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"How does Jane Austen comment to her readers on the concept of a good marriage in 'Pride and Prejudice'?"

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Introduction

Pride and Prejudice: Coursework Essay Draft 1 "How does Jane Austen comment to her readers on the concept of a good marriage in 'Pride and Prejudice'?" By Tanya Sen "It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife." In the very first sentence, Jane Austen neatly paraphrases the main theme of Pride and Prejudice with a satirical comment on marriage in society of the time. The book remains, till today, one of the most acclaimed works of English literature because it provides a clever caricature of society at the time, and an ironic comment on how peoples' lives revolved so wholly around marriage. Despite being, as Austen herself puts it, 'light, and bright, and sparkling', Pride and Prejudice has a key message to convey which is not lost out even in all the humour. The plot seems to suggest that at the time, marriage was viewed as an end objective, and the ultimate accomplishment- unlike modern society, where marriage is thought of as more of a journey. Everyone has the final motive of matrimony; this is the purpose for which Mr. Collins goes to Longbourn, for example. The fact that books at the time usually ended with the marriage of the main characters emphasized this point further. Contrary to this, today we might find books that begin with a marriage, and the rest of the book might explore the success of the marriage itself rather than the success of the events that lead up to engagement. The book gives us a snapshot of life for the middle and the upper classes in Georgian times. Perhaps Austen wrote about these classes because she was more familiar with them, but also because these classes had some social mobility. It may have been irregular, but it wasn't scandalous for someone to marry slightly above his or her rank. ...read more.

Middle

To be 'violently in love' is depicted as a 'hackneyed, doubtful and indefinite' emotion by Mrs. Gardiner (whose opinion we are encouraged to trust). Austen works on persuading us to believe that rationality is as strong a basis for love as is pure emotion, which could be just a superficial illusion and may well run out. A key example of this sort of feeling is the 'love' that Mr. Collins so fervently professes, first for Elizabeth and then for Charlotte Lucas. He insists that Elizabeth would make him 'the happiest man alive', yet he feels no qualms in declaring the same to Charlotte three days later. Lydia and Wickham also base their relationship around what is likely to be a 'fling', based solely on passionate physical attraction. Whereas in Darcy's (second) proposal to Elizabeth, we notice that she doesn't even look at him while accepting, let alone any physical contact. This proves that their love is based around far more than just physical attraction and childish infatuation. True love brings about a deeper understanding for each other along with a respect and influence that can cause people to change. Elizabeth maintains that it is 'love, ardent love' that lowers Darcy's disagreeable pride. The fact that the couple had to overcome their own difficulties and obstacles makes their marriage not only more appealing since we, as readers, can relate and sympathise with the both of them; but highlights yet again Austen's views on marriage. The long time that Elizabeth and Darcy take to really appreciate each other gives us the impression that the two of them have understood each other on a deeper level. When Austen wrote the novel, she was probably aware of the fact that the marriage she was writing about was not at all conventional at the time. In the 1800s, the typical suitor generally looked for a modest woman who never ventured to offer her own opinion about anything. ...read more.

Conclusion

Wickham needs to be bribed heftily to marry Lydia, while she remains unfeelingly oblivious towards Wickham's deceit and shameless behaviour and does not seem to notice how much trouble she has caused her family. Neither is it a match based around love or understanding, nor a marriage based around practicality (like Charlotte and Mr. Collins'). Neither Wickham nor Lydia has any money; they depend on Darcy for their income. The marriage of Charlotte and Mr. Collins is symbolic of a different type of marriage altogether. The story of this couple is one of the funniest in the book, but the humour does not hide the underlying theme- the idea of a practical rather than a sentimental marriage. Charlotte quite obviously is far more intelligent than her husband, but it is she herself who encourages him to propose to her. Why? Because Charlotte Lucas is already cynical about the subject of love, and feels that one might as well marry for money, because anyway 'happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance'. Despite being the best of friends, Charlotte and Elizabeth are complete opposites. Charlotte is a realist. By her own admission, she is as practical as Elizabeth is romantic. In creating Darcy's first impressions, Charlotte had been the only one who had forgiven his pride since she thought that his rank had justified it. This trivial comment tells us what kind of person she is and prepares us for her decision to marry Mr. Collins. All she wants from her husband is a comfortable home, and Mr. Collins, despite all his vices, is definitely able to give her this. Mr. Collins is an exceedingly irritating and pretentious man. This is illustrated not only in his flowery descriptions of his 'humble abode', but also in his long-winded and garrulously phrased letters. He indulges in empty flattery to everyone, and defers to Lady De Bourgh as if she is a god. This is something that irritates Elizabeth, since she does not like the idea that money alone can make someone superior to others. Mr. Collins is 'a conceited, pompous, narrow minded and silly man'. ...read more.

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