatment of the theme of marriage in Pride and Prejudice Austen's view that marriage should be based on a developed knowledge of one another; intellectual and personal compatibility as well as genuine love and attraction was radical for her time. The main views of marriage at the time were that it should be for either economic security of women, because they could not work or inherit, social cohesion, because they were both from the same class, if the marriage was arranged or if the security of financial/land ownership by inter-marriage between "great" families and estates. Mrs Bennet is introduced with lots of gushing, direct speech such as "But it is, for Mrs Long has just been here and she told me all about it." This gives the reader the impression that she is slightly nosey and a gossip, whereas Mr Bennet's character is established with reported speech, making him more in the background of the text, for example when Austen puts "Mr Bennet made no answer." Simple, short and straight to the point, this gives the reader the idea that Mr Bennet is the same. Mr and Mrs Bennet are an incompatible couple, he is intelligent whereas she is less intelligent and he is constantly putting her down, although she realises and understands the social imperative to marry off her daughters as they would not be able to inherit their father's money or estate like when Mr Bingley arrives in town and she says, "A single man of large fortune; four or five thousand a year. What a fine thing for our girl!" He has been retreated to a student and allows Mrs Bennet to indulge in her poor parenting and therefore he is a poor parent by default. Mrs Bennet is very fickle; she changes her mind frequently, like when she first is told Lydia is to marry Wickham. ...read more.

Middle

She tries to keep calm so not to raise any suspicion of who the girl could be, yet she gets increasingly annoyed with Fitzwilliam and also with the idea of Mr Darcy interfering, saying such things as "Why was he to be the judge?" This is quite ironic because the title, "Pride and Prejudice" refers to Mr Darcy's pride and Elizabeth's prejudice, so she can hardly think badly of Mr Darcy because of his premature judgement. Elizabeth says "Why, upon his own judgement alone, he was to determine and direct in what manner that friend was to be happy." I think this sentence shows that she is not only annoyed that there "were some very strong objections against" her sister but also that this may reflect the whole family, including herself which isn't good for someone who has to some extent feelings for Mr Darcy. Mr Darcy and Mr Bingley's family's disapproval is used to show that true love is usually forced to overcome obstacles and to prevail they must show that only their love and views for each other matters. These obstacles are overcome when Mr Bingley proposes to Jane on pages 266-267. In the third paragraph, Austen uses words such as "punctual" and "communicative", I think these show that Bingley's "appointment" is very formal and maybe that Bingley is very nervous. Nerves are usually a sign of young love, and this can be echoed when Elizabeth walks into the drawing room and finds Jane and Bingley there. "The faces of both, as they hastily turned around and moved away from each other, would have told it all." This shows that they still feel slightly nervous of what people think of their relationship, but they must have real feeling and passion for each other because they were "engaged in earnest conversation" which clearly meant a conversation concerning marriage and the way Austen uses the word 'engaged' as a hint to the reason for their discussion. ...read more.

Conclusion

But, I think as Elizabeth is a strong willed character (reflecting Jane Austen's character itself) will fight on past the obstacles. Between pages 282 and 286 Darcy and Elizabeth have a long conversation during which they sort out their differences. In this conversation neither of which are discreet about their affections and it is clear to see that they are both in love. "My affections and wishes are unchanged; but one word from you will silence me on this subject for ever." This shows that Darcy holds Lizzy's word in extremely high regard and has huge respect for her. Elizabeth explained that she returned his affections and the happiness that Darcy demonstrated shows that he truly loved her. When Austen says, "He expressed himself on the occasion as sensibly and as warmly as a man violently in love can be supposed to do" I think she is referring back to Mr Collins, when he proposed he talked of the "violence of my affection" and the reader and Elizabeth both knew that this 'violence' was not present, whereas Mr. Darcy's affections were too fierce to be compared to. Eventually, after all the struggle and obstacles they have overcome, Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy present themselves as Austen's ideal couple. His pride has been humbled and her prejudice erased. In conclusion, Austen used her characters as literary devices to illustrate her views on marriage; that people should marry for love, compatibility, affection and knowledge of one another's personality. She makes herself a commentator on society, showing how it works and its faults. Throughout all this she uses satire to criticize people views; this humour makes herself able to be taken seriously as she has done. Mr. and Mrs. Bennet, Lydia and Wickham and Charlotte and Mr. Collins are example of unsuitable marriages whereas Jane and Mr. Bingley and Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy are examples of true love prevailing against society. Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy are the ideal example of this. In her day she was radical and brave to be writing with the undertone of criticism, and her views on marriage are still very relevant today. ...read more.

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