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Examine the themes of love and marriage in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.

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Introduction

Examine the themes of love and marriage in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice" Pride and Prejudice is the best known and best loved novel of the English writer, Jane Austen, who first gave the novel its modern character through the treatment of everyday life. Austen started to write for family amusement as a child, and received a broader education than many women of her time, as she grew up in an upper-class environment, which she wrote chiefly about. The reader can learn much about the upper-class society of this age, and also gets and insight to the author's opinion about 18th century society, which at the time was divided into three: aristocracy, gentry and common people, although these divisions were becoming blurred. Austen presents the high-society of her time from an observational point of view, ironically describing human behaviour. She describes her views and adds her own comments to it in a very light and easy way. She never seems to be condescending or snubbing in her criticism but applies it in a playful manner. This playfulness and her witty, ironic comments on society are probably the main reasons that make this novel still so enjoyable for readers today. She was greatly inspired by woman writers of the Romantic Movement such as Fanny Burney, and even though this movement was reaching its height, the reader is kept unaware of this, much like the many events that occurred during Austen's life. Her generation lived in a period of great social and political upheaval, that saw events such as the French Revolution, the American War of Independence, the Battle of Trafalgar, Stephenson's first locomotive and the Battle of Waterloo. Instead, Jane Austen devoted herself to very limited canvas. Her main concerns were those of universal fascination today - love and money. In a world in which an advantageous marriage was the only realistic and legitimate was for an impoverished woman to better herself and secure her future, love stories of necessity were stories about money, or the lack of it. ...read more.

Middle

As the novel progresses, Darcy shows enough flexibility and good sense to change his opinion of Elizabeth. Thus, his first inclination of scorning her is erased as he becomes enamoured of Elizabeth as a result of her witty intelligence and spirit, such that he began to find that "her eyes were rendered uncommonly intelligent by the beautiful expression." After repeated meetings and verbal parries with Lizzie, Darcy's first impression of her is completely replaced by ardent affection, as he sees her in a comrade spirit. It is his prudent judgement and flexibility which temper his inclination to scorn and criticise, such that he is able to recognise Elizabeth a worthy wife and companion, despite her social standing and Lydia's elopement. Elizabeth is deeply hurt by Darcy's presumptions about her family, although, when she reads his letter at Rosings, just after her refusal to Darcy's proposal, she gets to see her family from his perspective. She becomes ashamed of them and finally understands why Darcy would not want to have a connection with them. Towards the end of the novel, Elizabeth's feelings for Darcy gradually change for the better. Thanks to his letter, her visit to Pemberley and news of him rescuing her family honour after Lydia, her opinion of him changes as these events take place. She realises she was prejudicial and her admiration transforms into love. The themes of love and marriage are very easy to identify in this relationship, as their marriage is one that is most romantic, in contrast to Mr. Collins and Charlotte, the basis of their marriage was love. The heroine's tumultuous relationship with Darcy form the bulk of the novel, and the focal point of interest for the reader while Jane's relationship with Bingley adds variety and interest to the novel. Jane and Bingley's relationship doesn't follow such a complex pattern as Elizabeth and Darcy's, although it encounters a number of obstacles that only their love for each other could have conquered. ...read more.

Conclusion

(pg. 209). Mrs. Bennet had not made marriage between her and Mr. Bennet any easier as "her ignorance and folly had contributed to his amusement". "She was a woman of mean understanding, little information and uncertain temper, she often exaggerated small incidents and was very demanding in her ways. As a mother of five daughters, it was acceptable for her to be concerned with their future. But Mrs. Bennet's "entire business of her life was to get her daughters married". The novel gives the reader a very good idea of how Austen views marriage, as well as society. The theme of marriage is set in the very opening sentence of Pride and Prejudice; "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife". This is Austen's way of implying that 'a single man in possession of a good fortune' is automatically destined to be the object of desire for all unmarried women. The statement opens the subject of the romantic novel; courtship and marriage. The sentence also introduces the issue of what the reasons for marrying are. She implies here that many young women marry for money, but I feel that she tried to give a more balanced look on marriage and love, to show the overall morality of this statement. She did this by giving different looks to all her relationships - in her two happy and successful marriages, Jane and Bingley experienced love at first sight and Elizabeth and Darcy learned to compromise, change and grow. In marrying, they not only fulfil themselves as individuals, but also affirm the principle values of society. As in many of her novels, this marriage at the end of the novel shows us Jane Austen's ideal view of marriage as a social institution. She also showed us less successful marriages such as Lydia and Wickham's, or Mr. And Mrs. Bennet's. In conclusion, it is clear that the themes of love and marriage are repeatedly mentioned in the novel through the relationships stated in my essay. ...read more.

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