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Explore the different attitudes to marriage presented in 'Pride and Prejudice'.

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Introduction

Harriet Riley 11T Pride and Prejudice Coursework Explore the different attitudes to marriage presented in 'Pride and Prejudice'. In the time of Jane Austen, marriage was mainly based on attraction and compatibility. Women had the right to choose husbands, but status in society and wealth were very important parts of their decision. In 'Pride and Prejudice' we see many different attitudes and reasons for marrying in the gentry. Jane Austen was brought up in a family who loved to read novels, a new concept of writing that was very different to poetry and plays. At first novels, written mainly around letters, were not taken very seriously and were believed to be overly sentimental and unrealistic, and also thought to be dangerous to influential young women. Jane Austen's first published novel was 'Sense and Sensibility' in 1811, 'Pride and Prejudice' was published two years later. Elizabeth is the heroine of this novel and one thing is clear about her attitudes from the start - she will only marry for love. She is therefore amazed that her friend Charlotte Lucas does not marry for love, but for status and a comfortable home, "Charlotte engaged to Mr Collins - impossible". In this way she can be seen to be prejudiced and quite blind to other people's viewpoints other than her own - a failing on her part. Lizzy takes after Mr Bennet, in that she has a quick and generally accurate judgement of people's characters. ...read more.

Middle

Charlotte Lucas' view that "happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance" is a sharp contrast to that of Elizabeth. She does not believe in marrying for love, but for money and a comfortable home. Charlotte is said to be plain looking and in serious danger of becoming an old maid at the age of twenty seven. It is not surprising then that she accepts Mr Collins' proposal, much to the surprise of the Bennet family. She says to Lizzy "I am not romantic you know, I never was ..." conveying that she believes Mr Collins is her best chance for a reasonably happy future. Charlotte is very patient and is able to tolerate Mr Collins therefore her marriage is not unhappy. Near the beginning of the novel we think it is strange that Jane should "secure Bingley", even before she knows that she is in love with him, but we later learn that Charlotte's judgement is right and wise. Jane does not show enough affection for Bingley, so it all ends up as nothing. Part of Elizabeth's stay at Hunsford was to see for herself whether or not Charlotte made a mistake in marrying Mr Collins. She certainly shows herself able to tolerate the disadvantages of her existence with dignity and kindness. She is entirely without self-pity, and refers to her comfort in a nice house and a respectable clergyman for a husband. ...read more.

Conclusion

She has to take in information which contradicts her prejudiced judgements - in doing so she realises that she is not such a good judge of character as she had so confidently supposed before. During the novel Elizabeth's attitudes to marriage do not change at all - she will only marry for love. At his first proposal, Darcy's pride means that he expects Elizabeth to accept him, due to the wealth and status that he has and she needs. He has to realise that she will only marry him if she can grow to love him as much as he loves her. His attitudes to marriage change after rejection at the first proposal. In conclusion, attitudes to marriage would seem to depend on social status and wealth. Those with social status and wealth would seem to look for the same things in a partner first, with love coming second, as seen in Lady Catherine's preference for her own daughter to marry Mr Darcy rather than Elizabeth. However those without wealth or high social standing, such as Jane and Elizabeth Bennet (although Elizabeth would dispute her lack of social status), would look for love and happiness first. Some, such as Mrs Bennet see marriage only as a way of increasing wealth and social standing. The union of Elizabeth and Darcy is remarkable as they marry purely for love - going against the social traits of the time. ...read more.

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